Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine in favor of LD 922, “Resolve, To Streamline the Laws Governing Small Slaughterhouses

Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine

in favor of LD 922,

Resolve, To Streamline the Laws Governing Small Slaughterhouses

March 22, 2011

Senator Sherman, Representative Edgecomb and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation. My name is Nancy Smith and I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine. As many of you know from our previous interactions with the committee, GrowSmart Maine (GSM) is a statewide non-profit membership-based organization working to grow Maine's economy, protect its distinctive character, and enhance our state's quality places. I regret that previously scheduled commitments prevent me or other GSM representatives to present this testimony at today’s Public Hearing.

As a part of our commitment to strengthening Maine’s economy, GrowSmart Maine is particularly enthusiastic about well grounded, thoughtful and creative proposals which seek to grow the economy in a sustainable manner while at the same time preserving our state’s unique character and quality of place. We believe that LD 922 accomplishes these goals and strongly urges the committee to support this legislation.

GSM supports this legislation because, if improvements can be made in this area of regulation, we will be making great strides in value-added processing for Maine farmers. This is key to the viability of our farms across the state. Demand for local meats and poultry is strong and growing, and this line of products can be profitable for farmers.

This effort must be made in the context of the Maine Meat Act, which authorizes the state Agriculture Department to implement the federal standards. With state oversight of a federal program, we offer more choices to farmers. If we endanger the USDA's acceptance of the Maine Meat Act, we risk severely reducing he choices available for Maine farmers. This may be an instance where additional staffing is an essential part of the solution. There are 8 slaughterhouses in Maine now, and growing interest in having more, so more inspectors needed. As we work with the USDA, there is up to 50% match from USDA for cost of staffing, helping to ease the burden on the state budget.

Beyond the GSM perspective, I would be remiss in not informing the committee of my additional experience on this issue. As co-owner of Snafu Acres Farm in Monmouth, I have been raising and marketing natural meats and poultry for ten years. For more than five years, I have been a part of COOPP, Cooperative of Poultry Producers. We are an agricultural cooperative formed by farmers, for farmers, to join forces in marketing our farm-raised poultry. The first step in marketing is access to a legal processing of our birds. That is where we have focused our efforts for the past seven years. We offer the state-inspected processing of poultry at our mobile processing unit, which has been located at Snafu Acres Farm for the past four or five years. I have been the President of this Ag Cooperative for two years. I am HACCP trained, and have also been an employee of COOPP, working at the evisceration table, quality control station, and packing table for several seasons, as well as processing our own pasture-raised Thanksgiving turkeys for several years prior to that. I am willing to offer this expertise and unique perspective to the committee as well, as you all work towards the goal everyone in this room shares; to allow farmers access to a profitable market for a quality product. This is, and has been, a balancing act, between removing regulatory barriers for farmers, protecting public health, all the while staying in compliance with federal requirements.

Thank you for the opportunity to present these remarks. I would be happy to attend the work session if that would be helpful to the committee.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding GrowSmart Maine’s support for LD 922.