Sustainability Environment

Maine could become the first state to declare food cultivation a constitutional right

Story at a glance

  • The Maine Food Sovereignty Act passed the State Congress, and will be on a ballot in November.
  • The bill lets Maine residents cultivate and harvest their own food as an inalienable right, amending the state constitution.
  • Opponents voiced hygiene and animal rights concerns.

Following the passage of a new bill through both the State House of Representatives and Senate, Maine voters could decide whether or not food is a constitutional right.

LD 95, or the Maine Food Sovereignty Act, aims to strengthen the rights of Maine residents to grow and consume their own food. If it passes, the legislation would formally add in the Maine constitution that “all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being.”

Since the bill has already made its way through the state House and Senate, it will appear on the forthcoming Nov. 2 ballot where voters will make the final decision, per the Portland Press Herald

Proponents of the bill note that its passage can help strengthen food security and reduce public hunger in the state, and promote sustainable agriculture. 

The bill’s definitions clarify that individuals will still need to adhere to local and state food safety laws, and be subject to qualifying meat and poultry licensing regulations, especially surrounding producer-to-consumer transactions. 

“This amendment strengthens the people’s inalienable right to produce food for their own consumption-not to steal, not to trespass, not to poach….but to produce food for their own consumption,” Maine Rep. Billy Faulkingham (R) testified as he introduced the bill. 

Others believe the bill poses a threat to existing programs, including Rebecca Graham of the Maine Municipal Association. 

“The revenue to carry out the referendum is better remaining in service and improvement of existing programs,” Graham said.

Animal rights and veterinary groups have also voiced opposition to the bill, citing hygienic and humane concerns in regards to the bill’s protection of individual hunting, fishing, and raising livestock.