AUGUSTA — The path from local food producer to consumer could be shortened under a proposal to be discussed by city councilors Thursday.

If Augusta follows in the footsteps of roughly 40 Maine municipalities who already have declared themselves food-sovereign communities — allowed for through the passage last year of the Maine Food Sovereignty Act — farmers and other local food producers would be able to sell directly to their customers at the location where they grow or produce their food without being licensed or inspected by the state.

At-large Councilor Mark O’Brien said he sponsored the proposal for Augusta to pass a food sovereignty ordinance at the request of a constituent.

He said most of the Maine communities that have adopted the rules so far have been smaller communities, including, in central Maine, Mount Vernon and Starks. But O’Brien noted that larger communities such as Auburn and Rockland have adopted the rules. The town of Fairfield currently is considering such a proposal.

Some councilors in Augusta, when the idea first was discussed, asked whether the city could open itself up to liability problems, should someone become sick from eating food purchased from a farmer or food producer in Augusta who had not been inspected.

Asked to weigh in on that potential liability, city Attorney Stephen Langsdorf said in a memo to councilors he does not foresee such a risk for the city because the state specifically established a process whereby municipalities may exempt local food producers from state and local food regulation.

One thing the state law is not clear on, he said, is whether such ordinances are meant to apply to products that are cooked — such as baked goods or sauces — or to what degree products not produced locally may be used as an ingredient in producing food to be sold under the new rules.

Langsdorf suggested councilors could help clarify the proposed local ordinance by defining food or food products, “including the possibility of language stating that as long as a majority of ingredients in the food product were produced on premises, that is sufficient to avoid regulation.”

Meat and poultry are exempt from the state food sovereignty law, and federal inspection and licensing requirements for those items still apply.

The rules also do not apply to anyone selling items at a farmer’s market, which are regulated separately by the state, according to Matt Nazar, the city’s development director.

Councilors are scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the council chamber at Augusta City Center.

Councilors also are scheduled to:

• Continue discussion of recreational and medical marijuana regulations,

• Discuss Kennebec County police dispatching,

• Discuss requiring permits for anyone operating a business at their home and

• Discuss changing parking rules on Jefferson Street.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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