Friday, May 12, 2017

May Policy Update! By Bill Duesing

May 2017 Gleanings


Bill Duesing, CT NOFA Organic Advocate


NOFA is a big voice for organic matters.  As a member of CT NOFA you are part of something greater- over 5,000 NOFA members in seven state chapters in the Northeast.  As one of the oldest and largest organic farming organizations in the country, NOFA’s voice is important not only on local issues, but also on national and international issues through our partner organizations.


The NOFA Interstate Policy Committee held its annual planning and educational retreat in April in Bourne, MA. We shared the issues each of the seven state chapters are working on, heard reports from representatives to partner organizations and learned about the history of United States agriculture movements from the 1950s through the 1980s .


On the State Level


I reported on CT NOFA’s work this year in support of:

  • a ban on roadside herbicide spraying,
  • a ban on the use of shredded tires as mulch in children’s playgrounds on public property,
  • maintaining a strong Community Investment Act for its support of local agriculture programs,
  • and work against climate change.
All of these are a heavy lift in the closely divided legislature facing severe budgetary problems.  To learn more about the current state of these and other environmental bills still under consideration, visit our partner organization, the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters’ site.

Connecticut is ahead of other NOFA states in its pollinator protection policies, (See these guides written by long-time CT NOFA board member Kim Stoner, .) but several other states are working on them.  It may be the most popular bi-partisan issue these days and that’s a good sign.
Most of our states are trying to find a way to encourage regenerative farming, that is farming which builds topsoil and biodiversity to fight climate change, improve water cycles and generally  make things better and healthier.  (Notice that this is very close to organic, but not all organic is regenerative.  Farmers need to be very intensive about using cover crops and reducing tillage to be regenerative.)
But incentivizing these practices is hard to do.  The effects of good practices (and the stored carbon) from one year can be wiped out the next by any of the enemies of regeneration: tillage, chemical fertilizers, excess nutrients, pesticides or bare soil. In Vermont, the organic farmers are upset that the regenerative farming bill would add another costly certification for organic farmers who also want the regenerative certification.
New York NOFA reported on their years’ long fight against the release of a genetically engineered diamondback moth.
On the National Level
NOFA works with our partner organizations and participates in conference calls and meetings to support organic food and farming in the nation and the world. We use the internationally recognized principles of organic agriculture as our guide - health, ecology, fairness and care.

NOFA is a founding member of the National Organic Coalition (NOC), a strong voice for organic integrity in Washington and at meetings of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), citizen advisors who make recommendations to USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP). Important questions include :
Will the organic animal welfare standards approved by the Obama administration be enacted by the current one?  A decision is now put off until the fall.
What will the NOSB recommend about hydroponics and organic certification?  NOFA’s voice is strong for keeping the soil in organic. Hydroponic produce from countries that don’t allow it to be certified organic is sold here as USDA organic. Also a few, very large growers in California are certifying hydroponically grown fruit.
A national Organic Farmers Association is forming to provide certified organic farmers with a national voice.  Maddie Monte from NOFA VT is our representative to this group which combines efforts of grassroots organic groups and of Rodale to organize organic farmers.
Through our membership in the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) your voice is heard in Washington on a range of issues often involving the farm bill and support for beginning farmers, conservation practices and organic research.
Your voices have been heard in Washington asking for thorough questioning of Sunny Purdue as Secretary of Agriculture, for evaluation of the effects of the Monsanto Beyer merger on the availability of vegetable seeds and in support of public breeding programs for plant varieties and animal breeds to protect genetic diversity and face the challenges of climate change. 
Your voice individually and through CT NOFA makes a difference.  Speak up!