• Maine’s right-to-food amendment will be tested in the courts

    Maine’s right-to-food amendment will be tested in new lawsuit over a Penobscot County business
    Patty Wight
    Maine Public
    April 28, 2023

    A home cook who wants to sell prepared meals out of her home is suing the state of Maine over “food freedom.”

    The lawsuit has been filed by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund on behalf of Kenduskeag Kitchen.

    The Fund’s executive director, Alexia Kulwiec, says Kenduskeag Kitchen was told by the state last December it had to shut down because it didn’t have a food establishment license. But Kulwiec says Maine’s recent food sovereignty law assures local authority is recognized.

    “The way we read the state law, folks have, if their township passes this ordinance, they have the right to do this kind of work,” Kulwiec says. “And so, by not challenging it, I feel that the state will be able to come up with its own interpretation.”

    Read more at MainePublic

    Home-cooked meals business says state violated Maine’s right-to-food amendment
    Gillian Graham
    Portland Press Herald

    The operators of a small home kitchen business in Penobscot County have sued the state after regulators ordered them to stop preparing meals for customers in the rural community because they lack a state license.

    Kenduskeag Kitchen owner Rhiannon Deschaine and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund say the action violates Maine’s food sovereignty law and a constitutional right to food amendment adopted by Maine voters in 2021. They are asking the court to allow the business to resume sales of its gourmet carryout meals while the lawsuit makes its way through court.

    The defense fund this week filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to allow Kenduskeag Kitchen to continue operating, according to the group. Included as plaintiffs are owners, Nathan and Rhiannon Deschaine and Frank Roma, a customer.

    “Despite the small scale of the operation, the Deschaines take pride in their business and view the kitchen as an opportunity to provide their neighbors with nutritious, wholesome and, quite literally, home-cooked meals that bring together a constellation of local growers and producers, and that enhances their sense of purpose and service to the community,” the lawsuit says.

    Read more at the Portland Press Herald
  • Maine considers plan to buy out farms hurt by PFAS

    Maine considers plan to buy out farms hurt by PFAS
    by The Associated Press
    February 14, 2023

    A Maine lawmaker has proposed a bill to require the state to offer to buy out farmers whose land was contaminated by long-lasting chemicals caused by the spreading of sludge.

    Republican Rep. Wayne Parry’s bill would require the state to value the land as if it weren’t contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS or “forever chemicals,” and sets a minimum price of $20,000 per acre, the Portland Press Herald reported.

    Read more at the Bangor Daily News.

  • Maine developing PFAS safety levels for locally grown food

    From the Portland Press Herald:

    Maine developing PFAS safety levels for locally grown food
    Penelope Overton
    February 1, 2023

    Maine is developing a broad range of food safety standards intended to protect the public food system from forever chemicals and determine when local farmers trying to recover from a PFAS crisis can safely return to the market.

    Maine already has safety limits for milk and beef, but its hunt for tainted wells and fields at more than 1,000 agricultural sites across the state where sludge was spread as fertilizer has state toxicologists scrambling to set food safety limits for other local crops and livestock, too.

    Once these safety levels have been set, the state must decide when and how to use them, but one thing is certain – consumers shouldn’t expect all the food they buy in their local supermarket or even their farmer’s market to be tested for PFAS any time soon.

    “Maine just doesn’t have the staffing, funding or testing capacity to screen everything grown or raised in Maine for PFAS, much less what we import into Maine,” Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Nancy McBrady said on Wednesday after briefing a legislative committee about forever chemicals.

    Read more at the Portland Press Herald

  • Letter to the Editor: Explain the reasoning for appalling votes

    Yesterday, the Maine State Legislature voted to redistribute some of the budget excess back to the people of Maine.  These $450 checks will help those most in need with keeping their houses warm this winter, buying gas to get to work, and feeding their family.  An infusion of cash directly into the Maine economy as we slide into recession.  All of these are good things.

    The two newest representatives from Waldo County seem to disagree with helping the people of their districts be a bit more comfortable this winter.  They both voted against this small but very helpful infusion of cash into the pocketbooks of the people of this area.

    Perhaps they would like to explain their reasoning for these appalling votes.

    – Heather Betsy Garrold

    A version of this appeared in the Penobscot Bay Pilot.

  • Maine farmers honored for speaking out against PFAS contamination

    Maine farmers honored for speaking out against PFAS contamination
    By Kaitlyn Budion
    Morning Sentinel
    December 28th, 2022

    Maine farmers were honored recently by the Belfast-based Maine Farmland Trust for advocating for farmers impacted by the widespread PFAS contamination.

    “Their stories and amplified voices were catalysts in bringing us together to ban sludge spreading and enact the safety net for other farmers impacted by PFAS,” Amy Fisher, the trust’s president and CEO, said in a news release.

    The organization gave its Paul Birdsall Award to Mainers from six farms: Adam Nordell and Johanna Davis of Songbird Farm in Unity, Nell Finnigan and Justin Morace of Ironwood Farm in Albion, Brendan and Katia Holmes of Misty Brook Farm in Albion, Scott and Ashlee McCormick of McCormick Family Farm in Jackson, Adrienne Lee and Ken Lamson of New Beat Farm in Knox, and Fred and Laura Stone of Stoneridge Farm in Arundel.

    Each of the farms has been affected by the contamination, and in the last year the group has publicly shared their experiences and called for financial support for those impacted. They testified before state and federal legislative committees, spoke to the press and participated in public service announcements.

    Half of these farms are in District #38 and this slowly unrolling tragedy was one of the main reasons I ran for the legislature.  I will be holding the current representative from this district to account regarding how he serves these constituents as they move forward dealing with this mass contamination.