Imagine buying seeds, but the company selling them has genetically altered the plant enough to patent the plant itself, and you are forbidden from owning the fruit/produce of the plants as they grow. Or imagine that the plants have been made sterile so they produce fruit without new seeds, and you have to go back and buy more seeds from the same company every year. That is how corporations like Monsanto take away food sovereignty. Also imagine trying to grow your food on land that you don’t own because it is leased to you… something many urban community gardeners struggle with. The city can take the land back whenever they want, kick you out, and put a building or parking lot where the garden was. How secure would you feel?
The Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry recognizes that hunger is a real issue for a significant percentage of Maine’s people. Maine’s food distribution network is not robust. Consumers need to be able to learn about and find Maine farmers easily. If the existing corporate food distribution falters or fails, we are in big trouble.
Maine can improve its food distribution capabilities by establishing food storage reserves. Under the reserve system, farmers can sell excess products to reserves based on a floor price that farmers, processors, and retailers would negotiate. Reserves would improve prices for farmers, prevent food shortages, and stabilize consumer prices.
Smaller local processing facilities for animal and plant products are needed in Maine. These would strengthen markets and make the supply chain more flexible. Mobile processing facilities that can travel from farm to farm can be placed into production with state assistance, and would give farmers multiple options for sales, and consumers more options on how they buy.
Farm union organizing needs to be permitted and encouraged. Farming Coops can win parity prices from agribusiness. Farmworkers should also have the chance to become farmers with internships sponsored by the state.
Our state currently ranks 9th in the nation for food insecurity, where 14.4% of Maine households are considered to be food insecure. Within those statistics, seniors and children bear an even higher percentage of risk of being food insecure. To best prepare and ensure adequate organic production, energy-efficient-within-state sustainable food for all, and to continue providing quality farm job employment referrals, I believe that Agriculture should be a separate Department once again. See https://www.maine.gov/dacf/////ard/farmlabor/farmingforme/index.shtml for a listing of jobs on Maine farms.
The concept of the “right to food” is one that has been promoted and supported by the United Nations and others in recognition that worldwide, hunger is an important and pervasive issue that we must actively address. As stated by the United Nations, at the core of this concept of the “right to food” is, “…the realization of the right of everyone to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger.”
What this essentially means is that we acknowledge that access to food is life, and that we are committed to ensuring that we address hunger and food insecurity in our society. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), Senior Farm Share, Farming for Maine, and other related programs and partnerships administered through the Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, promote opportunities for individuals to grow food for themselves and others in their communities. We need to continue funding these programs in addition to new ideas I have presented above.
Someone has suggested that for the burden on taxpayers of administering the implementation and distribution of food in various programs, why not simply distribute free food with no questions asked?