Maine Voters to Decide if Food is Constitutional Right

The proposed amendment to the state's constitution has bipartisan support.

Voters in Maine might set a national precedent by embedding the right to food into their state’s constitution.

According to The Press Herald, “the proposal, which will be on the Nov. 2 ballot, is the result of a nearly decade-long effort that represents an evolution of the movement that produced the Maine Food Sovereignty Act. That landmark law authorized cities and towns to adopt local food ordinances, and more than 90 have done so.”

If adopted, the addition to the Maine Constitution would read: “All individuals have a natural, inherent and inalienable right to food, including the right to save and exchange seeds and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being, as long as an individual does not commit trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the harvesting, production or acquisition of food.”

Republican Representative Billy Bob Faulkingham sponsored the bill. The lobsterman submitted a written testimony that asked “Jumping ahead 25 or 50 years into the future, could we see our government creating roadblocks and restrictions to the people’s right to food? Will the government be telling people what they are allowed to eat and where they can grow it?”

“This bill is about how you produce food for your family… and if we believe in the ability of people to feed themselves from whatever walk of life they come from, you would vote for this bill,” said Representative William Pluecker, an Independent, per the Bangor News Daily.

The bill, known as L.D. 95, was approved in the state’s House and Senate by a two-thirds majority.

Critics have argued that the amendment could cause food safety issues. The Maine Veterinary Medical Association expressed concern that it could endanger the welfare of animals. The state’s agricultural department is said to be largely neutral and noted in its testimony that the bill would be up to a court interpretation. 

Senate Minority Leader Jeffrey Timberlake, R-Turner, said he voted against the measure because nobody could tell him when food rights had ever been denied to Mainers, reported The Press Herald.

Notably, 90 municipalities have established their own food exchange ordinances since 2017 after Maine passed the Food Sovereignty Act, giving them the ability to do so. 

In addition to Maine, Washington and West Virginia are also considering adding amendments protecting the right-to-food to their constitutions.

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