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MOF&G Cover Winter 2008-2009
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  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerWinter 2008-2009Ag Committee   
 Editorial: Shameful Maine Ag Committee (Mostly) Minimize

by Heather Spalding, MOFGA Associate Director

Organic blueberry farmer Deborah Aldridge of Jonesboro was nominated by Gov. Baldacci to fill the environmental seat on the Maine Board of Pesticides Control – a seat that has been vacant since the summer of 2007. On August 19, 2008, the Legislature's Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry voted 7-3 against recommending Aldridge for the post. Clearly, behind-the-scenes lobbying by some conventional agriculture groups and farmers influenced the Committee vote.

After an hour and a half of antagonizing questioning, Committee chair Senator John Nutting cast the first "No" vote against Aldridge. Senator Roger Sherman and Representatives Jacqueline Lundeen, Donald Marean, Peter Edgecomb, Dean Cray and Jeffery Gifford followed suit. Only Rep. Tim Carter, Sen. Margaret Rotundo and Rep. John Piotti voted for Aldridge. Representative Wendy Pieh was absent due to a family medical situation. Representatives Benjamin Pratt and Pineau also were absent.

MOFGA believes that nothing was controversial about Aldridge’s nomination. She is extremely bright, thoughtful, experienced and committed. She was nominated to fill a public seat representing environmental interests. That she is an organic farmer (and has been a conventional grower) should have been valued as a bonus qualification, not counted against her.

Aldridge was grilled by committee members who feared she wanted to ban all uses of pesticides. She eloquently explained that she understood that there were reasonable uses for pesticides and various methods of application – including aerial spraying. She had MOFGA’s full support as well as that of the staff of the BPC and other members of the BPC – one of whom testified for her at the hearing.

Aldridge has been a member of the Jonesboro Planning Board and has had experience working with committees and finding common ground and resolutions. She works hard to educate people in her community about the different kinds of farming, and has the support of many blueberry growers from Down East. She is not a controversial figure among growers.

The Board has had a void and an imbalance for many months since Lee Humphreys, also an organic farmer, stepped down. Aldridge has very similar qualifications to Humphreys. The two reappointed BPC members attending the hearing in August testified in favor of bringing balance back to the monthly discussions by voting for Aldridge.

Aldridge and her husband Peter have been driving from Jonesboro to Fairfield or Waterville to attend BPC meetings as public citizens for several months. They continue to do so despite the Ag Committee's rejection.

Given the Ag Committee's failure to appoint Aldridge, the seat will remain open at least until January 2009. Let's hope that the next nominee for the environmental health seat on the BPC is not subjected to the disgraceful treatment that Aldridge endured in August.

Please encourage Governor Baldacci and members of the Ag Committee to appoint to the environmental health seat a thoughtful and dedicated champion of organic farming and gardening – someone like Deborah Aldridge.

Governor Baldacci: Phone – 207-287-3531; Fax: 207-287-1034; Email: Go to http://maine.gov/governor/baldacci/index.shtml, click on "Contact Us" and then "Share Your Views."

Ag Committee: Phone: 207-287-1692; Fax: 207-287-1580; Email: Melissa.Wright@legislature.maine.gov

MOFGA will continue to monitor monthly BPC meetings and summarize proceedings for our publications.

    

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