The town of Sedgwick, Maine, population 1,012 (according to the 2000 census), has become the first town in the United States to pass a Food Sovereignty ordinance.  In doing so, the town declared their right to produce and sell local foods of their choosing, without the oversight of State or federal regulation.  

What does this mean?  In the debate over raw milk, for example, the law opens the gate for consumer and producer to enter a purchasing agreement without interference from state or federal health regulators.  According to the Mayo Clinic, a 1987 FDA regulation required that all milk be pasteurized to kill pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli.  The Sedgwick ordinance declares that:

Producers or processors of local foods in the Town of Sedgwick 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; sells his or her products through farm-based sales directly to a patron; or delivers his or her products directly to patrons.

In short, the ordinance allows buyer and seller to enter their own agreement which overrides the regulation of government when dealing with transactions involving local foods.

This four page ordinance, which can be read in its entirety here, is revolutionary in that it relies on the consumer to educate themselves on the risk of consuming products (such as raw milks, cheeses, meats and vegetables), and shifts the power away from regulation, which prevents people from eating food of their choosing. 

 How does the ordinance accomplish this?  It references three key documents:

  1. The United States Constitution, which declares that the government derives its power from the consent of the governed (in this case, the governed want their raw milk and local meat!)
  2. The Maine Constitution, and in particular Article I, § 2, which declares that all power of government is inherent in the people, who may alter, change or reform it if their happiness requires (again, raw milk = happy people!) and;
  3. The Maine Revised Statutes and in particular §3001 of Title 30-A which grants municipalities the right to regulate health, safety, and welfare (which will sound familiar to urban planners) and §211 of Title 7 which states “it is the policy of the State to encourage food self-sufficiency for the State.”

This is huge news, and Grown in the City will be tracking the story in various ways in the coming weeks.

Image Credit: Flickr user klorrainegraham