The NCSL Blog


By Doug Farquhar

The Maine Legislature, like many states, enacted a law designed to make it easier for food vendors to sell their products without regulatory interference.

With the new food sovereignty law in place, Kathy Shaw of 4 Season Farm Market in Auburn can raise, make and sell certain food items direct to the customer without the item being inspected by a state inspector. Daryn Slover/Sun JournalTheir most recent effort, The Food Sovereignty Act Senate Bill 242, allows for municipal governments to have the option to regulate food grown, produced or processed and sold directly to consumers in their municipality, and the state would be unable to pre-empt any such regulations.

A problem emerged, however. Maine is one of 27 states permitted by the USDA to inspect smaller meat processing facilities. SB 242 would exempt local jurisdictions from not only state food safety requirements, but also federal requirements enforced by the state. This meant state-inspected meat processers may not have to meet federal requirements in order to sell to the public if their municipality sought to adopt requirements different from the USDA standards or eliminated the meat safety standards altogether. This led the USDA to threaten to take away Maine’s authority to inspect these smaller meat processing facilities, placing them under direct federal control.

The Legislature remedied this by amending the statute with additional language: ‘a municipality that adopts or amends an ordinance … shall grow, produce, process or prepare the food or food products in compliance with all applicable state and federal food safety laws, rules and regulations.’

This change should ensure that Maine will continue to inspect meat slaughtering and processing facilities, yet keep the provisions allowing for small-scale farming and food production.

Doug Farquhar directs the Environmental Health program at NCSL.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.