February 10, 2022
As the Legislature soon considers several bills with significant ramifications for Maine farms, we need you, our members and supporters, to take action and make sure that farms and farmland are protected and that the Wabanaki Tribes’ ability to manage tribal lands, waters, and resources is restored.
Farmland is foundational to a healthy local food system. PFAS, so-called forever chemicals, are persistent in the environment, and the application of contaminated sludge or residuals decades ago by farmers who were unaware of the presence and health risks of PFAS can still impact PFAS levels in the soil today. We must protect Maine farm businesses and farmland from contamination.
The Maine Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted 10-3 to support an amendment to LD 1911 that would ban the land application of sludge and compost derived from sludge, and prohibit the sale of compost derived from sludge in Maine. This is an incredibly important development for protecting farms and farmland from PFAS contamination! We are so grateful to all of our members and supporters who responded to our action alert and either testified at the hearing or contacted legislators to express their support for the legislation.
Now we must make sure that the full Legislature votes in favor of this ban on the land application of PFAS-contaminated sludge and compost. Contact your legislator and tell them to support LD 1911.
Although MFT is very sensitive to the need for more housing in many areas of the state, we don’t believe the way to address that challenge is to open up large tracts of farmland to development, particularly if the community has identified the protection of farmland and support for farms as a priority. This is especially true given that we are already losing farmland in Maine, and we need that land base to support the development of a more robust local and regional food system.
Therefore, MFT will be opposing LD 1884, An Act to Create Affordable Agricultural Homesteads. The bill would prohibit the types of requirements that municipalities can set for zones primarily used for agriculture, and in doing so, limit the ability of municipalities to protect farmland through agricultural zoning.
The Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee will be holding a hearing on LD 1884 on Monday, February 14th at 10am. Please consider submitting written testimony and/or signing up to deliver oral testimony in opposition to the bill HERE. Once there, select “public hearing,” select the Labor and Housing Committee, the date of the hearing (February 14th at 10am), and the bill title (LD 1884 – An Act to Create Affordable Agricultural Homesteads). You will then be able to upload written comments and/or sign up to provide live testimony. If you have any questions, you can always email the Labor and Housing Committee clerk, Justin Purvis, at LBHS@legislature.maine.gov.
As a farmland conservation and food systems organization, MFT understands the critical importance of access to land and the ability to manage natural resources and land use for both economic viability and environmental stewardship. Communities throughout the state would greatly benefit from restoring the Wabanaki Tribes’ ability to manage tribal lands, waters, and resources.
MFT supports LD 1626 because it would enact the 22 changes to the Indian Claims Settlement Act that were recommended by a bipartisan task force, and in doing so, ensure that the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Penobscot Nation, and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians enjoy the same rights, privileges, powers and immunities as other federally-recognized Indian Tribes across the country. These recommendations include removing some of the barriers that the Tribes have faced in purchasing land, and restoring the Tribes’ rights to regulate hunting, fishing, natural resources, and land use on Tribal lands and waters, as allowed by federal law.
The Legislature’s Committee on Judiciary will be holding a hearing on Tuesday, February 15th at 9am. Please consider submitting written testimony and/or signing up to deliver oral testimony in support of the bill HERE. Once there, select “public hearing,” select the Judiciary Committee, the date of the hearing (February 15th at 9am), and the bill title (LD 1626 – An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act). You will then be able to upload written comments and/or sign up to provide live testimony. If you have any questions, you can always email the Judiciary Committee clerk, Susan Pinette at JUD@legislature.maine.gov.