New Year, New Governor, New Session, New Opportunities for Progress
By: Marty Dagoberto, NOFA/Mass Policy Director
Happy 2023! With a new legislative session started two days ago and our new Governor Maura Healey was sworn in yesterday, we begin a potential new cycle of positive change toward climate-smart agriculture, food justice, healthy soils, and ecological protection. Of course, real lasting change grows from the ground up – and that’s where you come in. Thank you for being a member of this statewide network of ecologically-minded gardeners, farmers, and eaters. Let us start this new year with our voices united in action.
In this month’s issue of the NOFA/Mass Policy Newsletter:
- Pesticide reform bills to be reintroduced in coming weeks – stay tuned!
- NOFA/Mass Winter Conference to highlight Farm Bill Advocacy (January 14 & 15, 2023)
- Farmers: Sign on to demand action on climate in the Farm Bill!
- MA Food System Collaborative’s Advocacy Alerts
- Real Organic Project’s Eco-Farm Pre-Conference: Stories from the Frontlines (January 17th, 2023 – online
Pesticide reform bills to be reintroduced in coming weeks – stay tuned!
A new two-year legislative cycle has begun! We are working with several of our legislative champions on draft legislation to be filed by January 20th. Your calls and emails will help lawmakers decide which bills to prioritize over the next two years. Please stay tuned for a time-sensitive action alert to call your state representative and senator in support of these priority bills.
In addition to our ongoing support of coalition legislative efforts such as the food and farm justice priorities of the MA Food System Collaborative and those of the MA Indigenous Legislative Agenda (among others) NOFA/Mass is focusing on a slate of pesticide reform bills which are central to our mission of promoting healthy living landscapes and a food system less reliant on toxic inputs. We will be picking up the significant momentum we built together on several fronts in the last session.
Create a Pesticide Reform Task Force – A bill to create a “pesticide control modernization and environmental protection task force” was recommended and “ought to pass” last session and will be our top priority this session, as it will help address a host of systemic concerns in a holistic manner.
Modernize Pesticide Reporting – Passed by the House last session, this bill would create an online portal and database for pesticide use reporting records with clear, online public access to the annual data.
Protect children from pesticide exposure – This bill would require that pesticides be proven safe before being used on playgrounds and fields where children (who are especially vulnerable to toxic pesticides) learn and play.
Promote Ecological Mosquito Control – We must end broadscale aerial application of pesticides and support a scientifically based mosquito-borne disease management program to protect public health while minimizing environmental and public health risks associated with some forms of (pesticide-dependent) mosquito control.
Center Farmers within PFAS reforms – NOFA/Mass is joining with the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow to encourage lawmakers to include in pending legislation measures to ensure that the burden of protecting our families and ecosystems from these “forever chemicals” does not fall on our farmers.
If you are receiving this newsletter directly from us (sign up here) you will receive a detailed action alert asking you to contact lawmakers about these bills soon after bill filing is complete on January 20th. You can read more about these and our related policy priorities, here.
NOFA/Mass Winter Conference to highlight Farm Bill Advocacy
We hope you will join your peers in the organic, regenerative, sustainable living movements at the 36th annual NOFA/Mass Winter Conference next weekend (January 14 & 15, 2023) at Worcester State and online. Sunday will be fully online and will be a day of deep dives and expanded thinking. We will explore ways that our members and collaborators can work together to make system changes, build momentum, and advocate around shared interests, including a focus on the 2023 Farm Bill.
We are excited to be joined by NESAWG (conveners of the annual “It Takes a Region Conference”) along with Friends of the Earth, for a collaborative workshop about the Farm Bill on Sunday, January 15th from 2:00pm-3:30pm.
At this policy workshop we will learn about the 2023 Farm Bill and ways we can all take part in supporting one which transforms the food system for justice and sustainability. We will hear about NESAWG’s policy survey, regional landscape assessment and power mapping, as well as their plans for a Regional Policy Council. We’ll review the NOFA Farm Bill platform developed by the sister NOFA chapters and discuss opportunities in the Farm Bill to reduce exposure to pesticides. We will discuss and brainstorm how we can better organize as a region to promote big changes via this monumental legislation.
Registration is available on a sliding scale so that everyone can take part regardless of financial capacity.
“The Farm Bill is a package of [federal] legislation passed roughly once every five years that has a tremendous impact on farming livelihoods, how food is grown, and what kinds of foods are grown.”
Description of the Farm Bill by our friends at NSAC on their helpful “101” page.
Farmers: Sign on to demand action on climate in the Farm Bill!
Sign this letter to tell Congress: the next farm bill must be a climate bill. The next farm bill is being written now, and we need it to address climate change. Farmers need resources like funding, research, and risk management to implement climate-friendly farming practices. The Agriculture Resilience Act asks Congress to implement these solutions in the next farm bill. Sign on to show your support now: bit.ly/araletter
MA Food System Collaborative’s Advocacy Alerts
The MA Food System Collaborative supports collective action toward an equitable, sustainable, resilient, and connected local food system in Massachusetts. In case you missed their January newsletter or are not yet subscribed (sign up, here!) please note these important advocacy alerts:
Comment on Environmental Justice
Comment on the Draft EEA/MDAR Environmental Justice Strategy. You can also reach out to Norris Guscott at email@example.com for more information on how to support this work and for guidance from the Collaborative’s Ag Equity Network.
Connect about mental health on farms
MDAR has launched a program to raise awareness of mental health and stress on farms, aimed at helping participants identify the barriers farmers face when accessing resources and the methods to facilitate connection to available supports. Details are here.
Provide feedback to the USDA
FSA is surveying farmers to help inform their services and improve access to them.
Real Organic Project’s Eco-Farm Pre-Conference: Stories from the Frontlines (January 17th, 2023 – online)
Here’s another great upcoming (online) event, via our friend Dave Chapman at Real Organic Project:
Twelve leading voices of the Organic movement will give short TED-style talks about their personal experiences. They will explore a failing food system and the solutions that the Real Organic Project brings. Special guest, Paul Hawken, will give the morning keynote exploring the connection between the Regeneration project and the Real Organic Project. We will end the day with Paul reflecting on the day’s talks.