December 16, 2017

Community Food Movement: Maine’s Food Sovereignty Act


“Certified organic” increasingly becomes a farce as it comes to equal industrial “organic”. The latest degradation: Hydroponics now can be certified “organic”. On its face that’s absurd and Orwellian. What could possibly be called organic about growing vegetables in fortified water? You might as well allow synthetic fertilizer of every sort. The industrial organic sector is industrial first, organic second.
The organic certification was never more than a second-best stopgap. The only real solution is the Community Food movement, the relocalization of food production and distribution. As much as possible, buy local from farmers you know. But just buying local as a consumer isn’t enough. Community food is a rising alternative economic sector. We need to continue building and defending this rising economic and agronomic movement.
Toward this goal, campaigners in Maine worked for years and finally attained a legislative victory as the state passed its Food Sovereignty Act in 2017. This Act makes Maine the first state in the country to have such an ordinance. The Act frees municipalities to regulate their own local food systems if they choose to pass an ordinance taking on such responsibility. The Act applies only to food produced and sold directly to consumers within the town. Anything produced for wholesale or retail distribution remains subject to state regulation (so Big Ag can’t use this as a loophole to find a corrupt town and set up shop there).
Since production and sale must take place within the town, the geographical scope is more narrow than the average farmers’ market. (Although many Maine towns are quite large geographically.) Nevertheless this is an example of the kind of act the Community Food movement must fight to enact in every state, as a way to boost local food production, processing, and distribution.
No surprise, the thugs at the USDA insisted that if the state relinquishes authority over meat and poultry to towns, that only means the feds will have direct authority over it. This forced Maine to enact an emergency amendment to the Act stipulating that meat and poultry remain under state regulatory authority. This power play gives a perfect example of what we’re up against.
It also demonstrates the limits of legislative action.* Campaigning for food sovereignty laws, just like campaigning for GMO labeling and/or GMO/pesticide bans, is at best a supplement to the work of building the affirmative movement. In the case of community food, this includes building the economic and physical infrastructure of relocalized food production and distribution.
There’s lots of people already doing good work toward that eventual goal. We need to scale that up, in tandem with escalating the campaign of ideas. As for our personal lives, the Earth’s call to anyone is to commit your life to the cause. That’s a very hard sell in this Mammon theocracy where even among the people who superficially have the right ideas and good intent, most still objectively adhere to Mammon in the way they view the world. Even fellow travelers of the necessary ideas fundamentally don’t understand the concept of subordinating one’s “private” existence and existing fundamentally as a political animal, a public citizen. All we can do for starters is to systematically propagate ideas which are fundamentally against the whole grain of this theocracy and try to find fellow atheists versus the superstitions of Mammon, technocracy, scientism, productionism, who want to work on that propagation project. This is one of the basic building blocks necessary to build a true cultural, spiritual, existential movement dedicated affirmatively to the necessary agroecology/food sovereignty transformation, negatively to the total abolition of poison-based agriculture. This campaign of ideas is the necessary counterpart to the intertwined actions of building agroecological science and food sovereignty practice.
That’s the ultimate need. What individuals and small groups can do right now:
1. Take on as much of the propagation work as you can.
2. Become active building up the community food sector as much as you can. Growing some of your own food in a garden is a good first step, and the actions quickly scale up from there. In my case, in addition to my intermittent market gardening I’ve worked at a farmers’ market, herbal medicine garden, and am director of two community gardens.
3. In your personal lifestyle get as independent of the system, as “off-grid” (using that term both literally and metaphorically) as possible.
4. To the extent you have to remain enmeshed in the system for the time being, at least be clear in thought and word that this is under duress. I still have to drive a car, but I never think or say anything other than that the car as such has to go. This is contrary to the climate crocodiles who wring their hands and then tout hybrids and electric cars (i.e. fracking cars, nuke cars, coal cars) as some kind of answer. No, that’s just a more pernicious form of climate denialism.
5. In general: Do the most good you can and never do evil. I have never once heard of an example of an evil action that was necessary in any way. That’s always a lie.
Much of this focuses on ideas and propagating ideas. I’m forced to be a writer since for now I lack any greater scope for action. In Eric Hoffer’s terminology, I’m an activist by nature who’s been forced into the role of the “man of words”. For now there really is no greater scope for action in America, since the necessary movement doesn’t yet exist in any tangible, coherent form. Or, any rudiments which may be cohering are not yet visible to the general culture of dissent.
So it follows that the first, prerequisite step toward building this movement is to propagate the necessary ideas for this movement. Not even at first to convince people, but to force the existence of truly alternative and practicable ideas into the public consciousness so that, when the cultural tipping point suddenly comes (history demonstrates that we have no idea when it will come or what proximate cause will trigger it) and lots of people are suddenly looking for a new idea, this set of ideas will be one of the sets laying around ready to be taken up.
Toward that great goal, the second necessary preliminary step is to form the skeleton of a future mass movement in the form of coherent organizations, of whatever size attainable, which will undertake whatever wedge actions are possible for the time being but whose primary action will be to propagate the ideas as far and wide as possible.
All this must take place in tandem with building up the community food sector. We especially need more local retail producers, and processing infrastructure, and political organization against the state’s repressive campaigns. The community food movement already exists as a vibrant movement with great scope for all the action one could desire. We need for the whole thing, from organic horticulture to market gardening to abolition of pesticides/GMOs to a global agroecology transformation, to evolve into one coherent cultural force.
Propagate the new and necessary ideas.
*As a general rule within-the-system action is worthless, especially at the higher levels of government and especially where people seek positive policy, as opposed to resisting bad policy. But there are some wedge issues which cut across the system’s calcified political lines, where especially at lower levels of government dedicated pressure groups can get action. I argue that food is one of these potential wedges, and that organizations dedicated to the right kind and mode of food action can get good results, both directly and in terms of driving a broader cultural wedge. That’s the wager I make with my writing.


  1. The only time I agree with the pro-GMO junta is when they criticize the industrial organic industry. Of course, they only do so as part of a cheap “gotcha” attempt because they themselves support the absolute worst of industrial practices.

    “Organic” is a term owned by the USDA, nothing more at this point.

    I love when globalist shills criticize policies like the one Maine just passed: “This will create a patchwork of local government policies and we can’t have that!”

    I don’t think they ever realize how anti-democratic their beliefs have become over the years of corporate brainwashing. This country was founded on a “patchwork” ethos, and it would serve us well to get back to our roots.

    Maine once again proves itself as an independent free-thinking state.

    Comment by Bob — December 16, 2017 @ 12:58 pm

    • Exactly right, the patchwork is a great thing, another term for diversity, while fear and loathing of it is the hallmark of technocratic statism. (Back in the bad old days when labeling was all the rage even anti-GMO people who still worshiped the FDA, in calling for an FDA labeling policy which would pre-empt stronger state-level policy, would parrot the “patchwork” epithet. I used to waste energy telling them this was a Frank Luntz anti-environmental talking point, and why on earth would they want such political monoculture anyway. Of course it was like talking to the wall. I’m sort-of grateful that what I was predicting for years came to pass in 2016 and the system, with industrial organic’s support, passed what I called DARK Act Plan B. At least that seems to have mostly discredited labeling as “the” goal.)

      The USDA stipulates that “organic” is just a lifestyle accouterment which has no virtues beyond that. Which they have to say, since their ideology is based on the proposition that poison-based agriculture is perfectly safe and ecologically sound. Obviously it’s not a good idea to leave sole or primary judgement regarding the organic concept in their hands.

      Meanwhile industrial organic is in a difficult spot. Their brand depends on people believing their products really are far more healthy and ecological, and they mostly avoid USDA- or Mackey-style public cynicism. But at the same time they, as capitalists first and foremost, want to cut as many corners as possible and as much as possible ape the parts of industrial monoculture which aren’t part of the certification. We see that in the activities of the NOSB and OTA, and with the sham “co-existence” deal they tried to strike with Monsanto in 2011 regarding RR alfalfa, which everyone knows will render certified organic meat and dairy increasingly untenable unless the GMO restrictions are relaxed.

      That’s long been my prediction: Just as the regulators mechanically raise the level of pesticide residues allowed in food in accord with how much pesticide the corporations deploy, so any regulator tasked with regulating GM “adventitious presence” in crops and foods will mechanically raise the allowed level (for example, the level allowed in certified organic, or the level below which the food doesn’t have to be labeled as containing GMOs) in accord with the general contamination level. This is part of the proof that systematic contamination is an intended goal of the system, a backdoor path toward the most expansive GMO deployment where they can’t prevail by direct brute force. (Meanwhile the dicamba/Xtend extortion campaign to force all soy farmers to adopt that system is a middle path between direct force and insidious contamination.)

      Comment by Russ — December 16, 2017 @ 2:23 pm

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