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

Donate to NOFA/Mass

become member

NOFA/Mass Enews

Policy

We’ve compiled this list of stories to help keep you up to date on issues impacting food and farming.

 

OFA 2: Elizabeth Kucinich

Almost every industry and cause has an interest group in Washington D.C. working on its behalf. It would seem that organic farmers are no exception. With groups like National Organic Coalition (NOC), Organic Trade Association (OTA) and National Sustainable Action Coalition (NSAC) actively lobbying in D.C, one would think that the interests of organic farmers would be more than adequately represented. But just recently, a new organization called the Organic Farmers Association (OFA) has been gaining momentum as it gears up to be a uniquely farmer-driven policy player.

You may know that NOFA/Mass delivers technical assistance to Beginning Farmers through our Beginning Farmer Mentorship Program. It really helps to be able to pick up the phone and call an experienced farmer when you are in need of some sage advice. You may also know that we have a gardeners' forum to help gardeners exchange growing ideas. In 2014, NOFA/Mass expanded the technical assistance that we give farmers and food handlers, offering consulting for those who need help with their application for organic certification.

It’s become a notorious fact: 40% of all food grown in the Unites States goes to waste. That’s more than 1 in 4 calories going straight into the dumpster. The thought of so much wholesome, delicious food being wasted is already heavy with pathos, but what is truly heart breaking is the amount of work and resources wasted in the process. A full quarter of our country's fresh water is used to grow this wasted food. 350 million barrels of oil are burned in vain. We can estimate that 250 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on squandered crops. The level of wasted human work this implies is even more staggering: each year, at least 8 billion person-hours are spent planting, tending, and harvesting unconsumed crops.

The Arctic Apple, which has been genetically engineered not to brown. (Courtesy Okanagan Specialty Fruits)

We’ve compiled this list of stories to help keep you up to date on issues impacting food and farming.

Consumers who choose to buy organic eggs, poultry, and meat expect organic farmers to raise their animals in the healthiest conditions possible – to provide access to the outdoors, space to move around, and freedom to exhibit their natural behaviors. And farmers and ranchers who choose to follow organic standards expect a level playing field. Right now, that is not the case.

“Most organic livestock and poultry operations already adhere to high standards. But they are being undercut economically because of loopholes in the organic standards that allow a few operations to deny meaningful outdoor access to animals,” says Abby Youngblood, executive director at the National Organic Coalition.

The new Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule will level the playing field and ensure that all poultry and eggs sold as organic meet the high standards that consumers expect. The new rules, which are available today in the federal register, represent more than a decade of work to clarify and improve animal welfare standards in organic. They incorporate input from thousands of stakeholders as well as recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a stakeholder board that advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture. NOSB membership, by law, includes organic farmers, handlers, certifiers, environmental/conservation specialists, consumer representatives, and scientists.

This week, after months of delay, a team of expert scientists is meeting to review whether glyphosate, the active ingredient in common weedkillers like Roundup, can be categorized as a carcinogen. This is a tall task for this scientific advisory panel, as they’re being asked to decide whether the most economically successful pesticide in human history will continue its overwhelming dominance in our agricultural systems.

Glyphosate’s rise to dominance began in the 1990’s with the introduction of the first transgenic crops. The Roundup-Ready gene is what initially gave glyphosate a leg up in the market, and its popularity has continued to grow for the past 20 years. We now use approximately 280 million pounds of glyphosate every year in the U.S., about seven times more than we were using just twenty years ago.

For those of us dedicated to healthy eating and ecological-minded food systems, the last eight years have been a time of great optimism. The White House turned a portion of its lawn into an organic vegetable garden for the first time since World War II. The 2008 Farm Bill finally did away with direct subsidy payments and created funding for grants to encourage beginning farmers and ranchers, specialty crops (aka vegetables and fruits), and increased funding for conservation programs that pay farmers to nurture their land’s resources.

But that bubble burst wide open on November 8 with the election of our 45th president, Donald J. Trump. While many of us remain confused and shocked by the results, we also need to prepare for what the next four years of policy might look like. Trump himself mostly steered clear of food and farm policy talk on the campaign trail. But clues abound as to what we as farmers and eaters can expect to change over the next four (or eight) years.

The timing of the annual international Conference of the Parties (COP) regarding climate change has been less than blessed. COP21 in Paris last year shortly followed the devastating terrorist attack on that city, resulting in very tight security restrictions on movement and participation by the many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that had flocked to Paris for the occasion.

This year, COP22 in Marrakech was scheduled for November 7–18. On day two of that conference shock and confusion were sown by an unexpected result from the United States, the election of Donald Trump as president. His statements that climate change is a hoax and his party’s platform plank that “coal is an abundant, clean, affordable, reliable domestic energy resource” had negotiators concerned, although most realized that what one says in a campaign and how one governs are different matters. The coal industry, however, seemed to be taking Trump at his word. Stocks jumped on the morning after the election and word spread that Myron Ebell, self described as the “number one enemy of climate change alarmism,” might lead the EPA and strip it of its regulatory powers.

Chickens: Eggs from these hens would be outlawed should Question 3 pass

If Maya Angelou were alive today, she’d be near deaf from the singing and clucking of all the caged hens across this country. She’d also be hearing the shrill oinking of the crated sows and the mooing calves and all the other animals that are being raised in some form of confinement. And, if she happened to be a Massachusetts resident, she’d be faced with an opportunity to decide on the ethics of allowing such agricultural practices to be sold as food in the Commonwealth.

Although overshadowed by the non-stop presidential coverage, ballot question 3 is perhaps one of the most important decisions we’ll make come November 8. In short, this question asks us to choose whether we as a state ought to allow the confinement of laying hens, sows, and veal. But really, the question presents to us a more fundamental conundrum: How much choice and personal freedom is acceptable for a society, especially if those choices have potentially negative consequences for others?

Pages

Subscribe to Policy

Donate to NOFA/Mass

Become a Member

Subcribe to the Newsletter

-A A +A