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Policy

workshop in field

Farm Bill Action Needed: Lapse likely!

As of the time of writing (9/20/18) it is becoming increasingly likely a hyper-partisan Congress won’t come to an agreement on the 2018 Farm Bill before the 2014 Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30th. When the previous Farm Bill lapsed at the end of 2012 and a short-term extension was passed, it failed to fund key organic Farm Bill programs and caused a great deal of disruption for the organic sector in 2013. We have to do what we can to stop that from happening again.

U.S. Capitol Building

Action Needed on Federal Farm Bill

If readers only skim the first few lines of this, they will hopefully glean the fact that organic agriculture is under attack in the proposed 2018 Farm Bill, and that they should contact Congress right now and over the coming weeks. With a deadline of Sept. 30th (when the 2014 Farm Bill expires), the current House draft is a major threat to organic agriculture. Please read on, take action and help mobilize your networks (nationwide) to contact their members of Congress and save organic agriculture.

Anyone who has been following the Farm Bill at all will likely have heard of the major proposed cuts and changes that the House version makes to SNAP (food stamps) benefits. The House version of the bill, which was drafted in a hyper-partisan process, also threatens the future of organic agriculture. Most notably, it totally eliminates the organic certification cost-share program, which many small organic farms rely on to cover the cost of certification. It also eliminates and compromises key conservation programs which help farmers protect our soil and water.

Rep. McGovern tours fields at MHOF

Rep. McGovern tours fields at MHOF

Congressman Jim McGovern visited Many Hands Organic Farm on August 22 near the end of his eighth annual Massachusetts farm tour. There he spoke with farm owners Julie Rawson and Jack Kittredge about food security and the importance of producing nutritious food with ecologically sound practices.

The morning rains had cleared as McGovern and his entourage arrived to walk the grounds of the farm in Barre. Rawson and Kittredge, along with representatives from the surrounding community and Central Mass Grown, walked the fields and spoke about what practices they find important. Rawson shared that, for her, farming is a multifaceted passion. She navigates many governmental stumbling blocks, such as state and federal regulations around animal slaughter and food safety, to bring good nutritious food to consumers.

protect the bees

Farmer-member, Christy Raymond of White Barn Farm in Wrentham (pictured right)

Thank you to everyone who has continued to answer our calls to action: writing letters, making phone calls, sharing stories and “memes,” and to all of our yearly members who support our policy work and give us strength in numbers. If you’d like to receive more frequent policy updates as well as volunteer requests, feel free to contact marty@nofamass.org.

Please note: this policy update was written on June 15th, with some updates a few days later. Given the end of the state legislative session at the end of July, things will likely have changed by the time this is posted. You can always check our Facebook page for big announcements.

cannabis plant

Cannabis (Photo courtesy via Kirill Ignatyev Creative Commons License)

With all the publicity about the new law making the growing and distribution of adult-use cannabis possible in our state, who isn’t thinking about cannabis (formerly known by its Prohibition term, marijuana)? In December, NOFA/Mass held a very popular workshop at Hampshire College for folks who were interested in learning the legalities around growing this crop. It sold out and we promised to hold more of these events, bolstered by the Board’s spring 2017 decision that this was a topic we wanted to educate about.

gmo labels

It’s here: Public Comments needed on Federal “GMO labeling” scheme

It may feel like ancient history, but our members might remember July 2016 when Congress passed and then President Obama signed a federal “GMO labeling” law designed largely by Monsanto and friends to keep consumers in the DARK about what we’re eating and supporting with our food purchases.

Rows of crops

You have been hearing about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) for years now. If you have been wondering how this might impact your farm, now is the time to find out. 2018 is a preparation year. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources wants to assist farms to prepare for FSMA now. In 2019 MDAR will begin enforcement.

Check out this chart to figure out where your operation lies in terms of coverage. Read more about how the requirements of FSMA and the National Organic Program intersect. If you are a certified organic farm this is useful information for co-compliance of both rules.

check on government

Source: agriculture.com

Author’s note: Our monthly policy update was looking like it would be a total downer, but fortunately some good news broke late in the month, so let’s start with that!

solar for farm

Source: civileats.com

A new state program regulating incentives for solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays is expected to be up and running this summer. Under the 2018 Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program, incentives are structured to promote a range of on-farm PV applications, including systems installed on farm buildings, canopy systems built over vehicle parking areas, and systems sized to meet on-farm demand. If you own land either in Chapter 61A or with Prime Farmland Soils (as defined by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, NRCS), financial compensation is also available for dual-use systems, in which ground-mounted solar PV panels producing electricity are interspersed with crops or livestock on agricultural land. Additional incentives are available for projects that incorporate energy storage, or that feed energy to certain types of consumers through net metering. These types of consumers include community-shared solar projects, low-income housing, and public buildings.

Marty Update

This is the first policy update from our new Policy Director, Marty Dagoberto. Marty has been the Outreach Coordinator since January 2017 and now also wears the Policy Director hat (and sometimes a suit). While he’s still getting oriented on the policy work for NOFA, Marty does have significant experience in the State House, having served as the Campaign Coordinator for MA Right to Know GMOs. Want to get involved in policy work? Have a tip or suggestion? Marty can be reached at marty@nofamass.org

By the time you read this, the annual “Ag Day” will have just happened at the State House (check our Facebook for pictures!), and the state legislature will soon be focused on the budget (and nothing else). Now is the time to contact your state legislators to push for active legislation. NOFA’s current top priorities are broken down for you, below.

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