PUBLIC HEARING ON PESTICIDES ANNOUNCED!
December 14, 2021 at 1PM – ONLINE
The State legislature is considering several bills which would move our Commonwealth away from reliance on toxic biocides (life-killing chemicals) and toward life-honoring solutions for landcare and agriculture. Support for action on pesticides among legislators has grown significantly thanks to our movement and we have quite a few strong supporters on the Agriculture/Environment committee. This public hearing is a critical opportunity to demonstrate public support from the grassroots movement for healthy living landscapes and to embolden our legislative champions in the face of industry opposition.
Please join us by taking action now and/or joining us on the 14th:
Public Hearing of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA)
On proposed legislation related to “Pesticides and Miscellaneous”
Tuesday, December 14, 2021, 1PM*
*End time is up to the committee chairs. They may decide to hear every public comment of every single person waiting, or decide to cut it off if things get repetative. The ENRA hearing on Dec. 7th went on for over 6 hours.
This hearing is held ONLINE and can be viewed at: https://malegislature.gov/Events/Hearings/Detail/4126
Bills under consideration:
Click **here** to read a summary of all of the bills we are tracking which are subject to the hearing, including our priority bills: H.926 (Schoolchildren protection from pesticides), H.937 (Ecological Mosquito Control), H.3991 (Raptor Bill/Pesticide Reporting), H.910 (Local Control over pesticides), H.4143 (to move the pesticide board to DEP). A comprehensive list of all bills subject to this hearing is found on the official website for the hearing.
There is no deadline this year for submission of written testimony, but testimony should ideally be submitted within a few days of the hearing. Written testimony may be submitted to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture by email to: JointCommittee.Environment@malegislature.gov
(Note: we put together this guide for those wondering how to write testimony!)
Speaking at the hearing:
Those willing to deliver oral testimony must pre-register with the committee by Sunday, December 12, 2021 at 5PM. Once registered, you will receive an invitation to join the hearing one day prior to the hearing. Please note there is a time limit of 3 minutes per person for oral testimony (and they WILL use the mute button). Pre-register via this form by Sunday at 5PM: https://forms.office.com/g/2pH9CCf2Fh
Note: There’s no easy way to know WHEN you’ll be called during the hearing. They’ll likely go bill by bill, and call up on those who registered on a bill in order of registration. They may or may not give a heads up of the 10 or so people “on deck.” If you miss your name, they might provide for anyone who missed it at the very end…
(Note: we put together this guide for those wondering how to write/deliver testimony!)
Join us for our virtual watch party! We’ll do our best to make it entertaining. No promises on farm animal guests.
Attend our Watch Party!
We will be hosting a “virtual watch party” for us all to watch along, together! This will be a fun way to learn about the process and how we can work together to pass these bills from the committee.
This is our opportunity to speak and be heard – not only for ourselves and our families, but for the interconnected community of human and non-human life which prefers healthy living landscapes over pesticide dependency and corporate profits. Democracy can only work if we work it – so please join us!
Some more helpful background, from our June 2021 Policy Newsletter
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 December 17th. 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 20 pesticide reform bills currently before the ENRA committee (see our full or priority bills 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 (ENRA Committee member), 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.
- 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.
- Prioritize environmental protection
H.4143, filed by Rep. Mindy Domb (Vice Chair of the ENRA Committee!), will cause a systemic improvement in the pesticide regulatory framework of the Commonwealth by shifting the administration of the Pesticide Board and Subcommittee from the Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
- Protect raptors and modernize pesticide reporting
H.3991, by Rep. James Hawkins. Recent deaths of bald eagles due to rat poison provide a tragic call to action. This bill requires the use of integrated pest management (IPM) plans on public lands and publicly-owned property and modernizes the state’s reporting system (currently analog) for pesticide use reporting and tracking.
- Return local control over pesticides
S.2551/H.910 by Sen. Susan Moran and Rep. Dylan Fernandes, would return power to communities to pass pesticide regulations which are more cautious than those adopted by the state or federal government.
See a full list of pesticide-related bills before the ENRA committee which we are tracking, 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 past 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.