Policy

Public Statements

To ensure the integrity of organic farming and build an equitable food system, we often submit letters or give testimony to policy makers and institutions.

Below is an open record of letters that reflect NOFA-NY's position on a range of food & farming issues.

Memorandum of Support for Senate Bill S5715 (May 28, 2019)


NOFA-NY strongly supports the passage of New York State Senate Bill S5715 (Metzger), which would expand eligibility for the Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program. Read NOFA-NY's memorandum of support here.

Memorandum of Support for Senate Bill S5716 (May 28, 2019)


NOFA-NY strongly supports the passage of New York State Senate Bill S5716 (Metzger), which update the existing New Farmers Grant Fund Program to support smaller projects that will help young farmers grow their businesses. Read NOFA-NY's memorandum of support here.

Letter on Organic Agriculture and Climate Change (May 20, 2019)


Several bills addressing climate change issues in New York have been introduced in the 2019 Legislative Session. This is 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. Read NOFA-NY's comments to NYS legislative leaders here.

Testimony on the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act (May 2, 2019)


NOFA-NY Executive Director Andrianna Natsoulas gave testimony at a public hearing on the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act (FFLP), held by the New York State Senate at SUNY Sullivan on Thursday, May 2, 2019. Read NOFA-NY's statement here.

Memorandum of Support for Senate Bill S2156 (April 29, 2019)


NOFA-NY strongly supports the passage of New York State Senate Bill S.2156 (Kaminsky) / A.2477 (Englebright), which would prohibit the use of the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos in New York and protect farmers and consumers from exposure. Read NOFA-NY's memorandum of support here, and see a list organizations supporting a chlorpyrifos ban here.

Letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Origin of Livestock (April 4, 2019)

In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the Organic Farmers Association urged USDA to prioritize implementation of an Origin of Livestock Final Rule. Read the full letter here.

Letter to New York Legislators Calling for Neonic Moratorium (March 18, 2019)

On March 18, 2019, a coalition of New York Farms and advocacy groups called on Governor Cuomo and New York's Senate and Assembly leaders to support a moratorium on outdoor uses of neonicotinoid insecticides (“neonics”) and other harmful systemic insecticides. A moratorium—such as the one outlined in the 2018 Birds and Bees Protection Act. Read the full letter here.

Testimony on the Climate and Community Protection Act (March 1, 2019) 

On March 1, 2019, NOFA-NY Executive Director Andrianna Natsoulas testified in favor of the Climate & Community Protection Act (CCPA) at a public New York State Senate hearing in New Paltz, New York. Read Andrianna's full testimony here.

Memorandum of Support for New York Health Act (A. 5248, S. 3577) (February 26, 2019) 

Memorandum of Support 
New York Health Act (A.5248, S.3577)
February 26, 2019

The Northeast Organic Farming Association – New York is writing to share our enthusiastic support for the New York Health Act (A.5248, S.3577) in the 2019 legislative session. This plan will guarantee healthcare coverage to all New York residents, while reducing the burden of costs that make it inaccessible in today’s system even for those with health insurance coverage.

Founded in 1983, the Northeast Organic Farming Association – New York (NOFA-NY) is the premier statewide organization growing a strong organic and sustainable agriculture movement in New York State and is part of a regional network of seven Northeast Organic Farming Associations. NOFA-NY provides education and assistance to local organic and sustainable farmers; connects consumers with organic and sustainable farmers; advocates policies that support a sustainable food and farm system at both the state and federal levels; and is the largest USDA-accredited organic certifier in New York certifying over 1,000 organic operations in the state.

NOFA-NY farmers are family farmers – small businesses who grow our food as well as protect our environment in New York State. Yet they are often uninsured and underinsured, just one serious accident or injury away from financial devastation. Millions of New Yorkers -- even those with commercial insurance plans -- ration healthcare because they cannot afford it, sometimes with devastating consequences. We spend twice as much on healthcare as any other country, yet have worse outcomes.

Even when our farmers are able to afford basic health care, it is often difficult for them to provide it for their employees, or be able to afford vision, dental, hearing, mental health and long-term care and support services. The New York Health Act will guarantee coverage to every resident, providing the healthcare New Yorkers actually need, including vision, dental, hearing, mental health and long-term care and support services.

To make care accessible, the NY Health plan removes means-testing and financial barriers to healthcare, so we no longer have to make difficult decisions between paying for basic needs and healthcare. According to a recent study by the RAND Corporation, the plan eliminates the wasteful spending and business practices of private health insurance companies, so 90% of New Yorkers will pay less than they do now for healthcare, even as access is increased.

New York farmers also want to provide health care for their workers, but often find it unaffordable, as well as unavailable to immigrants. Eliminating the need for employers to buy health coverage would make New York dramatically more job-friendly, especially for farmers. Employer health coverage spending as a share of payroll is up more than 50% in a decade, and many farmers pay even higher percentages than larger companies. Over 400 businesses have endorsed the legislation.

The New York Health Act will guarantee that every resident is covered, regardless of immigration status, which is of particular help to farmworkers in New York. This alleviates the burden that many immigrants face in navigating the complexity of health insurance plans, many of which exclude their participation completely. With the rise of public charge restrictions, a state-funded program like the NY Health Act would provide important protections to immigrants who use the healthcare system in New York State.

The New York Health Act is better for farmers, farmworkers, all working people, women, seniors, health care providers, and would bring tax relief to all New Yorkers by eliminating the local share of Medicaid.

For these reasons, NOFA-NY, on behalf of our farmers and thousands of members and supporters throughout New York State, fully supports the New York Health Act and look forward to a future with universal, guaranteed healthcare for all residents in New York State.Sincerely,
Andrianna Natsoulas,
Executive Director

Letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Origin of Livestock (February 9, 2019) 

 
In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the National Organic Coalition urged the National Organic Program to put the matter of Origin of Livestock back on the regulatory agenda and publish a Final Rule in 2019.
 
Read the full letter here and learn more about this campaign from the National Organic Coalition here.

Policy Resolutions

Each year at our January annual meeting, our members vote on policy resolutions that direct the advocacy work of our organization. 

Voting hands raised with Liz H

Proposed policy resolutions are drafted and formally approved by both the Policy Committee and the Board of Directors in the 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. Current members are encouraged to submit proposals for policy resolutions to be considered by the Policy Committee and Board of Directors. To view all Policy Resolutions from years past, click here.


2019 Policy Resolutions

DAIRY RESOLUTION

Whereas, many New York organic dairy farmers are no longer profitable because of the substantial drop in pay price (up to 25% for most NY farms), caused by a surplus of organic milk coming from an increase in the number of non-New York based ‘organic’ concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the western and mid-west U.S.; 

And whereas, ‘organic’ CAFOs are able to provide organic milk at a lower price because of their non-compliance with the pasture and origin of livestock federal regulations, which has been allowed by their certifier;  

And whereas, it is NOFA-NY’s belief that New York State organic dairy farmers comply with requirements of the USDA National Organic Program, including access to pasture and origin of livestock;  

NYS organic dairy farmers are therefore at a significant competitive disadvantage to industrial factory farm organic dairies, and are now feeling the result, causing many farms to barely stay in business and others to go out of business or surrender their organic certification; 

And whereas, if actions are not taken immediately, we will see a significant loss of organic dairies and organic Grass Fed dairies in NYS;  

And whereas, if action is not taken, we will see a significant loss in the integrity of the organic label which will also lead to a loss in profitability of all of our NYS organic farmers. 

Resolution: The members of NOFA-NY demand that action be taken on multiple levels to stop the assault on the integrity of the organic label, including: 

1.  Organic Dairy buyers and processors should refuse to accept milk from operations whose certifiers do not comply with the letter and intent of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, including:  

  • Compliance with the 2015 Origin of Livestock Proposed Rule;
  • Full Compliance with the access to pasture requirement; and,
  • If they have been named by the USDA as having certified fraudulent domestic or imported products. 

2.  On the State level, we request assistance from the NYSDAM and the Governor in being an advocate at the USDA/NOP and at National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. That the NYSDAM work with PA and VT, with whom it has entered into an Agreement for Collaboration, in advocating for organic dairy farmers everywhere – and specifically at the NASDA meetings.  

3.  On a Federal level, that the USDA  immediately and consistently enforce all organic standards, as intended by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and required by law.  

SUPPORT IN PRINCIPLE FOR FARMWORKER FAIR LABOR PRACTICES BILL

(if carefully renegotiated with representation of family-scale organic farmers and farmworkers at the table) 

Whereas, while the NYS Assembly has regularly passed the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Bill, but not the State Senate; 

And whereas, the language of the Bill has changed several times, yet organic farmers and actual farm workers, both immigrant and local workers, have not been at the table when changes have been decided on; 

And whereas, in 2013, NOFA-NY polled farmer members to find out what sections of the original FFLP Bill they supported, and which ones they would want to change; 

And whereas, the Fairness Principles of Organic Agriculture emphasizes that those involved in organic agriculture should conduct human relationships in a manner that ensures fairness at all levels and to all parties – farmers, workers, processors, distributors, traders and, consumers. 

Resolution: The members of NOFA-NY affirm that we stand for fairness for all of the people who work on farms, farmers and hired workers alike, and would support a revised version of FFLP IF family-scale farmers and representative farmworkers, including both NYS residents and immigrants, can be at the table to negotiate final language. 

BAN HARMFUL SYSTEMIC INSECTICIDES

Whereas, since their introduction in 1994, neonicotinoids (neonics) have become the most popular insecticides in the U.S., with more than eight million pounds having been applied nationwide—the vast majority since 2005; 

And whereas, neonics are neurotoxic and harmful to bees and other insects at even miniscule doses. A large and growing body of scientific research demonstrates that widespread neonic use is a leading cause of recent massive declines in pollinator populations that threaten global food security, the U.S. agricultural economy, and the environment; 

And whereas, neonics are “systemic” insecticides, designed to be absorbed into plant tissues— including nectar, pollen, and fruit—making them poisonous. This property also allows neonics to be easily transported in rain or irrigation water, leading to broad-scale neonic contamination of soil and water, also threatening aquatic ecosystems; 

And whereas, the European Union and Canada have both moved to ban outdoor use of the three most commonly used neonics given concerns regarding their injuries to pollinator populations and aquatic animals; 

And whereas, preliminary results from several recent general population studies have raised human health concerns that prenatal and early-life exposure to neonics could be linked to disorders like autism, heart deformations, muscle tremors, and memory loss; 

And whereas, other systemic insecticides, including fipronil, flupyradifurone, and sulfoxaflor, share many of the same harmful properties as neonics and may be used as substitutes for neonics. 

Resolution: The members of NOFA-NY call for NYS legislation to ban outdoor uses of harmful systemic insecticides, including all neonicotinoid insecticides, in New York. Consequently, we support the Birds and Bees Protection Act, which places a moratorium on the use or sale of all outdoor-use products containing neonic pesticides or fipronil for five years. 

IMPROVE NYS APIARY PROGRAM

Whereas, beekeepers throughout the state are opposed to any mandatory registration to require traceability of hives and their beekeepers, citing: lack of transparency by Albany, lack of services, misuse of information, and adding fees to an already costly profession; 

And whereas, the current registration form states that by registering, you will be notified of bee health developments, but these have not been forthcoming from Albany; 

And whereas, what is needed is to form a consensus among beekeepers of what would constitute an acceptable Apiary Program. 

Resolution: The members of NOFA-NY call upon Governor Cuomo and Agriculture Commissioner Ball to improve the Apiary Program in the following ways: 

  1. Keep hive and apiary registration voluntary in NYS.
  2. Provide notification and communication of county spraying for mosquitoes, use of bee toxic substances for tick abatement, and outbreaks of honey bee disease such as American Foulbrood, for all beekeepers and the general public.

BAN GLYPHOSATE-BASED HERBICIDES

Whereas, since 1974, over 1.6 billion kilograms of glyphosate active ingredient have been applied in the US, and two thirds of the total volume of glyphosate applied in the US between 1974 and 2014 was sprayed between 2005 and 2015; 

And whereas, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer working group's 2015 decision to classify glyphosate as a grade 2A probable human carcinogen followed an extensive review and evaluation of the weight of all available evidence;1 

And whereas, where testing is done, detectable levels of glyphosate are rising in the urine of people in the US and in NYS, in particular, and where found, the mean level of glyphosate in also rising;  

And whereas, herbicides with glyphosate as the main ingredient are used on millions of farm acres in NYS, sprayed in parks and other public places in and around New York City, and also routinely sprayed around homes and yards by members of the public who have no training in pesticide application. 

Resolution: The members of NOFA-NY call for NYS legislation to ban the use of all glyphosate-based formulas on farmland, parks and other public spaces, and further that Round-Up products should be removed immediately from the shelves of hardware and other stores in NYS. Consequently, we support Senate Bill S126/Assembly Bill A8889 which prohibits the sale and distribution of glyphosate and products containing glyphosate, and urge its sponsors to resubmit it in the 2019 legislative session.  

CLIMATE VICTORY GARDENS

Whereas, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in Oct. 2018 predicts as few as 12 years to dramatically reduce atmospheric carbon or risk an uninhabitable planet. 

And whereas, lack of action by the US Federal government (and others), leaves realistic emergency solutions to state and local governments and non-governmental organizations; 

And whereas, the fossil fuel-based food economy is a significant cause of rapid climate change, due to large mechanized industrial operations, long distance transport, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, extensive processing, refrigeration, plastic packaging, etc.; 

And whereas, restoring depleted soils through regenerative practices (e.g., planting cover crops and perennials, eliminating monocultures and tilling) could sequester up to 60 tons of carbon per acre in the soil, increase crop productivity, and improve nutrient uptake, water retention, and pest resistance while avoiding the synthetic fertilizer and pesticide treadmill; 

And whereas, the ocean has become a carbon sink, causing its acidification, which harms shellfish and coral, and disrupts the food chain; 

And whereas, the sustainable offshore farming of seaweed - requiring no inputs and protecting the commons - would absorb carbon and also serve as food, fertilizer, and fuel. A 300' x 300' offshore plot can grow 24 tons of seaweed in 5 months. And a 20 acre seaweed garden can remove 134 tons of carbon a year; 

And whereas, fishing communities can begin offshore vertical gardens that harvest fast-growing seaweed and also bivalves that filter seawater as they take in nutrients. Unlike salmon aquaculture, seaweed and shellfish require no fertilizers, antibiotics, pesticides, or complex infrastructure, and do not become a risk to wild fish; 

And whereas, through regenerative farming and gardening, both soil and seaweed, we can drawdown CO2 and feed ourselves, while healing the planet. 

Resolution: The members of NOFA-NY resolve that we support state and local emergency solutions to the climate crisis, including a return to the successful WWII Victory Garden model where the government encouraged everyone to turn their lawns and yards into gardens. Climate Victory Gardens, as proposed by Green America, would use regenerative practices to quickly convert lawns, public spaces, and coastal waterways into carbon sponges and nutritious food. Every place for a land or marine garden, and every person can be part of this fast, low-tech contribution to victory over our climate crisis. 

NATURE NEEDS HALF

Whereas, to avoid the worst of the two great environmental catastrophes — climate change and the sixth extinction crisis — looming on the horizon, several empirical studies suggest that we need to set aside about half of the terrestrial and marine realms. 

Resolution: The members of NOFA-NY call for a massive, global agreement that would dramatically increase the amount of the world covered by park and indigenous protected areas — up to the Half Earth goal. Such an agreement would likely fall under the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity. 

AGRICULTURAL WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

Whereas, a resilient agriculture sector in New York relies on creating and retaining a well-trained and highly skilled agricultural workforce and preparing the next generation of farmers for long-term success. New York State provides some support for agricultural workforce development through currently available programs, but more can be done to provide young farmers with the training they need to work in agriculture and eventually own their own viable operations; 

And whereas, New York State has an opportunity to build on existing workforce development programs to direct new resources toward supporting more agricultural workforce training opportunities, such as those in the Colorado Agricultural Workforce Development Program. This program provides a financial incentive to agricultural businesses, by reimbursing up to 50% of the cost of paid internships that provide real-world work experience of at least 130 hours and not more than 6 months.  

Resolution: NOFA-NY encourages New York State to consider establishing a financial incentive program for workforce development that would complement existing resources by paying up to 50% of the cost of paid internships, plus health insurance, and be available for interns who pledge to farm in NYS. 

STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS

Whereas, student loan debt is preventing many young people from pursuing careers in agriculture. Higher education often comes at a steep cost, leaving young graduates with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. Managing debt is a challenge for any young person starting a career, but for farmers, this existing burden can prevent them from accessing the necessary credit to launch and grow their farm businesses;  

And whereas, there is lobbying at the Federal level to include farming as an eligible profession through the Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, but until that happens, forward-thinking state programs like the New York State Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program—administered by the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation—can provide some financial relief. However, as currently structured, it is difficult to qualify for the New York program. These changes could improve young farmer access to the program;  

And whereas, currently, the program requires that eligible applicants be employed in a full-time managerial position on a farm, and that they apply within two years of graduating. This creates a difficult window of eligibility for an aspiring farmer to work their way into a management position within only two years after graduating. Also, if they work on a small farm, they may be performing many managerial roles without formal recognition as a manager. We recommend changing the statute to extend the window for applying for up to twenty years from graduation, but to require that they have been farming for at least five years and commit to farming in NYS; 

And whereas, the program is only available to graduates of colleges and universities within New York. Opening the program to graduates of colleges and universities from other states could help attract young farmers to launch their businesses in New York.

Resolution: The members of NOFA-NY call on New York State Higher Education Services Corporation to lengthen the window of application eligibility for the New York State Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program, broaden eligibility to graduates of colleges outside of New York, expand eligibility to include full time positions that have a management role as well as a labor role, rather than limiting eligibility to only positions that are classified as management,  and require a commitment to farming in NYS. 

IMPROVED GRANTS FOR BEGINNING FARMERS TO INVEST IN THEIR OPERATION

Whereas, access to grant funds can be a significant boon for beginning farmers who need to invest in their operation with new equipment or farm structures, but lack the access to traditional loans to finance such investments. The Empire State Development Corporation New Farmers Grant Fund Program is an important resource for beginning farmers, having provided $3.27 million in funding since 2014. But access to the program could be improved by adjusting some of the eligibility and application requirements;  

And whereas, the minimum award amount of $15,000 together with the minimum 50% applicant match requirement, exclude potential participants who are in need of support for smaller projects. The program could be restructured to allow for a lower tier, or tiers, that would accommodate projects under $15,000. The match requirement could also be adjusted depending on project size. While the intent of the match requirement is clearly well intentioned—to ensure that awardees have a significant financial interest in the project—this seems duplicative since awards are also structured as reimbursements;  

And whereas, many farmers grow their operations on leased land. While in some cases, long-term leases and ground leases can provide an effective solution to land access, the program does not currently allow applicants who farm on leased land to use grant funds for farm structures that are difficult to relocate;  

And whereas, for some applicants, the current timing of the grant cycle creates a challenge. Farmers often make improvements to their operations in the early spring. Because awards are not announced until late spring or early summer, farmers may need to implement projects without knowing the outcome of their application, or wait a full year to move forward. Additionally, some farmers would benefit from a shorter timeline between when a project is approved and when project cost reimbursements are received.  

Resolution: The members of NOFA-NY call upon the Empire State Development Corporation to improve the New Farmers Grant Fund Program in the following ways: 

  1. Create a lower tier, or tiers, of award opportunities and adjust applicant match requirements.
  2. Allow farmers with long-term lease arrangements to utilize funds for construction projects constructed in such a way that they can be moved from the land with the farmer.
  3. Adjust the grant cycle to reflect the farming season and reduce processing time between awards and reimbursements.

FARMLAND FOR A NEW GENERATION

Whereas, beginning farmers in New York, and throughout the nation, face major barriers in getting started in farming—including finding affordable farmland; 

And whereas, according to recent reports released by the National Young Farmers Coalition and the American Farm Bureau Federation, access to land is one of the biggest barriers to farming in New York and across the country; 

And whereas, according to the USDA census, there were 30% fewer young farmers in New York in 2012 than in 2002; 

And whereas, more than 30% of New York’s farmers are 65 or older and there is evidence that over 90% of these senior farmers do not have a succession plan; 

And whereas, these senior farmers own or operate nearly 2 million acres of land throughout New York State that is vulnerable to being lost to development when farmers decide to retire; 

And whereas, there is renewed interest and vigor in farming, both from people who grew up in farm families and from those who did not; and, a real and immediate need to connect farmers with landowners and available land across New York State over the next decade. 

Resolution: NOFA-NY supports State funding to be allocated for a Farmland for a New Generation-NY Resource Center, including a statewide website enabling farmers to find land in every region of New York and landowners to list land available for farming; and to support a Network of Regional Navigators at Cornell Cooperative extension, Land Trusts and other organizations to provide coaching and personalized assistance to farmers and landowners across New York in order to secure land deals.