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Why Is a Farmer Who Sells Extra Milk From His One Cow to Neighbors Being Sued By the State of Maine?

The lawsuit also challenges a 'local food and community self-governance' ordinance.

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According to Jeff Beyea, who worked for Whitcomb as a herdsman for over a year, Whitcomb sold raw milk from his farm without a license. In the confirmation process of becoming Agriculture Commissioner, Beyea claims, Whitcomb worried about whether his raw milk sales were going to be an issue. "It should be one rule for all of us, not one rule for the elite and one rule for the man with one cow," Beyea said in his speech at the rally.

According to Brown, "The farmer Walt Whitcomb was a personal friend. My wife's known him for 20 years. My cows all originated from his cows. He was very supportive, a really nice man. It wasn't until he became Commissioner Whitcomb that we've had a difference of opinion, and that shows the pressure he's under from the state and the federal government."

Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinances

The towns of Blue Hill, Sedgewick and Penobscot, Maine are three of the five Maine towns that have passed Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinances this year. These ordinances, which CMD has profiled before, permit the kind of sales Brown has been engaged in. His town, Blue Hill, was the first town to pass such an ordinance.

Maine is a home rule state, which means that cities, municipalities and counties have the ability to pass laws to govern themselves, as long as those laws don't conflict with the state and federal constitutions. The lawsuit against Dan Brown has been called a challenge to Blue Hill's local ordinance.

Similar ordinances and resolutions have since passed in towns and counties in Massachusetts, Vermont and California. How will this challenge to Blue Hill's ordinance affect farmers and the neighbors they feed in other parts of the country?

Farmer Brown says, "One of these times, they're going to come after one of us, and it's going to be that Rosa Parks moment. I'm hoping the public will realize what's going on . . . They've got to get involved. We've got to fix what's wrong with the food system."  

Rebekah Wilce is the lead writer for the Center for Media and Democracy's Food Rights Network.

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