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Policy

It is hard to hear the news today without some aspect of climate change and carbon policy being discussed.

For many years “global warming” had been an issue barely on the horizon for most people. But the stronger and stronger weather events we have witnessed over the planet the last few years have given many thoughtful people pause. More and more now believe that without strong concerted action we may be facing climate problems we have never before experienced as a species. It has been hard, however, getting governments to adopt the strong positions on limiting fossil fuel use that most feel would be required to adequately reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the core cause of climate change.

Rep Jim McGovern speaks at press conference, August 2016

The Massachusetts Legislature adjourned just after midnight on August 1, concluding their formal business for the 2015-2016 legislative session. Members will continue to meet in informal session until the end of the year, where typically only non-controversial matters are voted upon.

Cafes and coffee have historically been associated with dissent and fomenting positive change. Yet in the past decade the industry has actually added to one of the most insidious socio-economic trends we face – increasing income inequality. As we think about this issue in the upcoming Presidential election, we would do well to examine the role we as an industry play. How ironic that as we sit in our cafes bemoaning rising income inequality so many of us actually enable it and even benefit from it.

Photo by beauconsidine, available under a Creative Commons license.

While we sit and wait for our legislators to move forward with the agricultural omnibus bill, the GMO labeling bill, and much else, let’s take a moment to zoom out, scan the horizons, and find inspiration in some unexpected places.

Massachusetts tends to pride itself on being first in the nation on a number of landmark pieces of legislation. First on health care reform, first on gay marriage, etc. But there is much we can learn from the efforts of other states too.

Lunch-In for Labeling GMOs on June 8 at MA State House

As we prepare to send you this update, just a few days before the historic Vermont GMO labeling law implements, attempts to shut down the Vermont law (and laws in Alaska, Maine, Connecticut, along with bills pending in state legislatures like Massachusetts) are moving quickly at the federal level. Senators Roberts and Stabenow have introduced a new bill that is nothing more than an industry-sponsored attempt to keep Americans in the DARK about what we are eating.

The evolution of the organic movement

We’ve come a long way since the early dawn days of Sir Albert Howard, J.I. Rodale, and those other pioneers that defined the threads of what has become organic agriculture. Just thirty years ago, it would have been inconceivable that the likes of Walmart and Stop & Shop would have an entire aisle of organic foods, or that pop icons like Oprah or Gwyneth Paltrow would be advocating for organic farming on TV.

Massachusetts State House

On May 5th, the Senate passed An Act Promoting Agriculture in the Commonwealth (now S.2286), a bundle of bills of interest to the farm community. Currently in the House in the Joint Committee on Rules, this bill looks poised to head to a floor vote soon.

Many of the bill’s provisions reflect recommendations made in last year’s Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan.

This organic poultry house would be spacious enough under the new rules

This organic poultry house would be spacious enough under the new rules

For those of us who are concerned about the integrity of the organic seal, the National Organic Program’s (NOP) recent announcement that they have issued a proposed rule to define animal welfare standards was a cause for celebration. Should the proposed rule stand as is, gone will be the day of poultry house “porches” and other semblances of outdoor access. Controversial physical alterations such as poultry de-beaking and cattle tail-docking will also be prohibited.

A comprehensive omnibus bill (S.2171) aimed to “promote agriculture in the Commonwealth” is making progress within the State House. This bundle of legislation, which just recently made its way out of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture, addresses issues ranging from farm-specific tax reforms to a veteran agriculture program and much else in between. Many of the provisions included are specific recommendations that reflect the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan which was put together last year.

The PPE for mixing Actinovate includes a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, and a dust/mist filtering respirator.

The Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is a federal law designed to protect agricultural workers and pesticide handlers from the risks associated with pesticide exposure. The law requires that employers on farms provide protections for their workers from exposure to pesticides, training about pesticide safety, and mitigations in the case of exposure. The WPS was first issued in 1992 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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