Thursday, May 3, 2018

May 2018 Policy Update

By Bill Duesing, CT NOFA Organic Advocate


CT NOFA Policy Report
Bill Duesing, CT NOFA Organic Advocate
bduesing@mac.com

Your membership in CT NOFA amplifies your voice on important agricultural and food policy issues in Connecticut and on a regional, national and international level. Here’s how you’ve been involved.

In Connecticut

This year our biggest push was for a Healthy Soils bill which would support farmers who want to adopt practices to build carbon-rich organic matter levels in soil. These practices, such as using no till methods, cover crops and compost, provide multiple benefits by encouraging healthier soil, plants, water, air and climate.

Because of the nature of this short legislative session, a bill has to be introduced by a committee, in this case the Environment Committee.  Jeff and I met with the committee chairs and co-chairs and lobbied other members, but the Committee leadership didn’t introduce our bill.  We’ve been encouraged to bring it up again next year when there will be fewer limitations.  It often takes a number of tries to get a bill through all the hoops to become law.  At many stages a bill’s success is more in the hands of committee or chamber leaders than those of the rank and file members and the public. (See CT NOFA Facebook post for photo)

CT NOFA did submit testimony on several other bills supported by partner organizations. Those included bills to ban fracturing waste in Connecticut, the use of shredded tires as mulch in public playgrounds and automated pesticide misting systems. (Those misting systems are typically placed along property lines to control mosquitos  The substitute bill that was voted out of committee didn’t ban the systems outright, but would ban them within 20 feet of a property line.) 

Unfortunately none of the bills have gotten very far with so much attention being paid to financial and other issues. The fracturing waste bill did make it onto the Senate Calendar.  The recycled tire mulch bill made it out of the Children’s Committee, but was killed by the Committee on Planning and Development.  The amended misting systems bill made it out of the environment but hasn’t moved since.  Leadership directs bills along various paths which can be more or less difficult or just doesn’t let them move. 

It is good that our efforts have had success in the past, supporting the first-in-the-nation law requiring labels on foods containing GMOs passed in 2013 (made ineffective by later Federal legislation), and a pioneering pollinator protection bill in 2016.

You can link to our testimonies on your behalf:
On fracturing waste here.
On misting systems here.

Jeff, Tara Cook-Lipman and representatives of Friends of the Earth met with the state’s Attorney General to encourage him to join the investigation into the Monsanto-Bayer merger which will greatly increase concentration in the control of seeds and other agricultural inputs. The AG said they weren’t able to put enough energy into that matter to be worth it and it was also late in the process.

Regional

The NOFA Interstate Policy Committee meets monthly by conference call to discuss policy initiatives in our states and coordinate an overall NOFA response to national issues. The policy committee uses the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) principles to guide its work.  Those principles are Health, Ecology, Fairness and Care.  They are elaborated here

At our spring policy retreat in Deerfield Massachusetts at the end of March, one of the big issues was responding to the efforts to address deficiencies in the National Organic Program. Those recently confirmed deficiencies include allowing of hydroponic produce to be certified as organic and the withdrawal of organic animal welfare standards under the current administration.  The Real Organic Project and Rodale’s Regenerative Organic Certification both aim to improve the situation by providing an add-on to the National Organic Certification which includes soil growing and other important features.

The integrity of organic certification has been an important policy issue for NOFA for several decades. Although we are generally supportive of these efforts to create add-on certifications to identify  soil grown organic crops and farms which follow appropriate labor and animal welfare standards, we didn’t want these new certifications to disparage the many farmers who are certified and are using good practices already,  We also didn’t want the new certifications to be a financial burden on farmers.  (Preserving the Organic Cost Share Program that reimburses farmers and processors for 75 percent of their certification fees up to $750 is one of the current legislative issues in Washington.)

The result of our deliberations was a letter sent to the two new certifying bodies expressing our views.  See our letter “To the Board of the Real Organic Project and to Jeff Moyer, David Bronner and Phil Graves of Regenerative Organic Certification” here

One result of this letter is a dialogue with the Real Organic Project, especially relating to carbon sequestration and their standards. Both new certifications hope to have pilot programs in place this year and it is likely some NOFA farmers will be involved as they are now in developing the standards.

The European Organic Standards ban the certification of hydroponically grown produce and now won’t allow US hydroponically grown “organic” produce to be labeled organic.  

The NOFA policy committee also works with a number of national organizations to support and strengthen organic agriculture.  We are long time members of the National Organic Coalition, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and recently have joined the National Family Farm Coalition and the US Food Sovereignty Alliance.
NOFA is one of the founding organizations of the Agricultural Justice Project.

International

NOFA was also a founder of IFOAM and sends a delegate to some of their global meetings.  NOFA is also supporting the establishment of IFOAM North America.  Elizabeth Henderson from NOFA NY is on the board.

At least one person from the policy committee participates in meetings of each of these organizations.  There is room for many more participants in this important work.  Contact the CT NOFA office if you’d like to be involved.  And remember that your membership in and donation to CT NOFA goes a long way in working for a more organic world.

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