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Policy Update: Pollinator Protection, Healthy Soils Bill and GMOs

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2018 April Issue Newsletter

By Marty Dagoberto, Outreach Program Coordinator and Policy Coordinator

This is the first policy update from our new Policy Director, Marty Dagoberto. Marty has been the Outreach Coordinator since January 2017 and now also wears the Policy Director hat (and sometimes a suit). While he’s still getting oriented on the policy work for NOFA, Marty does have significant experience in the State House, having served as the Campaign Coordinator for MA Right to Know GMOs. Want to get involved in policy work? Have a tip or suggestion? Marty can be reached at marty@nofamass.org

By the time you read this, the annual “Ag Day” will have just happened at the State House (check our Facebook for pictures!), and the state legislature will soon be focused on the budget (and nothing else). Now is the time to contact your state legislators to push for active legislation. NOFA’s current top priorities are broken down for you, below.

Pollinator Protection Act (H.4041, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Dykema) 

Massachusetts stands poised to become a leader in protecting bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators from a known set of systemic toxic pesticides, neonicotinoids (aka “neonics”). This law would place commonsense restrictions on neonics and promote pollinator habitats in the state. Thanks to the vocal support of NOFA members and a statewide coalition we helped to form, the bill has a record number of bipartisan co-sponsors (135 out of 200 total legislators). However, unless legislators make it a priority, it won't "get to the floor" for a full vote. We need anyone and everyone to call their Rep. and Senator and ask them to push for a vote on Rep. Dykema’s pollinator bill. You can read more about the bill and take action through a form, here http://bit.ly/mapollenaction

Healthy Soils Bill (H.3713, introduced by Rep. Paul Schmid)

This bill would create a Healthy Soils Program within the Department of Agriculture Resources, tasked with supporting farmers through education, technical assistance, and incentives to promote regenerative practices that build healthy soil, sequester carbon, reduce agricultural runoff, and require less fertilizer. It would also add an expert on regenerative agriculture to the Mass. Food Policy Council. Like the Pollinator bill, this one is also “sitting” in House Committee on Ways and Means. Since it’s a new bill, a lot of legislators need to hear from their constituents on it. Please let your legislators know that you support regenerative agriculture and want to see the Healthy Soils Bill move forward.

Stay tuned…

By next month we’ll have important updates on the Federal Farm Bill (we’re meeting with Congressman McGovern’s office). You’ll also likely be hearing about an issue that hasn’t been active in almost two years. We are expecting the USDA to issue its GMO labeling regulations any day now. (As you might remember, then-President Obama signed a federal “GMO labeling” law into effect in July 2016, ending our effort to pass it at the state level.) The labeling law is supposed to be implemented by July 2018 following a public comment period. We will have a few weeks to submit public comments and hopefully make the best of a piece of legislation that was arguably written by the chemical manufacturers to keep consumers in the dark. More soon.

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