Food

Maine voters approve country’s first ‘Right to Food’ amendment

Maine voters passed a “right to food” measure Tuesday by a 60-to-40 percent margin.

The new constitutional right is the first of its kind in the nation.

Measure 3 on Maine’s off-year election ballot received 245,016 yes votes to 157,798 no votes. The statewide measure placed on the ballot by the Maine Legislature gives Maine residents an inherent and unalienable “right to food.” It does not impact public assistance programs to help feed the needy.

The state constitutional amendment gives Mainers the right to save and exchange seeds with the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume their food.

The Maine Farm Bureau, which opposed Measure 3 as unnecessary, said it would continue to work with the state’s farmers as the measure is enacted. The bureau said it remains resolved to “protect and enhance food safety and animal welfare as a standard for all Mainers.”

Maine is a state with a “food freedom” history that moved from towns to the state, which passed a “food sovereignty” law in 2007.

Only future court decisions will determine if Maine’s food safety is put at risk by the new “Right to Farm.” However, the legislative drafters did listen to Maine’s Department of Agriculture in removing all references to food processing and preparation that would have conflicted with state and federal laws regarding the licensing and inspection of food producers.

State Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Kennebec, said Measure 3 resonated with Mainers who are not afraid of saying out loud in their Constitution something they believe.

Maine’s 90 percent dependence on food imports from out-of-state, and highlighted during the pandemic, also may have contributed to the passage of Measure 3.

In the official “Intent and Content” statement for voters, Maine’s Attorney General said the “Right to Food” does not shield anyone from trespassing, theft, or poaching.

“The right would also exclude other abuses of private property rights, public lands, or natural resources in the harvesting, production, or acquisition of food,” the attorney general said.

Measure 3 was the least expensive item on Maine’s off-year election ballot.   It came with a fiscal note saying it would not cost the state or local governments anything if adopted. The other two measures voted on Tuesday involved an expensive energy corridor and more than $100 million for an infrastructure package.

Update: The infrastructure amount was changed to include the correct figure above.

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