While Question 1 is sucking all the energy out of referendum discussions this year, Question 3 actually has the ability to have more long-term impact if passed.

Question 3, “The Right to Food” sounds innocuous and yet the very vagueness of the language leaves its definitions totally up to interpretation. There are those who believe that folks will do the right thing and government does not need to interfere and those who believe that government has no right to interfere in anything.  Those beliefs are vastly different and will lead to very different interpretations of how this amendment can be implemented; and those disagreements will need to be decided by the courts.

Amending the Constitution means we have added a right to the supreme law of the state. We will then be asking the courts to determine if, when, and/or how that right can be limited. It is not able to be tweaked by the Legislature – it is to be interpreted by the courts, as any other right has been, like the right to free speech and the right to bear arms.

But what about all of the current laws and ordinances? Will they stay? The courts will decide that, because Article. X Sec. 3 of the Maine Constitution says that laws that are currently in place that are not repugnant to this constitution shall remain.  It does not say all laws will remain.

So what challenges may come up?

Do I have a right to keep chickens for eggs in my apartment?  The courts will decide.

Do I have a right to keep a rooster with my urban hens because I have a right to fertile eggs?  The courts will decide.

Do I have a right to keep a pig and a goat in my back yard even when local ordinances say I can’t? The courts will decide.

Do I have a right to have a pile of composting manure in my backyard to use in my garden in the spring? The courts will decide.

Do I have a right to hunt out of season or over the limit if I want to eat only wild food? The amendment prohibits poaching, however poaching is not defined in Maine laws. The courts will decide.

Some proponents say this does not cover commerce- however others say people will be able to procure the food of their choice without fear of breaking the law.  Which is correct? The courts will decide.

Will parents have the right to demand the school provide for vegan, organic or even meat every day meals? The courts will decide.

Will people in residential care facilities have the right to demand the food of their choice? The courts will decide.

Instead of spending our time and money on court challenges, let’s look at ways to help people access food:

• A state policy that sets a percentage of public land aside for agricultural, including livestock.

• A policy to encourage municipalities to set aside municipal owned land for community gardens and prioritize food producing plants for landscaping.

• A fund to develop a Maine Food Curriculum that includes school gardens, classroom and onsite learning about livestock production, fishing, hunting and processing of all food.

• Work with Cooperative Extension to make classes available to all Mainers about how to use the products that are produced in state year round.

• Create more resources for processing meat and dairy. Maine produces great products, Maine consumers want these products and the bottle neck to availability is processing.

There are so many things we could be doing to address the enormous issue of food insecurity. We do not believe that Question 3 is the answer.


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