Decentralization continues to be an important goal for many practical libertarians, and for good reason. After all, when you take the power away from a big, overbearing government body and brings it back to the hands of small communities, you allow individuals to make decisions for themselves along with their neighbors. You give autonomy back to small groups of people, keeping powerful politicians and lobbyists from having the last say on how people run their lives.
In Maine, Governor Paul LePage has just signed a Food Sovereignty Bill into law. The piece of legislation works by giving Maine towns the power to regulate local food production on their own. With this new bill, the state has essentially nullified the federal government’s monopoly on food regulations.
The first town to have enacted this type of legislation was Sedgwick, which is located in Hancock County in Maine. After passing its own law giving locals the right to produce and consume whatever food item they wish, such as meats from local plants or even raw milk (the horror!), the rest of the state followed suit. Now that the nullification fever spread across the state, others are hoping it spreads across the country.
In other states like Wyoming, similar laws also strip the federal government from its monopoly over food regulation. Unfortunately, they do not go as far as Maine’s new law.
With a law protecting the citizen’s right to sell homemade food without a license, Wyoming is one of the states that have fought for food sovereignty recently. Still, it’s only when we see states going as far as Maine that we’re reminded that battles fought locally are more likely to succeed. For libertarians, this is a message worth embracing as we often look for ways to ensure that individuals are the freest they can be regardless of who’s sent to oversee the executive branch in Washington, D.C., every four years.
Still, we must keep in mind that the federal government doesn’t let go of its powers that easily.
Unfortunately for Maine residents, the new law protecting their food rights is already being attacked by the feds.
Scheduled to go into effect in early November, the governor has urged the state government to hold a special session so they may listen to the federal government’s objections before allowing the bill to run its course.
This follows the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s threats regarding the state’s meat and poultry industries. If the law goes into effect as is, the USDA threatened the state’s meat to be transferred to the federal government’s inspection program. This would then defeat the bill’s purpose, giving the federal government its power to have the last word when it comes to meat and poultry products back.
Hopefully, the state will stand strong in the face of a threatening almighty federal government attempting to keep locals from making their own food-related decisions. And if that is the case, then Maine will serve as a real example of what courage looks like.