The Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. NOFA/Mass welcomes everyone who cares about food, where it comes from and how it’s grown

Growing Organically Since 1982

Policy

Forget tomatoes and microgreens. Cannabis is about to enter the Massachusetts marketplace, and according to some estimates it’s poised to become a $1.1 billion industry within just a few years. That would mean cannabis alone would exceed the entire total market value of all Massachusetts agricultural products (which comes in at just shy of $500 million).

We’ve compiled this list of stories to help keep you up to date on issues impacting food and farming.

 

After many years spent talking about changing light bulbs and utilizing energy-efficient vehicles, policy makers are finally waking up to the importance of the humble soil microbe in humanity’s efforts to keep the climate from becoming as erratic as a rickety rollercoaster. At this point, many climate action leaders and soil scientists acknowledge that agricultural (mis)management is a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, but until recently, no state or federal agency was willing to tackle this problem head on.

This year that is finally changing. Over this past year, as advocacy groups, scientists, and reporters have become more openly vocal about the importance of healthy soils, politicians in multiple states have heeded the call. First, California passed a law creating the “Healthy Soils Initiative”, which provides $7.5 million for efforts to “protect and restore soil organic matter” along with a host of other services.

We’ve compiled this list of stories to help keep you up to date on issues impacting food and farming.

 

We’ve compiled this list of stories to help keep you up to date on issues impacting food and farming.

 

OFA 2: Elizabeth Kucinich

Almost every industry and cause has an interest group in Washington D.C. working on its behalf. It would seem that organic farmers are no exception. With groups like National Organic Coalition (NOC), Organic Trade Association (OTA) and National Sustainable Action Coalition (NSAC) actively lobbying in D.C, one would think that the interests of organic farmers would be more than adequately represented. But just recently, a new organization called the Organic Farmers Association (OFA) has been gaining momentum as it gears up to be a uniquely farmer-driven policy player.

You may know that NOFA/Mass delivers technical assistance to Beginning Farmers through our Beginning Farmer Mentorship Program. It really helps to be able to pick up the phone and call an experienced farmer when you are in need of some sage advice. You may also know that we have a gardeners' forum to help gardeners exchange growing ideas. In 2014, NOFA/Mass expanded the technical assistance that we give farmers and food handlers, offering consulting for those who need help with their application for organic certification.

It’s become a notorious fact: 40% of all food grown in the Unites States goes to waste. That’s more than 1 in 4 calories going straight into the dumpster. The thought of so much wholesome, delicious food being wasted is already heavy with pathos, but what is truly heart breaking is the amount of work and resources wasted in the process. A full quarter of our country's fresh water is used to grow this wasted food. 350 million barrels of oil are burned in vain. We can estimate that 250 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on squandered crops. The level of wasted human work this implies is even more staggering: each year, at least 8 billion person-hours are spent planting, tending, and harvesting unconsumed crops.

The Arctic Apple, which has been genetically engineered not to brown. (Courtesy Okanagan Specialty Fruits)

We’ve compiled this list of stories to help keep you up to date on issues impacting food and farming.

Consumers who choose to buy organic eggs, poultry, and meat expect organic farmers to raise their animals in the healthiest conditions possible – to provide access to the outdoors, space to move around, and freedom to exhibit their natural behaviors. And farmers and ranchers who choose to follow organic standards expect a level playing field. Right now, that is not the case.

“Most organic livestock and poultry operations already adhere to high standards. But they are being undercut economically because of loopholes in the organic standards that allow a few operations to deny meaningful outdoor access to animals,” says Abby Youngblood, executive director at the National Organic Coalition.

The new Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule will level the playing field and ensure that all poultry and eggs sold as organic meet the high standards that consumers expect. The new rules, which are available today in the federal register, represent more than a decade of work to clarify and improve animal welfare standards in organic. They incorporate input from thousands of stakeholders as well as recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a stakeholder board that advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture. NOSB membership, by law, includes organic farmers, handlers, certifiers, environmental/conservation specialists, consumer representatives, and scientists.

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