There He Goes Again — Governor LePage Says “No” to Maine-Grown Food

Ben Tettlebaum

Last week, Maine Governor Paul LePage vetoed a bill that would help Maine farmers and fishermen bring more of their food to institutional markets: “An Act To Support School Nutrition and Expand the Local Foods Economy” (LD 1431). The Maine legislature recently passed the bill unanimously in the Senate and with a supermajority in the House. As noted in a previous post, a major component of the bill is a thoughtful and well-considered approach to getting more Maine-grown and –harvested foods into our schools.  The Portland Press Herald recently published an excellent editorial explaining the importance of overriding the Governor’s veto.

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Will fresh, local produce be kept out of Maine’s schools? photo credit: Patrick Feller

Governor LePage’s letter explaining why he vetoed the bill illustrates a misunderstanding about how much of our modern food system operates. His logic is that if public schools wanted more locally grown food, they would already be purchasing it. The Governor believes that “school districts have better food options” than buying Maine-grown foods from local farmers and food businesses. He concludes: “If local food providers cannot convince local school districts that their products are superior and more economical to that of other providers, then state taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize these providers in order to overcome the natural forces of a free market.”

The major flaw in the Governor’s argument is that he believes our current food system results from the “natural forces of a free market.” For decades, government policies have been subsidizing commodity crops and large-scale, water-intensive farming, particularly in the western United States. These policies have built a marketplace that favors a certain type of farming in specific parts of the country. Far from “natural forces” at play, farm policy has systematically tipped the scale toward a centralized food system where the majority of our food is produced by a small percentage of large farms. This system is anything but fair and competitive, and it benefits neither Maine’s farmers nor Maine’s economy.

It is disappointing to see a Governor who claims that Maine is “open for business” unwilling to sign a bill that received near unanimous support in the legislature and would likely create more Maine jobs, grow more Maine food, and support Maine farmers and fishermen.

Please Tell Your Maine Legislator To Override Governor LePage’s Veto!
Please show your support for Maine’s farmers, fishermen, and fresh local food by calling your legislator and asking him or her to override Governor LePage’s veto of LD 1431. You can find your representative here and your senator here. The legislature will take up the veto on May 1.

Also, please sign this petition.  If enough people sign initially, it will get sent to over 60,000 people in Maine to sign on as well.

Thank you for supporting Maine’s farmers, fishermen, and food businesses.

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