|About Dan Brown|
On May 13, Blue Hill dairy farmer Dan Brown will have his case heard by the Maine Supreme Court. Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund General Counsel Gary Cox will be arguing Brown’s case before the Court. Brown is appealing a lower court ruling finding him guilty on three counts for violations of Maine’s food and dairy code. Argument is scheduled to start at 11:40 a.m. and will take place at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland. There will be an audio livestream of the hearing.
In April of last year, Hancock County Superior Court Judge Ann Murray found Brown guilty of selling raw milk without a license, selling raw milk without labeling it as such, and operating a retail food establishment without a license. Brown and his wife, Judy, sold raw dairy products and other foods at the couple’s farm stand. In 2011 the town of Blue Hill passed a food sovereignty ordinance allowing the direct sale of food from producer to consumer without licensing or inspection requirements. Later that year, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) filed suit against Brown in a challenge to the food sovereignty ordinance seeking an injunction against the farmer as well as fines for violations of the state food and dairy code. In her decision, Judge Murray fined Brown $1,000 and enjoined him from further violations of the laws she found him guilty of breaking.
Dan Brown and wife Judy [photo: by permission]
There are two main issues in the case; the first is that until 2009, the state allowed the unlicensed sale of raw milk on the farm as long as the farmer did not advertise. That year DACF required those selling on the farm to get a Milk Distributor Permit even though the laws on the books had not changed. Before 2009, the term “milk distributor” had never been applied to a raw milk producer selling on the farm. Brown is claiming DACF is estopped (prohibited) from changing the law when there hasn’t been any change in Maine statutes or regulations.
The other issue is whether a local food ordinance would control over state law. Maine has one of the stronger ‘home rule’ laws in the country but Judge Murray declined to enforce the ordinance holding that the state laws governing regulation of food and dairy controlled. Since 2011 ten other Maine towns besides Blue Hill have passed food sovereignty ordinances. There have been numerous attempts elsewhere to pass laws as strong as Maine’s on the state and local level around the country with little success, but efforts continue.
The Brown hearing before the Maine Supreme Court is a national event that can be a springboard to greater success in the future for the food freedom movement. It’s a sign that the right to obtain foods of choice from the source of one’s choice is gaining traction.
The Fund is not an insurance company and cannot guarantee representation on all legal matters; possible representation is just one of the benefits of membership. In addition to the legal fees, the Fund typically pays for all court costs and expert witness expenses. View other FTCLDF Cases.
Prefer to make a tax-deductible donation? For details, go to farmtoconsumer.org/PIL
VIDEO: DAN BROWN TELLS HIS STORY
Posted November 14, 2011 on YouTube by weareallfarmerbrown