Embattled farmer Dan Brown has once again found himself censured by the Maine Department of Agriculture.
On August 23, the Department notified Brown he had violated 22 MRSA §1471-M(2)(D) by purchasing Gramoxone Inteon Herbicide without being licensed as a private pesticide applicator. Brown, who said he was never told he needed a license, acquired the pesticide on April 13, 2010.
Gramoxone Inteon is a weed killer, whose active ingredient, paraquat, is listed as a restricted pesticide by the Department of Agriculture.
The Department also issued Brown a consent agreement releasing Brown from the violation upon payment of a $100 fine.
“It ain’t happening,” said Brown, who is currently appealing a Maine District Court summary judgment that found him guilty on three counts related to the unlicensed sale of raw milk.
According to Brown, he purchased the pesticide upon the recommendation of a local store, Andy’s Pride, that has since gone out of business. The Finding of Facts issued by the Department of Agriculture lists Northeast Agricultural Sales Inc. of Detroit, as purchase.
Brown said he was never informed that a permit was required for the use of Gramoxone Inteon.
“I vaguely remember going to this place,” Brown said. “I said I wanted to kill some weeds in this area and what [did the store] recommend?”
“It worked okay,” he continued. “I never used it again.” His farm is not certified organic, he added, “but we don’t really like using pesticides.”
Since receiving notice from the Department of Agriculture, Brown has contacted his attorneys and state representative Ralph Chapman (D-Brooksville).
“Am I being singled out?” Brown said. “This seems a little back yard. Take Farmer Brown out of the equation. You don’t penalize a farmer for going to a store and buying something in good faith. If there’s a license needed, the retail store should let me know.”
Since a May 3 injunction stopped his raw milk sales, Brown has been lobstering part-time, he said. The $1,000 fine and $123 in court costs levied against him are on hold while he appeals the summary judgment issued by Judge Ann Murray.
Brown’s appeal is based on the fact that Judge Murray should not have made a summary judgment, Brown said. His attorneys are asking the law court (the highest court in Maine) to send the judgment back and grant Brown a trial. Brown said his attorneys estimate it could take up to two years for the law court to issue its decision.
In the meantime, Brown has upgraded his milking facility in a bid to meet licensing standards.
“If I do decide that I want to be a milk distributor, [then] I can meet the requirements,” he said. “We don’t know if that’s the route we’re going to go.”
Brown said he’s also waiting to hear whether Governor Paul LePage will pass a modification of raw milk bill LD 1281 in 2014, which he vetoed last July.
In his decision, LePage stated his willingness to allow farmers to sell up to 20 gallons of unlicensed raw milk, with regulated state testing, at farm stands, but not at farmers’ markets, a provision included in the bill.
“If the farm can continue in some capacity, I’d like to see it,” Brown said. “If not, I’ll have to figure something else out.”
Brown runs Gravelwood Farm in Blue Hill with his wife Judy Brown.