2015-01-16 / Letters

Dubois Livestock is a farm

To the editor:

Dubois Livestock is a Maine farm that has been farming for over 70 years. The farm is over 200 acres in Arundel and over 400 more acres in other communities. Its composting is agriculture, as determined by the Department of Agriculture and Department of Environmental Protection. The Maine Judicial Supreme Court’s decision that Dubois Livestock has to get a permit from the town of Arundel does not affect the decisions by the Maine State Agencies, that determined Dubois Livestock is a farm and its composting is agriculture. The decisions of the Department of Agriculture and DEP are controlling and conclusive on the farm and agricultural composting issues.

Approximately three years ago, Dubois Livestock acquired from the Department of Agriculture a letter establishing that Dubois Livestock was a farm and its composting operation was agriculture. Dubois Livestock also received a letter from the DEP confirming that its composting was, “an agricultural composting operation pursuant to, as defined in 06-096 CMR 400.” As Dubois Livestock has been repeatedly informed, any other reasonable town would have accepted the notices in the letter and not duplicated the regulatory processes already being performed.

In early newspaper articles, Dubois Livestock was errantly portrayed as a six-acre parcel instead of a 600-acre farm, and the dispute between Arundel and Dubois Livestock was thought to have arisen after it was discovered that Dubois Livestock was maintaining a compost operation, by the town. The true facts, which have been revealed in more newspaper articles, is that the Dubois composting operation has been in existence for over 30 years, at its present location and it has been licensed and regulated by the DEP since 1999.

Dubois Livestock is completely regulated and controlled by the Department of Agriculture and DEP. The farm is very involved with the United States Department of Agriculture, particularly the Natural Resource Conservation Service. NRCS aided Dubois Livestock in the development and creation of its current nutrient management plan. Dubois Livestock is also a member of the Maine Farm Bureau. Dubois Livestock timely challenged Arundel’s interference with its already regulated agricultural composting operation. Dubois Livestock did attempt to resolve the matter with Arundel Town Manager Todd Shea. Dubois Livestock met with him in January 2012. Shea promised to get with us on the matter and never did so. He disappeared until Nov. 10, 2014.

On Nov. 10, 2014, Shea, at Arundel’s Board of Selectmen meeting, made untruthful and inaccurate statements that he had been informed that Dubois Livestock’s composting was being investigated by the DEP. Shea also remarked that the DEP had delayed its actions and conduct based on the DEP’s supposed belief that it had no jurisdiction to act until the Supreme Court had made its decision. Shea apparently did not know that the DEP representative whom he claimed to have provided him information is Dubois Livestock’s composting project manager and had held that position for many years. In a meeting on Nov. 20, 2014, between the department head of the DEP, Dubois Livestock, and other DEP representatives, Dubois Livestock was assured that no such investigation ever existed and no such statements were made by Dubois Livestock’s DEP composting project manager. At the DEP meeting, Dubois Livestock was again assured that it was an agricultural composting operation. A letter was dispatched to Shea, directing him to his false statements. Demand was made that he recant his statements. Shea, at the very next selectmen meeting, recanted everything.

Dubois Livestock is disappointed with the decision of the Maine Judicial Supreme Court. Dubois Livestock took particular offense to the law court’s unfounded statement that it believed Dubois Livestock was not a farm because it did not produce “agricultural products.” Dubois Livestock produces over 200 tons of hay each year on the 100 acres that surround its composting operation. It also raises hogs, cattle, goats and rabbits. There is no question that it is a farm. Regardless of the belief of the Supreme Court, it is not a branch of government that has the power to decide it Dubois Livestock is a farm or not. The power to make such decisions is held by the Department of Agriculture and the DEP. Both departments have decided that Dubois Livestock is a farm and its composting is agriculture.

The Supreme Court, while it decided that town ordinances were not preempted, it did indicate that those ordinances were restricted from interfering with a farm’s best management practices. In relation to the DEP, the court found that the town ordinances must use definitions consistent with those of the DEP. The court also found that the standards in any ordinance were barred from being more strict than those made by the DEP. Dubois Livestock understands that it did not prevail in relation to preemption, but it did secure guidelines that restrict the town from interfering Department of Agriculture and DEP definitions and regulations, including, and especially, the ones that have determined that Dubois Livestock is a farm and its composting is agriculture. Therefore, it is certain that Dubois Livestock’s agricultural composting operation is agriculture and it is implicitly a permitted and conforming use in Arundel’s R-4 (Agriculture) Zone.

Dubois Livestock is a fourth generation farm in Arundel and it will continue to produce agricultural products. We are open for business.

Randy Dubois

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