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NOFA-NY Report on 2019 State Legislative Session

NOFA-NY Report on 2019 State Legislative Session

New York State’s 2019 legislative session closed in June with a flurry of last-minute actions on pending legislation. NOFA-NY staff and board, directed by our membership’s policy positions, worked to educate our state representatives and provide input on legislation. In this blog post, we summarize some key legislation that will affect New York’s agriculture industry.

Chlorpyrifos Ban
Bill Number: S5343/A2477

The New York State Legislature passed a ban on the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is now awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature. If signed into law, the ban would prohibit aerial application of chlorpyrifos starting in January 2020, with a complete ban of any use of chlorpyrifos by December 1, 2021.

S5343/A2477 was supported by a range of environmental and public health groups in New York State. NOFA-NY published a memorandum of support for the bill, citing examples of organic farms that successfully grow typical New York State crops like cabbage and onions without the use of pesticides.

Earthjustice describes the ban as “a major victory for children’s health [that] puts New York on track to become by 2021 the first state in the country to end the use of chlorpyrifos…Dozens of studies show that exposure to chlorpyrifos is associated with lower birth weight, reduced IQ, attention disorders, and delayed motor development in infants and children.”

A related bill that would have banned neonicotinoid pesticides, the “Birds and Bees Protection Act” (A7639), unfortunately did not move out of committee. We hope to see this bill reintroduced in 2020.

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CCPA)
Bill Number: S6599/A8429

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CCPA) passed in June includes a number of ambitious goals for moving New York State off fossil fuels over the next two decades: 100 percent carbon-free electricity generation by 2040, and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The bill also works to ensure that communities polluted by existing power plants, incinerators, and other industrial complexes get a fair share of resources in rebuilding the energy system.

NOFA-NY Executive Director Andrianna Natsoulas testified in favor of the CCPA, urging that any climate change legislation include provisions addressing agriculture:

“NOFA-NY would like to encourage the framers of legislation relating to climate change to consider it additionally as an opportunity to support land use practices, specifically in agriculture, that provide energy efficiency, improve water quality and flood control, and the sequestration of large amounts of carbon. Worldwide, organic, regenerative agriculture has been documented to mitigate climate change, as well as to provide land and farmers with the ability to adapt to climate change.”

The CCPA also establishes a Climate Action Council and several advisory committees (including one on agriculture and forestry) to meet the goals laid out in the CCPA. NOFA-NY will work to ensure that organic agriculture is represented on this committee.

While the CCPA takes a number of good steps to mitigate climate change, it does not address land use practices, specifically in organic agriculture, that provide both energy efficiency and significant carbon sequestration.

Green Light NY
Bill Number: S1747/A3675

S1747/A3675, championed by the Green Light NY coalition, expands access to drivers’ licenses to undocumented New York State residents. The bill has already been signed by the Governor and will go into effect in six months.
By most estimates, over half the farm workers in New York State are undocumented. Many farmworkers live in rural areas with no public transportation. Without access to licenses, many immigrants are unable to purchase, register, and insure their own vehicles. As a result, they face major barriers to meeting the most basic needs of day-to-day life: traveling to work, school, grocery shopping, medical appointments, and places of worship.

NOFA-NY adopted a resolution to support the Green Light NY campaign in January 2018, “to ensure equal access to driver’s licenses for all residents of New York State, regardless of immigration status, and urge New York lawmakers to give a green light to driver's licenses for immigrants in our state.”

The law makes New York the 13th state in the US to allow people without legal immigration status to obtain a driver's license.

Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act (FFLP)
Bill Number: S6578/A8419

The Farmer Fair Labor Practices Act (FFLP) was introduced in the past seven legislative sessions and finally passed in 2019.
FFLP grants farmworkers one day of rest out of seven, with payment of time and a half when a farmworker voluntarily works on a rest day. It also grants them access to Workers’ Compensation, and requires that employers, hired supervisors, labor contractors or crew leaders report all farmworker injuries and refrain from retaliating against workers who apply for workers’ comp.

FFLP ends the exclusion of farmworkers from the state definition of an employee, thus recognizing the right of farmworkers to organize. However, the bill bans both strikes by workers and lockouts by employers. In the case of a dispute between a farm employer and employees, the bill outlines a process for mediation and arbitration.
Instead of requiring a vote to form a union on a farm, the bill allows farmworkers to select a union through a card check off, an alternative process championed by unions for decades. The bill also updates housing regulations for farm workers: if a farm provides housing for even one employee, the housing must meet state sanitary and building codes and will be subject to inspection.

To determine future wages for farmworkers, the bill sets up a labor wage commission that will hold hearings with all proceedings available in Spanish as well as English, and make recommendations to the Department of Labor. There will be three members of this commission chosen from the Farm Bureau, the AFL-CIO, and a chairperson appointed by the Commissioner of Labor.

NOFA-NY provided comments on FFLP and testified at public hearings. We participated in coordinated efforts with other food and farm groups to balance supporting the bill with preventing the immediate implementation of the proposed Overtime provision, which called for time and a half for overtime over 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. The current bill mandates overtime at time and a half after 60 hours in one week.

CBD Hemp Bill
Bill Number: (S6184/A7680)

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and Senator Jen Metzger, this bill regulates the production and marketing of hemp extract in New York by establishing a regulatory framework for hemp extract production, manufacturing, and sale in New York. It updates the hemp permitting process and regulates the extract industry through testing and labeling. The bill also requires that New York State hemp processors use New York-grown product.

The New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association (NY-CGPA) advocated for this legislation. More information on the bill is available in NY-CGPA’s press release here.

Beginning Farmers
NOFA-NY supported two bills championed by the National Young Farmers Coalition. One, the New Farmers Grant Fund Program (S5716/A8007) passed in both the Senate and Assembly. Now in its fifth year, the New Farmers Grant Fund program distributes $1 million annually to beginning farmers to help them pay for equipment and construction projects. Updates to this program through S5716/A8007 allow for smaller project grants (under $15,000) and opens up the loan program to farmers who lease their land. Unfortunately the other bill, the Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program (S5715/A8101) did not make it out of committee in the Assembly. We hope to see this bill reintroduced in the 2020 legislative session.

Farmland Protection
American Farmland Trust led a coalition of organizations (including NOFA-NY) that worked to preserve funding for farmland protection in the state budget. The final Fiscal Year 2020 budget included $18 million in funding for the Farmland Protection Program, as well as $400,000 for the Farmland for a New Generation New York program, a statewide support network for farmland access.

About NOFA-NY's Advocacy
The purpose of NOFA-NY’s policy work is to advocate for a sustainable, local, organic food and farm system within New York State. The Principles of Organic Agriculture of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), as well as our New York Organic Action Plan, serve as the foundation for our policy work.

Each January at NOFA-NY’s annual meeting, our members vote on policy resolutions that direct the advocacy work of our organization.

Proposed policy resolutions are drafted and formally approved by both the Policy Committee and the Board of Directors each fall. The approved resolutions are then sent to our membership and posted on our website before a vote of the membership occurs at the annual meeting. A 2/3 majority vote is necessary for passage of a resolution. A historical record of NOFA-NY's Policy Resolutions is on our website here.

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