January 12, 2012

Letters to the editor, Jan. 12, 2012:
Find the farmers who've disappeared

People from across Maine who are interested in farming and food are gathering in Augusta this week for the agricultural trades show.

click image to enlarge

The Department of Agriculture should stand up for the needs of the small farmer.

2006 Press Herald file

You will find many trade groups and chemical companies amid the bustle.

What you won't find are "the disappeared."

You won't find the thousands of disappeared farmers who gave up farming when they just couldn't add one more hot water line into the barn, or the concrete floor under the bulk tank, or separate facilities dedicated to one enterprise.

You won't find the farmers who just didn't have the land base and couldn't afford to buy the acreage to increase their production to pay for increasing equipment and building requirements.

You won't find the crab pickers who stopped picking crabs, selling the meat from their homes to sell their by-catch when their work was made illegal by rule-making.

You won't find the farmers who are trying to stay "under the radar," afraid to publicly sell food to their neighbors in the communities where they live, until "they get caught" farming without a license.

We need the Department of Agriculture to stand up for small farmers.

Take time to understand small farms and what we are contributing to our communities.

We shouldn't have to "sneak around farming," afraid of succeeding and becoming visible because new rules have made our work illegitimate.

Don't make farming criminal with the rules from the FDA and the USDA.

Stop disappearing small farms with big rules.

Heather Retberg

Penobscot 

Asylum seekers will contribute if given a hand

By definition, immigrants are risk-takers, having left behind everything they have known.

The journey for many begins with their arrival seeking refuge, as aptly noted in the Jan. 7 article "More people seeking asylum, shelter."

They arrive, starting from scratch to learn a new language, a new culture and start a new life.

The article mentioned that Immigrant Legal Aid Project observers speculate that more people from east Africa are coming to Portland because of the visible immigrant community.

The Somali community has been here for a decade. In that time, a growing number of small business entrepreneurs have developed.

Within the immigrant community, there is a cadre of professionals working throughout the state.

Their children graduate from high school and continue on to attend and graduate from college.

The newly arriving asylum seekers see the possibilities for a good life here in Maine.

However, waiting for asylee status includes trust and reliance on a hand-up, with help for meeting basic human needs.

It's of grave concern that immigrants are the hardest hit by MaineCare cuts, food stamp rules and the threat of cuts to the shelter budgets, the denial of basic human needs: health care, food and emergency housing.

The state budget changes are abhorrent, disregarding and harming a new and under-utilized resource of human potential. New Mainers are the state's greatest hope for bucking the trend toward a reduction in overall population and for lowering the average age of state residents.

The immigrant community is a good thing for Maine.

Dd Swan

Portland 

Why would city plow such a small amount of snow? 

I was roused from sleep at 4:45 a.m. on Dec. 31 by the beeping sounds of a snow plow.

This was followed a few minutes later by a second plow.

Checking with friends in other parts of the city, I learned that they too had been plowed.

The Press Herald reported that Portland received 1.3 inches of snow on Dec. 30.

Can the city offer a reason as to why this was done?

Given the tight financial times in which we are living, spending money to plow little or no snow is baffling, annoying and deserves an explanation.

(Continued on page 2)

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