“Any politician worth his or her salt is good at charades–you know, the game where you pretend you are something that you’re not.
Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, has given a masterful performance as a supporter of small farms since he was elected as a Republican in 2009. In September 2011, after receiving complaints from farmers about a crackdown by the state’s Department of Agriculture to end a decades-long tradition whereby Maine’s small farms were able to sell raw milk directly to friends and neighbors, without needing a dairy license, LePage wrote a memo questioning the crackdown. He expressed his support for legislation to restore the traditional practice. (Dairies that want to advertise their raw milk, or sell via retail, need to obtain a license to sell raw milk.)
During the legislative session just ending now, the Maine legislature passed a version of the legislation he said he supported in his 2011 memo, to allow raw milk sales of up to twenty gallons daily for unlicensed dairies. And suddenly, the governor seemed to vacillate, and as Deborah Evans notes in a comment following my previous post, he vetoed the legislation.
Maine, of course, has been a hotbed of activity for food sovereignty, and ten towns have passed ordinances permitting direct food sales by local farmers to individuals, outside state and federal regulation. A state court recently struck down one of the ordinances.
One of the original organizers of the food sovereignty initiative, along with Deborah Evans, has been Heather Retberg, a dairy farmer, and in her ongoing efforts to push state legislation to help small farms, she has gotten to know the governor. Yesterday, when he seemed to be vacillating on the raw milk legislation, she wrote him a letter expressing concerns, recalling an exchange her husband had with him when he was seeking votes….”