Maine’s Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry held a public hearing Thursday on a bill that would eliminate needless bureaucracy for farmers looking to send their meat to market. The bill, LD 1889, “An Act To Protect the Products of Maine Farmers” sponsored by Rep. Scott Cuddy of Winterport, would fix a problem that plagued Souder Station Farm in Winterport last summer.
Farm owner Randy Canarr nearly lost 100 pounds of bacon due to an “absurd” food safety rule after a third-party processor mislabeled his product. Initially, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry was going to bleach everything that was mislabeled, even after pleas that the farmer would only use it for personal consumption.
Thankfully, the Department and Canarr were able to work out an arrangement that allowed him to keep his bacon, but it is a shame he had to go through this process in the first place. Quite frankly, it was bureaucracy at its worst.
LD 1889 would direct DACF to establish rules for returning inspected meat, meat products, poultry and poultry products to the livestock producer if it is found to be misbranded. To be clear, this is meat and poultry that is still safe to consume but cannot be sold because of error(s) that occur when it is labeled for sale. The owner who raises the livestock should be able to keep the meat and poultry for personal consumption if they choose if such errors occur.
Food labeling rules exist to ensure consumer safety, and while the department can argue its interest in keeping mislabeled food from market, destroying perfectly good local food instead of allowing the farmer to keep it is an affront to personal liberty and property rights, and is downright wasteful.
Further, this issue underscores the need for Maine’s executive branch departments to review their rules and regulations and eliminate those that create a burden for Maine’s people and businesses.
An analysis performed by the Mercatus Center in January 2019 found there are more than 113,000 regulatory restrictions on the books in Maine.
While this bill, if passed, will likely solve the niche problem at hand, there needs to be a greater effort within state government to free Mainers from the bureaucracy that currently exists, whether it’s occupational licensing reform or eliminating unnecessary regulations that constrain Maine businesses.