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

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Want to contact your state or federal legislators? Click here to find out who they are and how you can get in touch 

For more info on any of our action campaigns, please contact our Policy Director, Marty Dagoberto, marty@nofamass.org

CURRENT ACTION ALERTS

(click action title to jump to relevant section of page)

1. Contact Rep. McGovern to Protect Organic in the Farm Bill

2. Ask why they let the Massachusetts Pollinator Protection Act die!

3. Support the Massachusetts Healthy Soils Act

4. Support the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP

 

 



 




Protect Organic in the Farm Bill

Organic is at risk in the Farm Bill!

 

The House Bill eliminates the organic certification cost share program! And both the House and Senate bills make changes to the National Organic Standards Board that undermine trust and participation the USDA organic program.

Farm Bill negotiations are happening right now, so action is urgently needed to protect organic.

Getting calls in to Representative Jim McGovern will make a difference – he is one of the top Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee taking part in the Farm Bill Conference Committee process.

 

Call Congressman McGovern today.

Urge him to protect organic in the Farm Bill.

202-225-6101

 

Ask to speak with the staffer who works on agriculture. Use your own words and experience, along with these talking points:

    • I’m calling as a constituent (and then say a little more about your farm or organic operation if you own a farm business). I want to thank Congressman McGovern for his leadership in the Farm Bill on organic farming, sustainable agriculture, and food security.

    • I am calling to urge the Congressman to reject changes in the Farm Bill that undermine the National Organic Standards Board, the stakeholder board that determines which materials can be used in organic farming. There are three House provisions and one Senate provision that weaken the NOSB – I oppose all four of these changes because they undermine trust in the USDA organic label. The success of my farm/business depends on trust in the integrity of this label.

    • I am also calling to urge the Congressman to voice strong support for organic certification cost-share in Farm Bill Conference Committee process. I’m very concerned that the House Farm Bill legislation has eliminated the two cost-share programs that benefit MA organic operations (one program reimburses farmers for certification fees, the other reimburses handlers).

    • Going through the annual certification process is challenging and annual certification fees are expensive and continue to go up each year. The certification cost-share program really makes a difference – it provides my business with a reimbursement for some of these annual certification fees.

    • Organic agriculture is a bright spot in our economy. We should support our local, MA farms and businesses by funding programs that help local farms rather than relying on imports to meet growing demand for organic products in the marketplace.  

 

Background Information:

Why is organic at risk in the Farm Bill?

We are now entering the next important phase in the Farm Bill process – the Conference Committee where Congress must reconcile substantial differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Unfortunately, both the House and Senate bills contain provisions that weaken the National Organic Standards Board. The House bill also entirely eliminates funding for the organic certification cost share program. Furthermore, Congressman Conaway, who chairs the House Agriculture Committee, has indicated that he does not want to provide funding for this program. The Senate bill keeps the cost-share program intact. Congressman McGovern is one of 23 House Ag Committee members who are part of the Farm Bill Conference Committee process, so it is critically important that we weigh in with him.

 

See NOC’s Farm Bill score cardto learn more about how organic programs and priorities fared in the House and Senate bills.

 

What is Organic Certification Cost-Share?

Organic farmers must go through rigorous annual organic certification process and pay fees each year. Two federal programs, the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program and the Agricultural Management Assistance Act (AMA), provide organic farmers with modest reimbursement of up to $750 to cover a portion of their annual certification fees.

 

Why is Organic Certification Cost-Share Important?

The growing costs of annual organic certification can be prohibitive for some organic operations, especially those of small to medium scale. Yet third-party organic certification is critical to maintaining consistency in the application of organic standards, meeting consumer expectations, and ensuring the integrity of the trusted USDA certified organic brand. The modest certification cost share assistance provided to partially offset these costs has been instrumental in the decision by many farmers and handlers to seek initial organic certification and to remain certified as organic despite the added annual certification costs. This has helped to foster diversity in the scale of operations certified as organic, and also helps to maintain jobs here in the U.S.

Organic agriculture is a bright spot in our economy. These are jobs that can and should be created here at home. U.S. organic production is lagging demand for organic products. One of the barriers to getting farmers to transition is the concern about the annual costs of organic certification. Rather than relying on imports, certified organic farmers in our communities should be supported in their efforts to meet that demand.  

What are the two programs that provide organic certification cost-share reimbursements?

    • The Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA), enacted as part of the Federal Crop Insurance Act, provides certification cost share assistance for organic farmers (but not handlers) in 16 states. The AMA program also provides risk management and conservation grants to producers in those states as well.

    • The National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP), enacted as Section 10606 of the 2002 Farm Bill and reauthorized through the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills, provides organic certification cost share for organic farmers in states not covered by the above-mentioned AMA program, and for organic handlers in all States.  The program has operated through State Departments of Agriculture and is now also available through the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

 

 

Ask why they let the the Mass. Pollinator Protection Act die!

A bee visiting a flower

[Update, August 2018]: The 2017-18 formal legislative session ended on July 31st with many important bills stuck in the House Ways & Means committee, a biannual tradition aptly described by former State Senator Ben Downing in a recent insightful and maddening article. Unfortunately the end-of-session legislative logjam presents a serious challenge even for wildly popular and timely bills. If well-connected financial interests are in opposition to a particular bill, it's much more likely to get stuck in the bottleneck.

The Pollinator Protection Act (H.4041), even though it had 67% of the legislature signed on as cosponsors, was denied the vote it deserves and is effectively dead until the effort is renewed next January.

While our pollinators continue to die, legislators let die a wildly popular piece of legislation crafted to protect them. Upset? Us too. Please take a moment to share your thoughts (politely, please) with your state legislators. Ask them why this bill was allowed to die in committee. We’d be curious to hear what you learn. Feel free to email marty@nofamass.org with anything you learn.

 

About the issue and the bill:

 

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 theprecipitous drop in pollinators, and an increasing number of studies point to a class of pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, as a primary culprit.

What can we do in Massachusetts?

 

Proposed legislation (H.4041, a redraft of H.2113), introduced by Rep. Carolyn Dykema, would place commonsense restrictions on neonics and promote pollinator habitats in the state.

This bill (H.4041):

• Requires that neonicotinoids be applied only by licensed or certified applicators

• Limits application during the blooming season to agricultural and horticultural uses

• Requires pesticide applicators to give the property owner a notice of risks associated with neonicotinoids to pollinators, and alternative products which could be used

• Neonicotinoid training will be integrated into the existing pesticide applicator licensing process

• The Dept. of Transportation will be directed to identify opportunities for the introduction of pollinator habitats on department property (ie., along highways).

 

See a fact sheet explaining the bill, here. Or see the full text of the bill,here.

 

Please send a quick email to your state legislators expressing your disappointment that the Pollinator Protection Act didn’t make it to the floor for a vote during the 2017-18 formal session. The more people they hear from, the more likely they are to support the bill next session! If you haven't contacted them in a while, do it again.

Please note that personalized emails have a far greater impact than form emails, and phone calls are even better.

A few suggested talking points are below.

 

Suggested talking points:

  • As your constituent, I want to express my utter disappointment that the House failed to vote on the Pollinator Projection Act (H.4041), which has 135 cosponsors and had been sitting in House Ways & Means for months.

  • Why did a bill with 67% of the legislature signed onto it die in committee?

  • An increasing amount of research indicates that neonicotinoid pesticides, also known as "neonics," are a major factor in pollinator decline, posing a serious threat to our food, public health, and environment. Massachusetts bees are dying at an alarming rate, and I'm writing/calling to encourage our state to take action without further delay.

  • 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.

  • "An Act to Protect Massachusetts Pollinators," would require that neonics be only applied by trained applicators. It would require applicators to inform landowners about the associated risks. The bill also encourages pollinator habitats along highways and other state land.

  • Please contact Rep. Dykema’s office to express your support for the bill’s reintroduction next session and please do what you can to help it avoid the end-of-session logjam next time.

 

 

 

 


 


Support Legislation To Regenerate Soils and Sequester Carbon

depiction of a healthy soil food web

 

Last year we filed "An Act to Promote Healthy Soils" that aims to support soil restoration by creating a Healthy Soils Program within the MA Dept. of Agriculture (MDAR). This program would be tasked with supporting farmers through education, technical assistance, and incentives to promote regenerative practices that build healthy soil, sequester carbon, reduce agricultural runoff, and require less fertilizer. It would also add an expert on regenerative agriculture to the Mass. Food Policy Council.

 

In February 2018 the bill (H.3713) was "reported favorably" out of the Agriculture committee and sent to House Ways & Means committee.

 

As of the end of formal session (July 31, 2018), the bill was still stuck in the end-of-session logjam in the House Ways & Means committee. However, it’s not quite dead yet! Because the bill is so uncontroversial (as far as we know there is no opposition), it still has a chance to pass during “informal session,” which runs until the end of 2018. Supporters should continue to contact their legislators to try and get it to move now that we are past the bottleneck!

 

Show your support for this essential resource by contacting your state legislators and ask them to:

“Please support a vote during informal session on H.3713, An Act to Promote Healthy Soils"

 

Here's a few talking points you could include when you call or write to your legislators

  • Poor soil management is a major contributor to climate change; this program would provide guidance on proven ways to mitigate or even reverse carbon loss from soils.

  • Healthy soils hold more water- Healthy soils essentially act as a sponge, thus providing reserves in times when precipitation is low and a sink to soak up excess when it is high. An 1% increase in soil organic matter on just one acre enables the land to hold an additional 20,000 gallons of water.

  • Healthy soils reduce run-off- That same sponge-like quality allows healthy soils to retain most of the fertilizers applied. This reduces downstream pollution, which can lead to dangerous algae blooms, contaminated drinking water, and other biological disruptions.

  • Healthy soils require less fertilizer- The abundant soil life in healthy soils provides much of the nutritional needs for crops. Fungi and bacteria have coevolved with plants to provide essential nutrients in exchange for carbon (in the form of sugars).

  • Healthy soils result in better, healthier crops- Healthy soils provide a steady drip of fertility and moisture, instead of the deluge and dirth cycles common in today’s agricultural systems. Healthy plants are able to photosynthesize more effectively, and are able to produce the necessary metabolites that defend them from disease and pests. In short, healthy soils grow healthier plants, which need less pesticides.

 

Tell them why this matters to you! Are you concerned about climate change? Soil loss? Do you farm and/or care about local farming?

Look up your legislators here, and please give them a call or email.

See and pring a fact sheet on the bill, here.

 



 

 

Support the Healthy Incentives Program

Healthy Incentives Program - Save HIP

The Healthy Incentives Program provides a dollar-for-dollar match for SNAP money spent on fruits and vegetables purchased at participating farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs statewide. To date, the program has provided more than $4.2 million in fresh, healthy, local foods for low-income families, with that money going to support local farms. This means better health outcomes for some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable communities, and greater sustainability for local farms, allowing them to contribute to the local economy, steward farmland and protect our natural resources. For more information about HIP, see this fact sheet.

Action is needed to urge the legislature and the administration to allocate funds to keep the program operating.

Current action alert: Please see the website of the Mass. Food System Collaborative for the latest action alert on saving HIP.


  

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

 

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