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Growing Organically Since 1982

Legislative Priorities

2019-2020 State Legislative Priorities

View/Print a PDF version of our priorities, here.

Update, 4/17/19: Thanks to an outpouring of calls from organic advocates across the state, several of our priority proposed state laws have started the session with great momentum.

We’re seeing the most impressive numbers on our top 3 priority areas (not a coincidence):


Now it’s a long way to the finish line (formal legislative session ends July 2020), but this hot start for our top priority bills is very encouraging. Legislators take the lead from their constituents when deciding which bills to cosponsor, so if you contacted them on any of these bills, give yourself a pat on the back. Now they need our help prioritizing which bills to pass this session... Thank you for taking action!

You can view a spreadsheet of all the legislators and who supported which bills, here.

What’s next for these bills? While the cosponsor deadline is closed for house bills (those with a “H” number), legislators can still cosponsor senate bills (“S”). If either of your legislators have not cosponsored any of the senate bills that you support, you can ask them to do so (house members can cosponsor senate bills).

We are expecting public hearings on these bills starting in May. We will notify our email list as soon as we get the news. We will want a good showing in the hearing room at the State House in Boston, and will ask our supporters to submit testimony to the committee.

Keeping these issues on the top of the minds of legislative staffers will help move the bill in the process, so please call today.

 

Ready to make a phone call or two?  You'll see how easy it is to take a direct role in the democratic process.

  1. Call your own legislators' offices (you have 1 Rep. and 1 Senator) and introduce yourself as a constituent (you'll be speaking with an aide).
  2. Politely request that they push for passage of any of the priority bills listed below.
  3. Pick one or two (OK maybe three) bills to talk about at a time and most importantly - let them know why this is important to you! Personal stories are best.

It doesn't have to take more than 30 seconds (and really does send a strong message - they rarely hear from constituents).


  • Basic format of a quick call: "My name is ______ and as your constituent, I hope that you will cosponsor/support __________ (official bill name and bill/docket number). This is important to me because _________. Thank you!"

  • Please tell us how your call(s) went
We'd love hear about it... Did you have a nice chat? Did they express support? Send your reports and any questions to our Policy Director at marty@nofamass.org

 

If your Senator or Representative is one of those named below as a "lead sponsor" (lucky you!), please join us in expressing our heartfelt gratitude to them for their bold leadership (and tell your local friends and neighbors)! Several of these bills were filed at the request of NOFA/Mass. We are fortunate to have these allies in the legislature.

 

Thank you again for taking action, and for passing this message along to your networks. Stay tuned to the NOFA/Mass email list for important updates and time-senstive action alerts!


List of priority bills (click to go to that section)


And here are the 5 priority bills from our partners at the Mass. Food System Collaborative

 



Promote Healthy Soils Practices

Bill number(s): S.438/H.873

Bill title: “An Act to promote healthy soils and agricultural innovation within the Commonwealth”

Lead Sponsors: Sen. Jo Comerford and Rep. Paul Schmid III

75 cosponsors (as of 3/9/19)

Status: Referred to the committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

S.438 is still collecting cosponsors!



Background:

Current levels of atmospheric carbon are so dangerously high that we can not choose between reducing emissions and sequestering carbon. We must do both. Agriculture is the only sector that has the ability to transform from a net emitter of CO2 (producing almost 10% of U.S. emissions) to a net reducer of CO2. 

If the world’s agricultural land were managed so that it were to gain soil carbon rather than lose it, an annual increase of only 0.4% soil organic carbon would effectively offset 20–35% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Farms employing Healthy Soils Practices are seeing soil carbon levels increase from a baseline of 1-2% up to 5-8% over ten or more years, which add up to 25 to 60 tons of carbon per acre.

Numerous farming practices have been demonstrated to increase soil health and soil carbon, yet these are still not widely implemented. With state incentives and support, farmers can adopt these practices, helping to slow climate change, improve water quality and quantity, become more resilient to extreme weather – and become more profitable.

Healthy Soil Practices include:

    • No-till or reduced till
    • Cover crops and diversified crop rotations
    • Planned grazing
    • Integrated crop-livestock systems
    • Efficient fertilizer use
    • Applying compost and manure
    • Using more perennial crops and silvopasture systems
    • Soil remineralization, microbial inoculation and biochar
    • Agroforestry


What does the Healthy Soils Bill do?


This bill creates a Healthy Soils Program within the Commission for Conservation of Soil, Water and Related Resources, which shall, subject to the availability of funds, seek to optimize climate benefits while supporting the economic viability of agriculture in the commonwealth by providing incentives, including loans, grants, research, technical assistance, educational material on healthy soils practices.

Improve Massachusetts's food security and food system efficiency by including an expert in healthy soils practices on the Mass. Food Policy Council


At a time when the federal action on climate change is faltering, states must lead and Massachusetts should build on its long history of climate leadership and join with the six other states which have passed Healthy Soils and Soil Carbon Sequestration legislation. By promoting shovel-ready agricultural practices, the State will help Massachusetts farms better adapt to the shocks of worsening climate change as well as help mitigate further impacts, while improving crop quality and quantity and farmer bottom lines.


Click here for a nifty color handout about the bill for legislators and advocates.

Click here to go to our "click and send" action page to email legislators within seconds.


(click here to return to the list of priority bills)



Protect Pollinators

Bill number(s):  H.763

Bill title: "An Act to protect Massachusetts pollinators"

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Carolyn Dykema and Attorney General Maura Healey 

154 cosponsors (out of 200 total!)

Status: Referred to the committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture

Background:

Pollinators (which include honeybees and other pollinating insects and animals) are responsible for one in every three bites of food we eat. In Massachusetts, many of our most important crops require insect pollinators, including cranberries, blueberries, and apples. These and many other crops are threatened by the precipitous drop in pollinators, and an increasing number of studies point to a class of pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, as a primary culprit.

Proposed legislation, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Dykema, would place commonsense restrictions on neonics and promote pollinator habitats in the state.

What does this bill (H.763) do?

  • Creates a definition of neonicotinoid.
  • Restricts sale of neonicotinoid pesticide products (except for neonic-treated
    nursery plants) to certified commercial applicators, private applicators, or licensed
    applicators only.
  • Limits use of neonicotinoid pesticides to certified commercial applicators, private
    applicators, or licensed applicators. Requires pesticide applicators to obtain authorization
    to apply neonics on a client’s property prior to use.
  • Directs the Department of Agriculture to include pollinator protection in the
    licensing and evaluation materials for applicators.
  • Incorporates neonic limits into existing pesticide penalty framework.
  • Directs MassDOT to consider the opportunities for installation of native forage on
    department-owned property in the place of turf grass.

See a fact sheet explaining the bill, here.

Click here to go to our "click and send" action page to email legislators within seconds asking them to push for a vote on this bill.

 (click here to return to the list of priority bills)




Neonic Ban


Bill number(s):  S.463

Bill title: "An Act protecting pollinators by eliminating harmful products"

Lead Sponsors: Sen. Jamie Eldridge

34 Cosponsors (as of 2/15/19)

Status: Referred to the committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.
Still collecting cosponsors!

Background:

We applaud Senator Eldridge’s bold introduction of an outright ban on the sale, distribution or use this class of pollinator-killing pesticides across the Commonwealth! We encourage our supporters to call for cosponsors of this bill, as well as Rep. Dykema’s neonic restrictions bill (HD.3339). We need to phase out use of these compounds, and a major demonstration of support for this move will really advance the conversation.

What does the Neonic Ban Bill do?

This bill specifies that:

"No person shall distribute a neonicotinoid, or any substance containing a neonicotinoid,
except a neonicotinoid-treated nursery plant."

"Neonicotinoids shall not be sprayed, released, deposited or applied on any
property within the commonwealth."

"No blooming or flowering plant, plant material or seed that has been treated with a neonicotinoid shall be sold within the commonwealth unless it is clearly and conspicuously labeled as having been treated with a neonicotinoid and includes a brief description of the risks to pollinators and other non-target organisms associated with the use of neonicotinoids."

 

Please continue to contact legislators (in both the House and Senat) and ask them to cosponsor this bill.

 (click here to return to the list of priority bills)

 

 

Local Option on Pesticides

Bill number(s):  S.447/H.776

Bill title: “An Act empowering towns and cities to protect residents and the environment from harmful pesticides”

Lead Sponsors: Sen. Julian Cyr and Rep. Dylan Fernandes

56 combined cosponsors (as of 2/15/19)

Status: Referred to the committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture

S.447 is still collecting cosponsors

Background: Under the 1978 Mass. Pesticide Control Act, local town/city governments don’t have the right to ban harmful pesticides. Click here for more background on state pesticide preemption.

What does this bill do?

This bill would return Power to The People to protect their families, food and water from pesticide exposure. With the approval of a municipality's Board of Health, a city or town government would be able to “restrict or prohibit the use and application or disposal of pesticides within the city or town that are more stringent than the standards and restrictions [adopted by the state].”

(click here to return to the list of priority bills)

 

 

 

Protect School Children from Pesticides

Bill number(s):  H.791

Bill title: “An Act relative to improving pesticide protections for Massachusetts schoolchildren”

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Carmine Gentile

42 Cosponsors

Status: Referred to the committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture

H.791 updates 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 of Massachusetts (See Chapter 132B, Section 6G of General Laws). This list of eligible products, created in 2001, no longer reflects of the current state of science around the harm pesticides pose to children. The proposed update would allow only pesticides considered minimum risk by EPA, or certified organic. H.791 will stop the outdoor use of toxic pesticides like glyphosate and 2,4-D, currently permitted in IPM programs “to maintain quality appearance” or under the guise of student “safety,” and provide uniform understanding for parents and school employees that toxic pesticides will not be used where children are learning.

More details on this bill, here.

 

(click here to return to the list of priority bills)




The Safe Communities Act

Bill Number(s): S.1401/ H.3573

Bill Title: "An Act to protect the civil rights and safety of all Massachusetts residents"

Lead Sponsors: Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Reps. Ruth Balser and Liz Miranda

Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security

This bill would limit state and local participation in federal immigration matters in order to provide farm
owners with greater confidence in the stability of their workforce, protect basic due process rights and
diminish the fear felt by many farmworkers and their families.

For more info on this bill, please visit the MIRA coalition website.

(click here to return to the list of priority bills)

 

 

The Work and Family Mobility Act

Bill Number(s): S.2061/H.3012

Bill Title: "An Act relative to work and family mobility"

Lead Sponsors: Sen. Brendan Crighton, Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Christine Barber

Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Transportation

Also of importance to many of our state’s farmworkers, this bill would make standard driver’s licenses
available to all qualified state residents, regardless of immigration status. Twelve REAL ID-compliant
states, including Connecticut and Vermont, already issue licenses to all qualified residents.

(click here to return to the list of priority bills)

 

 

Allow hemp on 61A (agricultural) land

Bill Number(s): S.1129

Bill Title: "An Act relative to the growth of hemp"

Lead Sponsor(s): Senator Adam Hinds

Status: Referred to Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue has recently determined that the eligibility of land used to grow commercial hemp for classification under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 61A, Section 2 requires clarification by the legislature and that any determination under the current law may be made by the local assessor. This bill would update Chapter 61A to include hemp in the definition of horticulture, giving hemp
farmers the benefits afforded by Chapter 61A. 

 (click here to return to the list of priority bills)

 

 

 

Cannabis farming is farming!

Bill number(s):  H.3519

Bill title: “An Act clarifying the definition of agriculture”

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier

Status: Referred to Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy

Background:

There is a lot of confusion among the public, municipalities and even legislators as to whether the cultivation cannabis (marijuana and hemp) is considered agriculture. While the 2017 law to legalize adult-use of cannabis includes a provision “to promote and encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by farmers,” there has been an unfortunate trend of local zoning boards excluding farmers from this opportunity under the false assumption that cannabis cultivation is not considered agriculture.

What does this bill do?

This simple legislative fix would clarify the definition of agriculture to include "hemp and marihuana." (Note of interest: for some unknown reason, the state decided to use the archaic name of the cannabis plant, 'marihuana" in it's definitions. That's another issue, altogether!). H.3519 is very simple, and is copied below:

  • The first paragraph of MGL 128 Section 1a shall be amended to include the phrase “the growing and cultivation of both hemp and marihuana,” after the phrase “floricultural or horticultural commodities”

(click here to return to the list of priority bills)

 

 

Allow organic pest control on Cannabis

Bill number(s):  H.3532

Bill title:An Act Relative to Organic Farming Tools"

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Paul Mark

Status: Referred to Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy

Background:

This organic pest control provision is written to bring Massachusetts regulators into line with practices in earlier legalization states that have allowed a short list of biological and botanical control strategies to be used on cannabis (hemp and marijuana). Colorado, California and Oregon allow application of organic pest control products when they have broad EPA label instructions, are permissible on food and tobacco, and have no federal (food) tolerance level requirements.

What does this bill do?

"The department [of agriculture] and the Pesticide Control Board shall authorize the application on hemp and marijuana of biological and botanical pesticide products that are considered appropriate for organic farming, provided that the EPA allows application of the product’s active and inert ingredients on food and tobacco crops and has not established a federal tolerance limit.  In implementing this provision, the Department of Agricultural Resources shall consider the pesticide regulations and guidance of other cannabis and hemp legalization states, including Colorado, California and Oregon, shall avoid inclusion of genetically modified products, and shall develop guidance or regulations implementing this provision."

 (click here to return to the list of priority bills)

 

 

Hemp Cross-Pollination Prevention Research

Bill number(s):  H.3545

Bill title:An Act Establishment of a Cannabis and Hemp Cultivation Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst”

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Susannah M. Whipps

Status: Referred to Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy

Background:

If mixed gender industrial hemp proliferates in the state, it could radically limit where marijuana crops can be grown outdoors. Most immediately, it could become a problem facing home growers of marijuana, whose plants will be seeded and essentially spoiled by nearby industrial hemp operations.

What would this bill do?

"The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, shall establish a Cannabis and Hemp Cultivation Research Center.The center shall provide technical support, practical solutions and public advocacy on behalf the burgeoning hemp and marijuana industries in surmounting technical challenges as well as regulatory impediments to hemp operations.

"A. The Center shall facilitate public outreach and dialogue forums in Eastern and Western Massachusetts regarding emerging issues for cultivators of cannabis and hemp, including, but not limited to, strategies for preventing cross-pollination conflicts between outdoor grown industrial hemp and marijuana crops, assessment of regionally appropriate cultivars, and alternative mechanisms for confirming that THC levels in hemp cultivation are compliant with federal and state requirements.

"B. The Center shall establish an advisory committee of hemp and cannabis farmers to aid in the assessment of the emerging issues.  

"C. Within one year of its establishment, the Center shall issue a report, based on review of field experience in the Commonwealth, as well as policy developments in other states, identifying challenges, practical solutions and public policy recommendations to promote sustainable cultivation."

(click here to return to the list of priority bills)
 

 

Restrict Glyphosate use on Public Lands

Bill number(s): S.499

Bill title: “An Act relative to the use of glyphosate on public lands.”

Lead Sponsor: Sen. Jason Lewis

Status: Still collecting cosponsors! Referred to the committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture

A bold (and appropriate!) move which will surely attract the ire of the powerful chemical lobby, Sen. Lewis has introduced a bill which would end the application of any glyphosate-based herbicide on any on any public lands owned or maintained by the Commonwealth without a special permit. It would also outlaw the use of “any pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its label.”

(click here to return to the list of priority bills)



Glyphosate Ban

Bill number: H.792

Bill title: "An Act relative to the prohibition of the transfer or use of glyphosate in the Commonwealth"

Lead Sponsor: Representative Carmine Gentile

Status: Referred to the committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture

Prohibits the distribution, sale or use of glyphosate or any products containing glyphosate within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts!


(click here to return to the list of priority bills)




Protecting Groundwater from Pesticides

Bill number: S.444

Bill title: "An Act relative to the pesticide board."

Sponsor: Sen. Julian Cyr   

Status: Still collecting cosponsors! Referred to the committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture

This bill directs the pesticide control board to consult with the commissioner of food and agriculture, the commissioner of environmental protection and the commissioner of public health when making decisions relative to the protection of groundwater sources of drinking water from pesticide contamination.


 

 (click here to return to the list of priority bills)

 

 

An Act relative to an agricultural healthy incentives program

S.48, Senator Anne Gobi

H.145, Representative Paul Mark

The Healthy Incentives Program doubles SNAP recipients’ purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers, improving health outcomes for vulnerable communities and increasing sales for local farms. This bill will establish the framework for the program's long-term sustainability.

 

An Act relative to Agricultural Commission input on board of health regulations

S.1268, Senator Adam Hinds

H.1856, Representative Natalie Blais

Many municipal boards of health have no expertise around farming, but are tasked with making decisions that can impact the viability of local farms. This bill will require that municipal boards of health give local agricultural commissions an opportunity to weigh in on new or changing regulations related to agriculture, so that farmers’ perspectives and needs can be taken into account.

 

An Act encouraging the donation of food to persons in need

S.962, Senator Edward Kennedy

S.869, Senator Jo Comerford

H.1475, Representative Hannah Kane

Would provide civil liability protection for persons who donate food directly to consumers, as well as for food establishments that donate food whose labeled date has passed and a tax credit to Massachusetts farmers in the amount of the fair market value of the donated food, with a $2,000 annual cap per farmer.

 

 

An Act regarding a farmland protection and viability action plan

S.482, Senator Anne Gobi

Legislation to develop a statewide Farmland Action Plan to compile data on land use trends, and use that data to guide state investments and policies related to farmland access, protection, and use.

 

An Act to promote urban agriculture and horticulture

S.1691, Senator Edward Kennedy

H.2551, Representative Malia

Would allow cities with populations over 50,000 to adopt an optional property tax break for land used for urban agriculture, to help overcome the high price of urban land and promote the health, economic, and environmental benefits of growing food in cities.

 

(click here to return to the list of priority bills)

 

 

Ongoing issues (bill numbers to be updated soon)

 

Regulating For Food Sovereignty

The red tape of burdensome regulations is the bane of many farmers' existence. Small-scale producers, in particular, are disproportionately impacted by unnecessary food safety regulations and agencies that do not understand the nature of agriculture. We strongly believe that customers should be allowed to buy any wholesome product they choose. We are fighting for:

Raw Milk Delivery

 

raw milkNOFA/Mass believes that raw milk, when handled correctly, is a safe and highly nutritious food. Currently, raw milk is only allowed to be sold from a certified raw milk producer’s property. We support the provision within our state’s agriculture omnibus bill that would allow for the delivery of raw milk directly to customers as long as the milk has been sold prior to delivery.

Agricultural Plumbing Code

There is currently no plumbing code specific to agriculture. For many dairy and cheese producers that has meant egregiously expensive plumbing systems without any food safety benefits. That's why we support Section 29 of the state's ag. omnibus bill (S.442) which would establish a commission to create an agriculture section within the plumbing code.

Reducing On-Farm Food Waste

As much as 40% of all food waste happens at the farm. We need to do a better job of incentivizing our farmers to donate their surplus food, whether it's still in the field, after market, or in their cooler. NOFA/Mass supports H.3348 - "An Act to provide a tax deduction for charitable donations of food by farmers," (2017) a bill that would create a state tax credit that will provide a financial incentive for any produce donated to a food pantry, shelter, or other suitable establishment.

Fair Farm Taxes

Organic and ecological farmers face a diversity of challenges in our current political and economic landscape; unfair taxes shouldn’t be an additional burden. We believe that by advocating for tax reforms, we’ll be able to keep more farmers on the land and prevent farmland from being unnecessarily developed. Here are the tax reforms that NOFA/Mass is currently advocating for in Massachusetts:

Including Non-Contiguous Parcels under Chapter 61a

To receive the benefit of being taxed at the lower agricultural tax rate under MGL Ch. 61a, parcels must be a minimum of 5 acres in size. This bill would make small plot farming more financially viable, by allowing owners of non-contiguous parcels to pay the ag tax rate on land they farm, so long as in total the parcels add up to at least 5 acres and no parcel used to meet the minimum is more than ½ mile from another parcel under the same use and ownership. (This is included in Section 8 of the Ag. Omnibus Bill, S.442) (2018)

Estate Tax Reform

Our current estate tax laws (levied on any inheritance valued at $1 million or more) often force farmland into development, because land is assessed at its “highest and best use”--usually the land’s development value, not its value as agricultural land.  This leads to inheritors selling all or a portion of the land to pay the estate tax.  (This is included in Section 18 of the Ag. Omnibus Bill, S.442) (2018)

 

Tell Us Your Policy Priorities

Our Policy team is here to represent you, the farmers, gardeners, and organic advocates of Massachusetts. If there is an issue that you want our policy team to investigate or advocate for, please contact our Policy Director, Marty Dagoberto, marty@nofamass.org

S.48/H.145

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