“ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Blue Hill farmer has been ordered by Hancock County Superior Court to cease selling unlicensed, unlabeled raw milk from his farm stand in a decision that could set the scene for future challenges to local food rules that circumvent state law.
In her April 27 decision, Justice Ann Murray granted summary judgement for the state, which filed a suit against Dan Brown, doing business as Gravelwood Farm, in 2011.
The state contended that Brown broke three Maine laws by selling milk without a license, selling unpasteurized, or “raw,” milk without marketing it as such, and operating a food establishment without a license.
Brown said he was not required to have the state licenses because previous policy permitted him to sell milk without licensure. He also said his milk was labeled by way of a sign in his farm stand indicating it was unpasteurized.
Brown also said he was exempt from the permitting rules because Blue Hill had enacted a local ordinance protecting direct-to-consumer sales from state licensure and inspection. In total, nine Maine municipalities have enacted similar “local food sovereignty” rules.
The injunction orders Brown to stop operating a food establishment without a license. Brown said the decision effectively means his farming operation is being shut down. He can still sell what little produce and eggs he produces — about $100 total revenue a week, he said — but that’s not enough to survive on.
“This shuts me down completely,” he said Thursday. “It’s not just my dairy. It’s canned veggies, jam, jellies, all that can’t be done anymore. I’m not a farmstand to them. I’m Hannaford. This is probably going to put me out of business.”…”
“Maine’s food sovereignty movement took a hit when a state judge ruled earlier this week that farmer Dan Brown must have a license to sell raw milk, despite his town’s ordinance exempting local farmers from state food regulations.
The judge was ruling in response to requests from both the prosecution and the defense last June for summary judgment–a ruling before the case might come to trial, based on acceptance by both sides of the basic facts of the case.
The logic behind the decision of Judge Ann Murray of the Maine Superior Court had supporters of Brown scratching their heads. Murray states in her decision that “the Court does not necessarily agree that the Blue Hill ordinance cited by Brown authorizes him to sell milk without a license by its express terms…Nothing in the Blue Hill ordinance clearly states that the town intended to include milk within the definition of ‘local food,’ and considering the ordinance in the context of Title 22 [state law that exempts farm stands and farmers markets from having to be licensed as food establishments, except for sale of dairy and meat products], one could easily conclude that it was not intended to exempt dairy products from licensure.”
The head scratching has to do with the Blue Hill ordinance, which couldn’t be any clearer about its intent: “Producers or processors of local foods in the Town of Blue Hill are exempt from licensure and inspection provided that the transaction is only between the producer or processor and a patron when the food is sold for home consumption. This includes any producer or processor who sells his or her products at farmers’ markets or roadside stands…”
Since Dan Brown’s farm stand selling raw milk is in Blue Hill, he would seem to qualify….”