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Billy Bob Faulkingham of Winter Harbor is a lobsterman. He represents District 136 in the Maine House of Representatives and was the prime sponsor of the legislation that became Question 3.
If you believe a person’s ability to produce their own food is a basic human right, then you have your chance to affirm this by voting yes on Question 3 this Nov. 2.
America’s farmer, Joel Salatin, said in Maine in 2015, “I can’t imagine a more basic human right, a more bipartisan issue, than protecting my right to choose my body’s food. Who could possibly think that such freedom of choice should be denied? We allow people to smoke, shoot, preach, home educate, spray their yards with chemicals, buy lottery tickets, and read about the Kardashians; wouldn’t you think we could let people choose their food?”
How did we get here? The food sovereignty movement in Maine claimed its first major policy win in 2011, after grassroots pressure increased for the state to protect its small-scale farmers from future intrusion by the federal government to impede our right to save seeds and grow, process, consume and exchange food and farm products within the state.
But four months later, the state of Maine sued Farmer Brown, a small dairy farmer, for selling raw milk without a license. This action ignited grassroots activism and in 2017 it swelled. With a House controlled by Democrats and a Republican-controlled Senate, Gov. Paul LePage signed the Maine Food Sovereignty Act into law.
Food sovereignty and Question 3’s “right to food” are closely related, but they aren’t the same thing. Food sovereignty laws deal with commercial regulation of food. Question 3 pertains to an individual’s “natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being.”
Our founders had the foresight to specifically enumerate certain rights, among them speech, the right to bear arms and the right to be protected from unlawful search and seizures were included.
Keep in mind constitutional amendments are there to protect our rights, not provide them.
Some have said that if an amendment called right to food is passed, that the government must provide food to people. That is not the case, and the language in this amendment is clear. Just as the right to bear arms is protected by the Constitution; the constitution doesn’t provide rifles to the people. The right to free speech is protected; but we don’t provide everyone with a microphone or a printing press to exercise it.
The same would be true of a right to food. The amendment would protect the right of the people to grow, raise and harvest food for their own use, but have no obligation to provide it to them.
This amendment strengthens the people’s inalienable right to produce food for their own consumption. The amendment carefully prohibits dangerous and illegal behavior. Within the amendment’s language, it explicitly forbids “trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the harvesting, production or acquisition of food.”
Some groups, such as the Humane Society, have been spreading ridiculous lies about the right to food. Recently, the Humane Society has suggested that Question 3 would give people the right to eat cats or other animals not used for food consumption, such as protected animals, for example.
This is categorically false. Frankly, political campaigns suggesting that the Mainers will be eating kittens or bald eagles just tarnishes the validity of those organizations’ animal protection mission.
The right to food team and our allies have been seeking policy, legal and constitutional advice from a litany of subject matter experts. They say that current federal and state animal welfare protections will stay intact. As we see with every right, there are reasonable restrictions and legal precedent, and that’s why Fido won’t be for dinner now, or ever.
Question 3’s appearance on the ballot may have taken some by surprise, but there has been a long-standing grassroots campaign to protect our right to feed ourselves with what nourishes our families — local, clean, and homegrown farm products.
We’d be more than happy to have your support to protect our right to “nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being.” I urge every Maine citizen to vote yes on Question 3.