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Policy Update: Pollinators, Healthy Soils, Farm Bill and more…

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

By Marty Dagoberto, Policy Coordinator

Farmer-member, Christy Raymond of White Barn Farm in Wrentham (pictured right)

Thank you to everyone who has continued to answer our calls to action: writing letters, making phone calls, sharing stories and “memes,” and to all of our yearly members who support our policy work and give us strength in numbers. If you’d like to receive more frequent policy updates as well as volunteer requests, feel free to contact marty@nofamass.org.

Please note: this policy update was written on June 15th, with some updates a few days later. Given the end of the state legislative session at the end of July, things will likely have changed by the time this is posted. You can always check our Facebook page for big announcements.

Pollinator Protection

The Massachusetts Pollinator Protection Act (H.4041) has a record number of cosponsors (135 out of 200 total legislators - see the list here) because so many of us have asked for it, and it makes sense. It would restrict use of bee-killing neonics to licensed pesticide applicators who are trained in how to minimize impacts. It also promotes pollinator habitats along highways. The bill was passed unanimously from the House Agriculture and Environment Committee last November, but has been sittingin the House Committee on Ways and Means since. The two year legislative session ends July 31st.

Here’s an article about the Mass. Medical Society expressing support for restrictions on neonics, which they argue also presents health risks to humans, not just pollinators.

National Pollinator week happens to fall in late June, right during crunch time in the legislative session. To celebrate, we helped organize a press conference at the State House (see the video here), to bring attention to the fact that this wildly popular, commonsense bill has been sitting idle.

We are so grateful that one of our farmer-members, Christy Raymond (White Barn Farm, Wrentham) took a day away from the farm in the middle of June to speak so passionately in favor of this bill. Thank you, Christy!

Even though many offices have told us that it’s one of the most popular issues they hear about, and even though the bill has a supermajority of support, the bill won’t get the vote it deserves unless we make legislators make it a priority. This press conference helped to build some buzz, but we need everyone’s help to make this happen. Please use and share our “PollenAction” page (note: phone calls are always better than emails) and ask your legislators to “Push for a vote on H.4041!” - http://bit.ly/mapollenaction

Healthy Soils

The Healthy Soils Bill (H.3713) has been stuck right along with the Pollinator Bill (and many many others) in the the Ways and Means Committee since February. It would establish a Healthy Soils Program and place an expert in regenerative agriculture on the MA Food Policy Council. Our coalition has been working with our legislative champions to try and get the language included in the Governor’s Climate Resiliency bill, but it was recently removed from the House draft. If you haven’t contacted your state legislators recently in support of this bill, please do.

Federal Farm Bill

While the House version is still stalled with no movement in sight (thankfully), the Senate passed a much more reasonable and bipartisan draft on June 8th. Here’s an analysis from the National Organic Coalition. Most of our primary concerns with the House version do not apply to the Senate version (i.e.: Organic Cost Share and conservation programs are fully funded). There are still some concerns over threats to the NOSB and many other issues, but it’s good that this draft sets the first marker in a negotiation process, rather than the hyperpartisan House version. A Senate vote is expected “before the 4th of July,” so stay tuned. Things could slide back quickly or the whole thing could get punted until after November (which many suspect could be a good thing).

We are grateful for the assistance of Senator Warren, who passed along our concerns to the committee about Organic Cost Share, conservation programs and the NOSB. Thank you to everyone who contacted our Senators on this. Please keep it up and also keep calling your members of Congress, we still need their help. Find the latest action alerts on the our action page.

GMO labeling

Thank you to everyone who submitted comments on the federal GMO labeling law (or “BE labeling” as they chose to re-brand it). If you happen to be reading this on July 1st or 2nd you still have time to take action. Now we wait to see what they actually come up with for a labeling system. (We’re not too optimistic.)

And in other news

Monsanto is about to disappear. Everything will stay exactly the same

As expected, the disastrous mega-merger of Bayer and Monsanto was approved. The new company will become the world’s largest vegetable seed company as well as the largest manufacturer and seller of herbicides, giving a single corporation unprecedented control of our food supply. They’ll be retiring the “Monsanto” brand, but continuing with its toxic product line and legacy.

Beekeepers File Legal Complaint Against Bayer Over Glyphosate in Honey

Bayer, which recently wrapped up its takeover of Monsanto, now owns glyphosate and the liabilities surrounding it.

Civil Eats: These Farmers Switched to Organic After Pesticides Made Their Families Sick

After seeing parents fall ill from cancer or die, many farmers are switching to organics to protect themselves and their children.

Eric Toensmeier’s published an opinion piece in the Washington Post about carbon farming! (he didn’t write the title)

We were so happy to hear that our friend and respected carbon farming thought-leader got his writing about silvopasture published in this major paper. Silvopasture (carbon farming with trees and livestock), as Eric says, “belongs at the center of international efforts to address climate change.” Please give this important article a read.

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