Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 5, 2012
On-line petition asks LePage to drop “Farmer Brown” suit
by Jonathan Thomas
A new on-line petition to Governor Paul LePage is the latest community effort to support Farmer Dan Brown and local food producers.
The group Food for Maine’s Future and its director Bob St.Peter of Sedgwick are asking LePage to “Stop Criminalizing Small Farmers.”
The two-page text of the petition cites the Maine Department of Agriculture suit against “a man milking one cow and selling jams, pickles, and other prepared foods from his farmhouse kitchen. If successfully pursued,” the text continues, “this lawsuit will have a chilling effect on Maine’s growing local food movement and the promise of real economic development in our rural Maine communities.”
Other points made in the petition include:
• The farm stand sales for which Brown is being sued are all legal under Blue Hill’s recently enacted Local Food and Community Self Governance Ordinance.
• The Maine Department of Agriculture is holding Brown to a different standard than licensed dairy farmers. Brown alleges that milk samples taken by inspectors on one occasion were improperly handled leading to poor test results and a lawsuit. According to the petition, if Brown had held a license, “he would have to have had three bad tests before the Department of Agriculture would take such drastic action as to seek an injunction.”
• There is no evidence of anyone being sickened by any of Brown’s food products in his five years of operation, and his longtime customers have asked that the lawsuit by dropped.
By contrast, the petition notes, following the recent recall of Hannaford ground beef, the source of the tainted beef remains unknown and “the company has faced no recourse from the State of Maine for their part in the distribution of this ground beef.” This is seen as an example of “long-standing bias against small producers who are not making people sick in favor of big agribusiness companies who are.” Interested persons may read and sign the petition at http://savingseeds.wordpress.com/
The petition is to be delivered to the governor at the Statehouse in Augusta on Thursday morning, January 12. St.Peter said his group’s request for a face-to-face meeting with the governor was refused. According to St.Peter, two previous requests for a meeting with LePage during the past year by Food for Maine’s Future on related issues have also been refused.