NORRIDGEWOCK — Selectmen gave initial approval Wednesday to a local foods ordinance, putting the town on track to becoming the latest community in Maine to allow local producers to bypass some state regulations when selling directly to consumers.

The ordinance, titled Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance, was approved by selectmen 4-0. Selectman Jim Lyman was absent.

It now will head to voters for final approval in a June 12 referendum.

If approved, the ordinance would make Norridgewock one of more than 50 communities in Maine to approve food sovereignty ordinances, according to Local Food RULES, a group based in Hancock County with the mission of getting more towns to approve local ordinances.

Town Manager Richard LaBelle said the Norridgewock ordinance was drafted by the Planning Board after news articles called attention to the issue in other communities.

In June 2017, the Legislature passed the Maine Food Sovereignty Act, allowing municipalities to create their own local ordinances governing direct food sales from producers to consumers.

LaBelle said the proposed ordinance is based on ordinances in Fairfield, which approved new regulations in October; and Starks, where voters approved a food sovereignty ordinance at their 2018 Town Meeting.

The ordinance allows producers and processors of local food to enter into private agreements with patrons to waive liability for consumption of local food when making sales or an exchange on their own property.

It does not pertain to meat or poultry products, which still would be required to comply with the Maine Meat and Poultry Inspection Program.

“This is really, I think, in a small town like ours a formality, but it’s still a necessity to protect folks from legal liability,” LaBelle said.

“I like the idea of it. I’m just afraid there’s some adverse effect we haven’t heard of,” Selectman Matt Everett said.

LaBelle said town officials felt the same way initially, but after looking at other communities that have passed similar ordinances “that brought another level of comfort.”

Three public hearings will be scheduled for residents to weigh in on the ordinance, after which it will appear in a referendum question June 12.

 

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected] 

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

 

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