NOFA/Mass advocates for sustainable agricultural policies that strengthen the resilience of our local communities. Our policy team works on issues as diverse as organic standards, food system transparency, and regulations that support sustainable farms.
As of September 1st, 2020 the bill is still in “conference committee,” a small group of legislators from both chambers are reconciling the two versions. We have submitted a letter to the committee on behalf of 37 coalition partners and are asking our members to contact their own Representative to ask for their support to “adopt the Senate’s Healthy Soils Bill Amendment to the Economic Development Bill.”
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.
Numerous farming and land management practices have been demonstrated to increase soil health and soil carbon, yet these are still not widely implemented. With state incentives and support, farmers and land managers 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
What does the Healthy Soils Bill do?
This Healthy Soils Bill (S.2404) creates a Healthy Soils Program within the Commission for Conservation of Soil, Water and Related Resources, which will bolster the use of healthy soils practices by private and public land owners and land managers on lands utilized for commercial farming, suburban and urban lawns, yards and gardens, public and private forests, parks and other open or green spaces, and non-paved outdoor areas. The Healthy Soils Program would provide assistance such as grants, technical assistance or education on the benefts and implementation of healthy soils best practices. The bill also adds an expert on healthy soils practices to 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. The State government must help us better adapt to the shocks of worsening climate destabilization as well as help mitigate further impacts, while improving crop quality and quantity and farmer bottom lines.
Status (updated 09/01/20): This bill is still “alive” and currently in the before the House Committee on Ways and Means, where it has been since November 2019. After it was swiftly “reported favorably”out of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA), it has been stuck in Ways and Means since… At the hearing on Nov. 12th we were excited to see our pollinator champions Rep. Carolyn Dykema and Attorney General Maura Healy testify together in support of the bill they cosponsored. (More on the hearing, here.) There is still a good chance that legislators will move this bill before the (extended) formal session ends in late 2020 (exact date TBD!).
Note: House Ways and Means is where the last version of this bill died in the previous legislative session and is often a major bottleneck in the process. Legislators need to hear from their constituents to help push it through!
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
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.
Status (updated 4/01/20): This emergency bill was filed in June 2019 after the Baker Administration released a policy statement prohibiting the sale of “consumibles” containing hemp-derived CBD (cannabadiol) and the sale of whole flower. It was referred to the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy and received a public hearing on October 22nd. That commitee reported the bill favoably (passed it) on 3/9/20 and gave it a new bill number (H.4528). It is now awaiting action in House Committee on Ways and Means.
This 2019 growing season about 100 small farmers in Massachusetts were granted licenses to grow hemp. Almost all of them are growing a crop to be processed for hemp-derived cannabinoids (ie. “CBD”). On June 12th, after farmers had already invested in and planted their crop, they learned from a policy statement that Governor Baker’s administration is prohibiting the sale of foods and other “consumables” containing “CBD” as well as banning the sale of whole flower. These are both desirable and high-valued artisanal products which help small farms to compete with a large commodity market. Massachusetts farms are small farms. Without an artisanal market, they will struggle to compete long-term against large scale agricultural states.
People were consuming hemp for thousands of years before it was banned for a few decades.
The Commonwealth today continues to defy the federal government on “marijuana,” but for some reason the administration is cracking down on its non-psychoactive cousin (now a federally legal crop), threatening a growing local agricultural economy.
Picking Up Momentum to Reign in Pesticides in 2021 By Marty Dagoberto, NOFA/Mass Policy Director It goes without saying that 2020 didn’t go as anyone had hoped. That being said, while our legislative efforts on Beacon Hill were undoubtedly [...]
By Marty Dagoberto, NOFA/Mass Policy Director One thing we have to be grateful for this year is that the state government is finally updating its science on the impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinators. [...]
By Marty Dagoberto, NOFA/Mass Policy Director In these novel times (COVID-19), the State Legislature has extended its formal session beyond the July 31 2020 deadline. While this technically means that all of our current priority [...]