Governor LePage deals another blow to Maine farmers and fishermen

Just as Governor LePage’s policies have taken health insurance away from Maine’s small farmers and fishermen, now he wants to take local business away from them too.

The governor vetoed a bill that would help local farmers and fishermen sell vegetables and fish to schools, hospitals, and other community institutions.

An Act To Support School Nutrition and Expand the Local Foods Economy (LD 1431) jumpstarts food hubs so that small farmers and fishermen can better access local markets. Food hubs take a little bit of product from several small growers and producers until they have the quantity that a school needs to feed their entire student body each week. Food hubs also wash, trim, package, and freeze products so that it is easier for schools to buy and use. And they provide cold storage, which small producers do not have.

Food Hubs 4-24-2014The governor opposes the bill because he believes Maine’s local farmers should compete in the free market. But that puts Maine’s small growers at a competitive disadvantage when up against out-of-state industrial farms, which benefit from hefty federal subsidies.

State support of local farms also helps to solve many community problems that would cost the taxpayer more in the long-run.  These include: the cost to repair roads damaged by large out-of-state trucks bringing food into Maine; the loss of productive farmland and the cost to service urban sprawl with snow plowing, busing, and emergency services; and the expense of health care for our kids who do not get the nutritious foods their bodies need.

Maine farmers and fishermen are the backbone of Maine’s rural economy. They shouldn’t have to compete with bigger, heavily subsidized farms elsewhere. They help to solve many community problems, reduce the long-term cost of public services, and are an integral part of what makes Maine such a special place. We urge the legislature to overturn the governor’s veto of LD 1431.

To learn more about food hubs, listen to the podcast of MECEP’s State of the State show, Food Hubs: Helping get local foods to market, from earlier this spring.