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Policy

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 bills are still alive, it appears that this overtime is dedicated solely to bills directly related to COVID-19, the budget, and conference committee reports. Fortunately, one of our priority bills, the Healthy Soils Bill, was attached as an amendment to the economic development bill related to the pandemic and is currently in conference committee.

On July 29, 2020, with the support of our Coalition, our Healthy Soils Champion in the Senate, Senator Jo Comerford, was successful in advocating for the text of the Healthy Soils Bill to be included as an amendment to a piece of "must pass" legislation in the Senate, "H.4887 - An Act enabling partnerships for growth," aka "The Economic Development Bill." Unfortunately, the amendment was not included in the House version of the bill.

At the time of writing (7/29/20) we are in the final days of the formal legislative session - too soon to update you all on the fate of most legislative priorities (for that, tune in next month), and current action alerts will likely no longer be relevant when this is received. For the latest updates and action alerts on bills still in play, please visit our action page. What follows  is an update on one bill of particular concern to our members, which was signed into law in July. 

As organic gardeners and farmers, we are all concerned about the overreliance on pesticides to control mosquitoes. Many of you took up our call to action in May when we called for an overhaul of Governor Baker’s initial plan for a statewide mosquito disease management program. The original bill would have allowed the Mosquito Reclamation Board to spray pesticides anywhere in the state, with no advance notice, and no clear  requirement to allow an “opt-out” process for spraying. These powers would have been granted indefinitely.

June 22-28 is Pollinator Week! Organized by the Pollinator Partnership, Pollinator Week is a national celebration of the thousands of insect species that are essential to flowering plants—including the food crops that we depend on for our meals.  

Pollinators (and, more broadly, insect biodiversity) are one of our long-standing priority issues at NOFA/Mass and one of our topline topics for educational programming, published content, and policy work. 

Of course, due to the coronavirus pandemic, we can’t gather for any in-person activities right now, but we wanted to take this opportunity to share some resources and actions that you can use to support these critical members of our food system and our ecosystem. 

As the national industrial food supply chain faces incredible threats during this pandemic and we continue to support local, organic and sustainable agriculture, we must also use our voices to act in solidarity with food system workers nationwide who are truly frontline heroes. 

This month we are signal-boosting action alerts from partner organizations Food Chain Workers Alliance, United Farm Workers, and a critical call for support from the Mashpee Wampanoag

 

 

We’re all still adjusting to this new and rapidly evolving “normal,” and just like everything else, the world of food policy has been tossed up in the air and is yet to settle. Of course, we still have our priorities, the long-standing campaigns that so many of you have been such a critical part of. We also realize that many of us (including yours truly, the Policy Director) have very limited bandwidth to consider anything other than what is happening with COVID-19 and what it means for our families and communities. If you’re even reading this during the month of April 2020, thank you! 

 

The legislative priorities we’ve been working on since January 2019 are essentially in a holding pattern right now. As of March 31, the state legislature is still technically operating, though legislators have zero capacity to address anything not directly COVID19-related. It’s highly unlikely that any of our priority bills will get any attention before late May or June (formal session ends July 31st, 2020). We are not asking our networks to contact legislators on anything other than COVID-19 issues in coming weeks. If/when anything changes on that front, we’ll let you know via a dedicated action alert, social media, etc. 

On February 12, 2020, 21 farmers from across Massachusetts drove in to the Statehouse to urge legislators to support the creation of a Massachusetts Healthy Soils Program. Gathering in a briefing room, legislators, staffers, press and supporters of the bill heard comments from farmers.

Representative Schmid and Senator Comerford, lead cosponsors of S.2404, the Healthy Soils Bill, started the briefing. “This is amazing to us, that the interest and fascination with healthy soils has grown so quickly here in the State House, and it’s in large part due to your advocacy,” Rep. Schmid remarked to the those in attendance.

“I want to acknowledge your work to grow and expand the possibility of this bill and the impact of healthy soils on our Commonwealth. It’s a food security issue, it’s a farmer justice issue and now we’re rightly seeing it as a climate issue,” said Senator Comerford, adding “And I want to thank NOFA for really spearheading the organizing around this, the outside push. We want to do right by our Commonwealth, and people like you make us do it.”

H.791 eliminates the use of toxic pesticides on playgrounds and anywhere that children learn and play! 
 
H.792 takes all glyphosate-containing herbicides (including Monsanto's Roundup) off hardware store shelves and ends consumer use of this toxic biocide! 
 
To be clear, both of these bills face an uphill battle before passage and aren't even guaranteed to be voted on by the full legislature, but the fact that Agriculture committee has approved these bills is HUGE and is a testament to the enormous grassroots support and emerging science that tells us we must do something to reduce the use of glyphosate and other toxic pesticides

Threat to Children from the Massachusetts Pesticide Law

UPDATE from NOFA/Mass Policy Director, Marty Dagoberto: On January 31st, 2020 the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture passed H.791, mentioned below! Supporters should contact and THANK legislators and ask them to push for the bill to voted on by the full house ASAP. Stay tuned for more updates in next month's newsletter.

Parents who fear that the pesticides applied on school playing fields are a health threat to their children are having those concerns justified by scientific studies.

Butterflies enjoying native flowers Photo credit: Caro Roszell

Communities across Massachusetts are standing up and taking action against toxic biocides and the dangers they pose to all living things-- from the smallest insect to those of us at the top of the food chain. Local leaders and concerned citizens are mounting a defense of the vulnerable members of our ecosystems, from the Statehouse to the schoolyard. 

With a raft of bills on pesticide reduction and pollinator protection before the state legislature (Pollinator Protection Act (Neonic Restrictions), Neonic Ban, Local Option on Pesticides, Protect Schoolchildren from Pesticides, Restrict Glyphosate use on Public Lands, Glyphosate Ban, Protect Groundwater from Pesticides) and with 29 Massachusetts communities that have already established some level of municipal action on pesticide reduction/pollinator protection, there is no better time to join the movement to protect our ecosystems and our health!

Have you talked to your state legislators about glyphosate?

2020 will be the year that Massachusetts legislators take action to reduce glyphosate use. Will you help us realize that vision? 

The state legislature is considering several proposed laws related to glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup). However, the deadline for these bills to be “reported out of committee” is February 5th, 2020 (otherwise they die). If you haven’t recently called your State Senator and Representative to let them know your thoughts and concerns about glyphosate and to ask them to take action to reduce its use (ok, even if you have), this month would be the month to do it!

Below are the glyphosate-related bills currently being considered.

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