Virtual Hearing July 13th (date TBC)  Postponed until September, Exact Date TBD

Update 9/29/21: We are STILL waiting for word on when this hearing will happen, and expect it soon. Be sure you’re signed up for immediate notice once we get the word.

We have received advanced word that legislators will be hosting an online public hearing regarding proposed pesticide legislation on July 13th (details to be confirmed). (Update, 6/9/21 – due to technical constraints, the committee is postponing the hearing until September, exact date TBD. Sign up below to make sure you get notified as soon as we know!)

This is an important opportunity to demonstrate support from the movement for healthy living landscapes and toxins reduction. We encourage all supporters to submit testimony and are seeking subject matter experts and grassroots leaders to speak the day of the hearing. 

Click here to sign up for a special notice as soon as the full details are confirmed, and please read on for more background on the legislative process and the bills being considered. 

A room full of people seated for testimony at the Massachusetts state house.

Local community activist and mother of 3, Kaedra Walsh of Littleton, testifies before a packed hearing room on November 12, 2019 in support of measures protecting children from pesticides.

Many reading this will remember making the trek to Beacon Hill in November 2019, when we packed the hearing room with supporters of ecological reform of pesticides regulations. This year, for obvious reasons, these hearings are being held virtually. Once again, we must help legislators prioritize efforts to reduce pesticide use in our Commonwealth and to do that, we need your help.

One of the positive outcomes of the pandemic has been an increase in our ability to participate in the democratic process: government meetings held online, accessible anywhere with decent internet (a trend we hope will become part of the “new normal!”). We have one such opportunity coming up in late 2021 (date/details to be confirmed): the biennial public hearing on pesticides regulation held by the Agriculture and Environment Committee of the Mass. State Legislature.

Please plan to submit written comments by the end of the day of the hearing (date TBD!) We encourage subject matter experts and grassroots advocates to sign up to deliver oral testimony at the hearing itself (details below). Click here to sign up for a special notice from NOFA/Mass when the full details are confirmed.

“What is a public hearing?”

The public hearing is the point in the 2 year legislative cycle when the first committee to review a bill gathers input in order to inform their priorities. (Keep in mind that some 5000 bills are filed each session.) A public hearing is both a chance to demonstrate grassroots support for an issue and also to educate legislators about the topics being considered, building strong(er) legislative champions. 

We are grateful to have many legislators who support pesticides reform on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA) committee. These are legislators who prioritize environmental protection and many of them are sponsors of the pesticide reform bills which we support. Longtime Pollinator-Protector, Rep. Carolyn Dykema is now the House Chair of the committee and Sen. Jamie Eldridge (sponsor of a full ban on neonics), is the Senate Vice Chair. Our glyphosate champion, Rep. Carmine Gentile is also on the committee. Many other members are cosponsors of the pesticide bills we are supporting

By our assessment, the major hurdles for pesticide bills lie later in the legislative process. We need to use this opportunity of the public hearing to focus momentum and build political will among our legislative supporters to become stronger champions for pesticides reform. 

“Is it even worth it?” 

Those who have advocated in the legislative process for any amount of time on a particular issue (especially anything environmental) often express despair and skepticism – it’s too easy for a wildly popular bill to “die” behind closed doors, with no reason given, often at the behest of powerful financial interests. Massachusetts has one of the least transparent state houses in the country. This is one reason why NOFA/Mass was an early endorser of the Act on Mass campaign. (Find out more about this campaign and please add your name as a supporter, here.

Even without final passage of a particular bill, efforts to build legislative champions for pesticide reform through hearings like this are absolutely critical and can result in real-world impacts. Case in point: at a virtual hearing of the Pesticide Board Subcommittee (a body within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs that determines which pesticides can be used in Massachusetts), frustration with a lack of meaningful action on pesticides was underscored by our legislative pollinator champion, Rep. Carolyn Dykema, who delivered a fierce statement signed by 80 of her legislative colleagues, questioning “whether the Subcommittee is able to fulfill its charge under the law to regulate pesticides.” Pressure from legislative allies ultimately provided the political pressure which resulted in the Subcommittee passing a motion in March 2021 to end consumer use of neonic pesticides – something we’d been pushing for through the legislative process for years. 

“What are we pushing for?”

There are at least 11 pesticide reform bills currently before the ENRA committee (see our full list, here). The reality is: we will be lucky if a single “pesticide bill” makes it through the legislative labyrinth to final passage. The NOFA/Mass Policy Committee has selected 3 pesticide bills to focus on as a priority. (Readers can find full details on the pesticide-related bills we anticipate to be covered at the hearing, here.) 

  • Protect schoolchildren from pesticides.

H.926, by Rep. Carmine Gentile, would update the outdated list of pesticide products eligible for use on the outdoor grounds of schools, child care centers and school age child care programs within the state. It would allow only pesticides considered minimum risk by the EPA, or those approved for organic landcare.

>>Read more about this bill and send a comment to your legislators in support. 

  • End consumer use of glyphosate-containing herbicides

S.575 & H.929, filed by Sen. Jason Lewis and Rep. Carmine Gentile, respectively, would restrict the purchase and use of glyphosate-containing herbicides to licensed pesticide applicators and remove such products from retail stores.

This measure, as well as the above schoolchildren bill, were approved by the ENRA committee in the previous session. We expect them to pick up where they left off.  

  • Ecological mosquito disease management – stop aerial spraying!

S.556 & H.937, filed by Sen. Adam Hinds and Rep. Tami Gouveia, respectively, replaces the Commonwealth’s outdated and expensive mosquito management system with one that is more effective, affordable, transparent, ecologically responsible, and scientifically based. It would prohibit aerial spraying of mosquito pesticides. 

Read more about the need for an overhaul of the mosquito program and how you can opt-out of aerial spraying on our coalition website, here

See a full list of pesticide-related bills before the ENRA committee, here. 

Even if a particular bill does not pass, when we build significant political momentum for a reform in the legislature, it’s far more likely that we will be able to achieve those reforms through regulatory change, as we achieved on neonics this March. This is a major reason why we must use this opportunity to exercise our democratic power!

Enforcing existing pesticide laws, promoting transparency

Earlier this year, our allies at the Conservation Law Foundation submitted a public records request to Dept. of Agriculture (MDAR), requesting copies of the Department’s annual reports regarding efforts to reduce pesticide use in Massachusetts. The Department is required by existing law (MGL c. 132B § 5A) to submit this information annually to the ENRA committee. In response, the Department wrote that “After conducting a reasonable search, the Department of Agricultural Resources did not locate any responsive records regarding annual reports on the reduction of pesticide use in Massachusetts.” Committee staffers confirmed that they also have no such reports on file.

We need our legislative champions to help us push for bigger picture reform of pesticide regulation in Massachusetts, and to hold regulators accountable to existing laws. We need their support to bring greater transparency and accountability to how the Pesticide Board operates. This hearing is an opportunity to ask for their help. 

Sign up for details on the pesticides hearing

This newsletter article is being posted as advanced notice in order to help our supporters understand the process and to help them plan on submitting testimony. Details will be posted by the state to the ENRA committee page, here

Click here to sign up for a special notice from NOFA/Mass to be sent as soon as the full details are posted. 

Let us know if you plan on submitting written testimony and/or attending the hearing virtually to present oral testimony. Our Policy Committee is happy to provide additional resources to assist in writing testimony. 

Thank you for driving this movement: for submitting testimony, sharing this article, and helping us find more advocates to present testimony in support of reducing pesticides use in Massachusetts.