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 Update, October 2018

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

By Marty Dagoberto, Policy Director

Farm Bill Action Needed: Lapse likely!

As of the time of writing (9/20/18) it is becoming increasingly likely a hyper-partisan Congress won’t come to an agreement on the 2018 Farm Bill before the 2014 Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30th. When the previous Farm Bill lapsed at the end of 2012 and a short-term extension was passed, it failed to fund key organic Farm Bill programs and caused a great deal of disruption for the organic sector in 2013. We have to do what we can to stop that from happening again.

If your Representative is a Farm Bill Conferee (Congressman Jim McGovern is on there) it’s especially important that you make a phone call. It’s also important for all members of Congress to hear from their constituents on this. Let them know that you are concerned about what will happen to critical organic programs if the Farm Bill lapses.

Unfortunately, organic programs are among the many smaller programs that will run out of funding on September 30 with the expiration of the Farm Bill. See the National Organic Coalition’s analysis here.

If Congressman McGovern is your Rep., please call to urge support for organic in the Farm Bill. If you are a Massachusetts farmer (in any district) he would also benefit from hearing from you. Anyone and everyone can and should reach out to their own Rep. and Senators at the Capitol Switchboard:

Congressman McGovern:

202-225-6101

Call the Capitol Switchboard:

202-224-3121

*Enter your zip code to connect with your Senators/Rep.

Ask to speak with the staffer who works on agriculture or leave a message with whoever answers the phone. Use these talking points:

  • I’m calling as a constituent (and/or a Massachusetts farmer). I want to thank Representative/Senator XX for their leadership efforts to advance organic agriculture in the Farm Bill.
  • [If taking action before Sept. 30th…] I am calling to urge Representative/Senator XX to pass a Farm Bill by September 30 that includes provisions to address organic import fraud, plus full funding for organic research and organic certification cost-share.
  • If Congress is not able to pass a Farm Bill before the deadline, I am urging that you protect organic agriculture by passing a short-term extension that includes funding for organic research, organic certification cost-share, and organic data initiatives.
  • When the previous Farm Bill lapsed at the end of 2012 and a short-term extension was passed, it failed to fund key organic Farm Bill programs and caused a great deal of disruption for the organic sector in 2013. Please don’t let that happen again.

Protect local sovereignty to regulate pesticides

As highlighted in this Sept. 5th Civil Eats article, “A lesser-known provision in the House Farm Bill would prevent cities and counties from setting their own rules about pesticides on public land… It would reverse current bans in 155 communities.”

Environmental Working Group shared the following: “Section 9101 would prevent cities, counties and communities from restricting certain uses of pesticides even if they deem restrictions necessary for protecting children's health or the environment. For example, this provision would prevent a city or county from restricting chlorpyrifos – an insecticide so dangerous it was slated to be banned by the Environmental Protection Agency – from being sprayed near schools or hospitals.”

This sneak attack on local sovereignty should outrage our members and all supporters of a less-toxic future. The chemical lobby would like to centralize regulation to the Federal Government, where it has tighter control on regulators and where they can concentrate their lobbying dollars in D.C. A nationwide grassroots movement to protect our children and neighbors from chemical trespass is the last thing they want to face.

Please take action to contact your member of Congress about this disastrous provision. We are hoping that the entire House version of the Farm Bill is jettisoned in favor of the Senate version. However, even if that happens, this won’t be the last time the chemical industry tries this. We need to make sure that Congress knows they must not forbid local governments from providing greater public health protection than the federal government.

Please click here to contact your members of Congress and ask them to:

“Oppose Section 9101 of the House Farm Bill and any other legislation which would allow the Federal Government to preempt local governments from setting their own standards for pesticides.”

Get involved in local pesticide organizing

Interested in organizing and supporting new local ordinances concerning pesticide use? Please get in touch with us!

NOFA/Mass is rekindling past efforts to promote local organic organizing (at the town/city/community level) for local organic solutions and to build power for greater impact at the State and Federal levels. We’d like to help connect you with each other, with partner organizations, and with educational resources and guidance for whatever actions you are drawn to, whether it be farmers’ market education, film screenings, local resolutions for pollinator habitat protection, municipal pesticide policies or any other areas that might interest you. We will be starting monthly roundtable calls to share inspiration and advice. We welcome experienced advocates as those who are ready to take their first step. Please contact our Policy Director for more information - marty@nofamass.org.

Support local (would be) cannabis farmers

In the interest of supporting our local organic agricultural community, NOFA/Mass is working to promote farmers’ access to the budding cannabis economy. While the MA General Law passed in 2017 to legalize adult-use of cannabis (St. 2017, ch.55) includes a provision (Section 26) “to promote and encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by farmers and businesses of all sizes,” there has been an unfortunate trend of local zoning ordinances excluding farmers (perhaps unintentionally) from this opportunity. Such barriers present an economic injustice against small farmers who could be making their operations more sustainable and regenerative.

Would-be cannabis farmers have thus far had to be their own advocates and to stick their necks out in the process. Many times supporters are fearful of speaking up in favor of cannabis-friendly policies due to the decades-old legacy of stigma and persecution. We at NOFA/Mass are hoping that you will join us in turning out to support our local farmers at local planning board meetings and town meetings where this topic comes up.

If any of our members hear about such town meetings, we urge them to contact our Policy Director, who will help to mobilize other members in the area. We can also, to the best of our ability, provide feedback on proposed by-laws and submit official testimony on behalf of local residents.  

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