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.

 


2017 Policy Resolutions

HEALTHY SOIL / FARMING CARBON INCENTIVES

Whereas, soil health is an essential focus of organic farming and essential to the future of human existence on the planet earth;

And whereas, increasing carbon in the soil through building organic matter (52% carbon), reducing tillage, using cover crops, rotations and compost are basic practices on organic farms;

And whereas, to reach the world wide goal of holding temperature rise to 2 degrees centigrade, it will not be sufficient to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels without also restoring soil carbon through regenerative organic agriculture practices;

And whereas, over 100 developed and developing countries and not-for profits have already signed onto the “4% per 1000 Initiative: soils for food security and climate,” a voluntary action plan to raise soil organic matter by .4 percent per year under the Lima Paris Agenda for Action (LPAA). The French Agriculture Ministry initiated this campaign because they have research which shows that a 0.4-percent annual growth rate in soil carbon content would make it possible to stop the present increase in atmospheric CO2 and achieve the long-term objective of limiting the average global temperature increase to the 1.5°C to 2°C threshold beyond which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says would lead to a climate disaster. Visit the official 4 per 1000 website to learn more: http://4p1000.org/

And whereas, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in 9 northeast states, including NY, provides funding for greenhouse gas abatement programs.

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY call upon the Governments of NYS and the USA to become signatories to the “4 per 1000 Initiative,” and also call upon the NY DEC to allocate funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to a NY Healthy Soils Initiative that will provide funding for increased research on soil health, for identifying simple measurement tools for monitoring carbon sequestration in soils to a depth of at least 1 ½ feet, and for incentives to farmers in NYS to improve regenerative soil health practices that restore soil carbon. The members of NOFA-NY also call upon DEC to expand the Climate Smart Communities model action plans for county and municipal governments to include food and agriculture.

APPLYING THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE TO GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS

Whereas, the precautionary principle (or precautionary approach) to risk management states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public, or to the environment, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action that may or may not be a risk. The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. These protections can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that provide sound evidence that no harm will result. In some legal systems, as in Law of the European Union, the application of the precautionary principle has been made a statutory requirement in some areas of law. The United Nations General Assembly has adopted the principle;

And whereas, the science of genomics is in its infancy, despite the disproportionate investment of public research dollars to the detriment of ecological alternatives;

And whereas, genetically engineered material (GEs/GMOs)* can be transferred to other crops and weeds, but once released it is impossible to "clean up" any unforeseen consequences;

And whereas, the collateral damage of genetically engineered crops can include the deaths of beneficial insects and other organisms, as well as the loss of usefulness to organic and conventional farmers of natural biological pesticides, such as Bacillus thuringiensis;

And whereas, the only potential guarantee of the safety of any specific novel or existing GMO comes from its subjection to a rigorous process of risk assessment. Such a risk assessment must protect all living beings (wild, domesticated, and human) that are necessary components of healthy farmland ecosystems. Moreover, these organisms should be protected at all stages of their life cycles, in subsequent generations, and from any substances produced by GMO crops that, even when not immediately toxic, nevertheless could interfere with the normal behavior or reduce the functioning and reproductive fitness of these organisms in other ways;

And whereas, even when individual GMO transgenes are claimed to be not harmful on the basis of existing test results and risk assessments, GMO transgenes in combination (i.e. stacked transgenes) may be potentially harmful. Such possible hazards, which exist in vast numerical permutations and which each have potentially diverse and/or serious consequences, must all be evaluated and prevented from occurring.

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY resolve that, given the proven possibilities that GMOs could cause harm, consequences of which have already been demonstrated in scientific publications, no currently existing system of risk assessment is sufficient to achieve this task. Thus, on the grounds of the Precautionary Principle, we conclude that GMO crops, animals or microorganisms cannot be adequately tested to provide sufficient assurance of safety. They are, therefore, inappropriate for use in agriculture.

*The following definition of Genetically Engineered Organisms (GEO/GMOs) has been recommended by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and adopted in the American Organic Standards of the Organic Trade Association: Genetically engineered is defined as: made with techniques that alter the molecular or cell biology of an organism by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes. Genetic engineering includes recombinant DNA, cell fusion, micro- and macro-encapsulation, gene deletion and doubling, introducing a foreign gene, and changing the positions of genes. It shall not include breeding, conjugation, fermentation, hybridization, in-vitro fertilization and tissue culture. NOFA considers this definition to encompass new so-called gene editing technologies. 

FOOD SOVEREIGNTY

Whereas, Food Sovereignty asserts that the people who produce, distribute and consume food should control the mechanisms and policies of food production and distribution, rather than the corporations and market institutions that have come to dominate the global food system;

And whereas, Food Sovereignty was first introduced by the global peasant network, La Via Campesina, in 1996 in response to the United Nations World Food Summit that convened to develop a global response to growing hunger, malnutrition and concerns of agricultural capacity to feed the world;

Whereas, Food Sovereignty defines much of the work that the seven NOFA chapters have done over more than 40 years and supports NOFA-NY’s mission to create a sustainable regional food system that's ecologically sound and economically viable;

And whereas, the Food Sovereignty framework is defined by the following original principles:

  1. Food: A Basic Human Right - Everyone must have access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. Each nation should declare that access to food is a constitutional right and guarantee the development of the primary sector to ensure the concrete realization of this fundamental right.
  2. Agrarian Reform - A genuine agrarian reform is necessary which gives landless and farming people – especially women – ownership and control of the land they work and returns territories to indigenous peoples. The right to land must be free of discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race, social class or ideology; the land belongs to those who work it.
  3. Protecting Natural Resources - Food Sovereignty entails the sustainable care and use of natural resources, especially land, water, and seeds and livestock breeds. The people who work the land must have the right to practice sustainable management of natural resources and to conserve biodiversity free of restrictive intellectual property rights. This can only be done from a sound economic basis with security of tenure, healthy soils and reduced use of agrochemicals.
  4. Reorganizing Food Trade - Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. National agricultural policies must prioritize production for domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.
  5. Ending the Globalization of Hunger - Food Sovereignty is undermined by multilateral institutions and by speculative capital. The growing control of multinational corporations over agricultural policies has been facilitated by the economic policies of multilateral organizations such as the WTO, World Bank and the IMF. Regulation and taxation of speculative capital and a strictly enforced Code of Conduct for TNCs is therefore needed.
  6. Social Peace - Everyone has the right to be free from violence. Food must not be used as a weapon. Increasing levels of poverty and marginalization in the countryside, along with the growing oppression of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, aggravate situations of injustice and hopelessness. The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization, repression and increasing incidence of racism of smallholder farmers cannot be tolerated.
  7. Democratic control - Smallholder farmers must have direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels. The United Nations and related organizations will have to undergo a process of democratization to enable this to become a reality. Everyone has the right to honest, accurate information and open and democratic decision-making. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation in economic, political and social life, free from all forms of discrimination. Rural women, in particular, must be granted direct and active decision making on food and rural issues.

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY hereby resolve that the concept of Food Sovereignty (food as a basic human right, agrarian reform, protection of natural resources, domestic production and consumption of food, ending hunger, social peace, and democratic control), as understood by the world community, is in line with our basic principles and beliefs. NOFA-NY will uphold the principles and work to actualize them within the organization, among our networks and in coordination with our allies. Furthermore, we resolve to support policy initiatives that uphold the principles, as well as fight policies that threaten and undermine them. Thereby, NOFA-NY resolves to participate in the movement toward Food Sovereignty.

SEED SOVEREIGNTY RESOLUTION

Whereas, Seeds are a foundation of life, and humans have a history of using and sharing seeds that have led to the creation and supported civilizations for over 10,000 years;

And whereas, “As a fundamental input in agriculture, seed serves as a farmer’s first defense against pest, disease, and other production challenges. Seed genetics also largely dictate the quality and integrity of our food – from appearance to flavor to nutritional content. In this way, seed holds endless potential for transforming the food we eat and how we farm, especially when coupled with the principles that helped build the organic movement – the principles of health, ecology, fairness, and care;

And whereas, “...seed is much more than an input. It’s a living, natural resource that demands careful management to ensure a secure and healthy food supply. Currently, the dominant seed system abuses intellectual property rights and fiercely protects them. They discourage farmers from participating in research and seed saving.” [OSA, State of Organic Seed 2016];

And whereas, Seed Sovereignty – the right of farmers, gardeners and all individuals to use, exchange, and sell their own seeds and plants – is foundational to agriculture, food production, and life on this planet.

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY hereby resolve to support and initiate efforts in the education, legislative, regulatory, and other arenas on a federal, state, and local level that encourage seed saving and the principles of seed sovereignty.

BACKGROUND:

Principles Guiding an Alternative Seed Protection Model:

  • Seed is a limited natural resource that must be managed in a manner that enhances its long-term viability and integrity
  • The equitable exchange of plant genetics enhances innovation and curtails the negative impacts of concentrated ownership and power in decision making
  • The maintenance and improvement of genetic and biological diversity are essential for the success of sustainable food systems and greater global food supply
  • Farmers have inherent rights as agricultural stewards, including the ability to use, save, store and sell seed, and are key partners in seed system development
  • Public research should serve the public good and remain in the public domain

Seed Libraries: Seed Libraries support the non-commercial sharing of seeds without legal barriers of labeling fees and germination testing requirements in seed library or interpersonal seed sharing.

The Federal Government must reinvigorate public, classical plant and animal breeding programs and provide farmers with publicly-available, regionally adapted seeds and breeds. Current funding streams for these research programs are massively unbalanced in favor of lab-based methods at the expense classical, field-based plant and animal breeding.

Independent Initiatives: The Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) is an example of a voluntary, non-legal pledge and variety-labeling platform which aims to preserve rights of farmers, to freely use, save, replant, and improve seed. Other legal structures are needed to support the development and protection of open-source seeds and end utility patents.

Future Needs of Seed Sovereignty:

  • Policies that acknowledge the significance of public plant breeding, organic plant breeding and support public plant breeders.
  • Education about regionally appropriate seed sources and organic equivalents.
  • The maintenance and availability of Open Pollinated varieties.
  • Regional networking to support resilient seed systems.
  • Creation of a national organic trials network.
  • Raising the bar on USDA/NOP organic seed requirement.
  • Addressing problems of market concentration and restrictive intellectual property rights.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN LABELING

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY demand quick reinstatement of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requirements for Country of Origin Labeling for beef, pork and chicken. Citizens have the right to know the origin of all food products.

ORGANIC CHECKOFF


Whereas checkoffs have historically been damaging to small and medium sized farmers;

Whereas the organic checkoff proposal was made with very little input from farmers;

Whereas organic farmers are innovative and creative and have a history of finding solid solutions to the community’s problems, we can do better at organic research and promotion than a mandatory adoption of a failed federal program.

Resolution: The members of NOFANY oppose the creation of an organic checkoff.

JUST WAGES FOR FARMERS AND FARMWORKERS

Whereas, wages for farmers and farmworkers are unconscionably low compared to salaries in other sectors of the economy;

And whereas, over the past 50 years, farm products have been getting a shrinking portion of the final food dollar paid by consumers.

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY resolve to work for regulations and legislation that will increase the farmer share of the food dollar so that farm income covers the full costs of production, including living wages for farmers themselves and for all of the people who work on farms.


2016 Policy Resolutions

EMERGING TECHNOLOGY AND NOVEL ORGANISMS

Whereas: Precaution is at the basis of some U.S. environmental and food and drug legislation, although the principle is not mentioned by name. These laws incorporate foresight, prevention, and care, and many give regulators authority to take action to prevent possible but unproven harm.    One of the best examples of precautionary action is the National Environmental Policy Act.  NEPA is precautionary in two ways: 1) It emphasizes foresight and attention to consequences by requiring an environmental impact assessment for any federally funded project, and 2) it mandates consideration of alternative plans.

And whereas, other laws are precautionary in intent. The Endangered Species Act sets the goal of protecting biodiversity. The Clean Water Act establishes strict goals to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters.  Unfortunately, precautionary action has been the exception rather than the rule in U.S. agricultural policy. Instead, even laws with precautionary intent and substance have been undermined, overridden, and poorly enforced.   The application of the precautionary principle in agriculture is becoming ever more important as new and novel technologies and organisms are being promoted by industry to solve agricultural issues. 

 And whereas, New York is a high profile state for emerging technologies and novel organisms in agriculture.  Currently, Oxitec is working with Cornell University on a plan to release GM diamondback moths (scientific name Plutella xylostella) as part of an experiment within the grounds of the Cornell University New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) in Geneva, New York. Oxitec, recently purchased by US-based Intrexon Corporation for $160 million, has been funded by venture capital and UK government grants.   In addition to GE Diamondback moths, Oxitec is developing other GM agricultural pests, such as fruit flies, bollworms and olive flies, and GM mosquitoes. All the company’s GM insects are intended to be released repeatedly in large numbers (multiple millions on an experimental scale, or billions if commercialized) into the open to mate with the wild species.  

And whereas, Oxitec’s GM mosquitoes have been released in open experiments in the Cayman Islands, Malaysia, Panama and Brazil, but only Brazil has decided to continue with these trials.  Applying the precautionary principle, no country has yet given approval for releases of GM mosquitoes on a commercial scale.  Oxitec has previously sought to release GM diamondback moths in the UK, GM olive flies in Spain, and GM fruit flies in Brazil, but none of these experiments have taken place, due to concerns about potential impacts on the environment and human health and the likelihood of contaminating fruit and vegetables with GM insects. The current permit to release GM moths in New York State would therefore be the first open release anywhere in the world of GM insects with the “female-killing” trait.

And whereas, for the health and safety of humans and the environment and in order to protect the viability of New York State’s organic agricultural community and its economic value to New York State, we urge the use of the precautionary principle be rigorously applied to the trials of the GE Diamondback Moth and all other emerging and novel organisms and technologies. 

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY hereby resolve to urge the use of the precautionary principle as the guide for the testing and implementation of emerging technologies and novel organisms to solve agronomic problems.  History has shown that emerging technologies and novel organisms have the potential to cause serious and at times irreversible harm to human and environmental health when released into the wild.   As a part of any proposed or current trial or implementation of emerging technology and novel organisms, we call for businesses, organizations, universities, governments, and individuals engaged in these trials/implementation to:

  • Fully explore and identify alternatives to deploying novel organisms or other technologies, including organic and sustainable methods to addressing pest, disease, fertility, and other agronomic issues.
  • Place the burden of proof of both safety and efficacy, as well as the liability for consequences of the technology or organism, including unintended contamination or exposure to humans or the environment, on the proponents/owners of the activity/technology rather than on victims or potential victims of the activity/technology.
  • Set and work toward goals that protect human health and the environment collaboratively with other stakeholders; and
  • Bring democracy and transparency to the process of reviewing, approving, and managing trials and implementation.  This includes clear communication to all stakeholders and the community before trials are approved to allow for appropriate public discourse and comment, sharing results and impacts of any trials that occur, as well as any new information that comes forward during implementation.

INCENTIVES FOR A FARMING CAREER

 Whereas, the members of NOFA-NY believe that Farming should be honored as public service.  As the National Young Farmers Coalition states in their report “Farming as Public Service” Farmers provide a public service because:
  • Agriculture meets one of our most basic needs—producing the food we eat;
  • Farmers manage and steward almost a billion acres of land, which is about half of the land area of the U.S.;
  • Farmers support rural economies, providing jobs and income. To help bring young people into farm and ranch careers in this critical time of need, we urge Congress to add farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Whereas, The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, which provides loan forgiveness for people who enter professions that serve a public good, but have salaries too limited to manage student loan debt, is a good example of the kind of debt relief program we support. The PSLF provides debt relief for people who have proven their commitment to farming as a career by forgiving the remaining balance on Direct Loans only after a person has made ten years of payments while working in farming.

 Whereas, The National Young Farmers Coalition surveyed NYFC members and supporters in the fall of 2014 to find out what impact student loans are having on young and prospective farmers. The average student loan debt carried by the 700-plus survey respondents is $35,000. Fifty-three percent of respondents are currently farming but struggle to make their student loan payments. Nearly 30% didn’t pursue farming or are waiting to start farming because their student loan payments are more than a farming salary would support. 

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY hereby resolve that as an incentive to encourage more people to become farmers, the Federal and State programs that provide debt relief for other public service jobs, such as teaching, medicine, public interest attorneys, etc., should include farming as an occupation eligible for student loan debt relief.

NEW YORK STATE MINIMUM WAGE STATEMENT

Raising the minimum wage in New York State is a complex issue involving many interrelated parts that must be considered together. NOFA-NY does not provide blanket support of an increase in the minimum wage to $15 in NYS. It should not happen without due consideration of these interrelated parts. 

NOFA-NY advocates first for farmers to retain a larger share of the food dollar. Organic family farmers contribute much to their communities in the form of healthy food, carbon restored to the soil, cleaner environmental conditions, and healthy local economies. Yet these farmers are often compelled to augment their farm income by obtaining additional employment off the farm. It is only when they can earn a living wage from farming that they can securely and consistently provide higher wages to farm workers.

NOFA-NY is not just an organization of farmers and consumers, but also of farm workers. Many of our members who would identify themselves as farmers when given our usual breakdown of options—farmer, gardener, consumer—actually turn out to be interns, apprentices, farm workers, assistant managers, and farm managers. While their interests are not always identical with farm owners’, in this case NOFA-NY speaks for them all when we point out that the minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation.  Farm employees find it difficult to make financial ends meet and need to be compensated at a higher wage for the hard work they do. We believe these two issues are linked. 

NOFA-NY understands these are complex issues and is dedicated to working towards equitable solutions for the good of the local, organic, food system. 

ORGANIC AQUACULTURE

Whereas: USDA/NOP is about to promulgate standards for organic aquaculture.  It is likely to include the allowance of open-water net pens and wild caught feed.  NOFA believes that there are many paths to organic aquaculture that could comply with basic principles of organic, but confining fish to pens in open water leads to unhealthy fish and adds to water pollution because confinement practices compete with wild fisheries and other marine life by reducing their opportunities for food.  Open net pens also threaten marine ecosystems with the spread of disease and parasites. This is not organic, and USDA/NOP should not approve these systems just because they are approved elsewhere in the world.

And whereas, Land-based, closed-loop, recirculating aquaculture systems have the potential to meet the spirit, intent, and letter of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA).  These systems should be   assessed for their compliance to promote biodiversity and ecological harmony and rely upon the system’s underlying ecology to feed plants and animals. Synthetic materials must not be routinely used to fulfill or prop-up system functions.

And whereas, USDA/NOP, in consultation with the NOSB should move slowly and deliberately in allowing organic fish, and certainly make sure that any allowance fully complies with the Organic Foods Production Act.

For more background, see this Fact Sheet: “Ocean based Fish Farming: Pollution Pathogens and Environmental Impacts” from the Center for Food Safety:

http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/306/organic-and-beyond/fact-sheets/3816/ocean-based-fish-farming-pollution-pathogens-and-environmental-impacts

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY hereby resolve that open-water net pen aquaculture systems of any type cannot be organic because inputs and outputs of the system cannot be monitored or controlled and neither can the exposure of a fish raised in this system to synthetic, toxic chemicals that could be present in the marine environment.

In addition, confinement of migratory and anadromous[i] fish (such as salmon) would not allow them to express their natural behavior, which is a requirement of organic agriculture.

Finally, organic livestock production requires 100% organic feed, so wild caught fish, fish meal and/or fish oil used as feed should be prohibited as feed for organic aquaculture systems so that organic aquaculture products meet standards consistent with other organic animal products.

[1] [1]Anadromous:  fish migrating from salt water to spawn in fresh water.

ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FOR HYDROPONIC PRODUCTION

Whereas: The central theme and foundation of organic farming is the maintenance and management of organic matter in the soil, along with the diverse populations of organisms that are the foundation of soil ecosystems.  Macro and micro-organisms found in abundance in a well- maintained soil tie together a web of interactions that conserve and recycle the elements among all the living organisms and minerals in the system.  It is the management of this ecological balance that defines organic production.  Any system labeled organic, (including hydroponics) should also be based on management of this ecological balance.

And whereas: Hydroponics is the most widely used term for the production of crops without soil. That system of production most often provides nutrients needed to produce a crop by suspending the roots in a nutrient rich solution grown in moist inert material.  Nutrients most commonly used in hydroponic nutrient solutions are synthetic salts.  Hydroponic solutions can be made using only natural materials, including natural mineral salts and organic residuals.  While some certifiers believe that this makes the production system organic, other certifiers do not because they believe that there is much more to organic production than simply adding materials for crop fertilization or crop protection. 

And whereas: Based on these differing interpretations, some organic certifiers are certifying some hydroponic operations, while others are not allowing the certification of hydroponics.   NOC finds this differing implementation of the NOP standards by certifiers disturbing.  Inconsistencies among certifiers weaken the organic label and reflect poorly on the industry. The NOSB agrees. In 2010 the NOSB made a recommendation to the NOP in which they provided guidance on which kinds of soilless production systems should or should not be labeled organic.

And whereas: The NOSB Crops Committee Recommendation "Production Standards for Terrestrial Plants in Containers and Enclosures"[1]  underscores this point.   The recommendation stresses that organic farmers are not just tillers of the soil, but also stewards of the soil ecology on the farm and shepherds of the myriad organisms that support thriving soil ecosystems.  They do not just open bags of nutrients to feed crops and then become certified organic farmers. The USDA National Organic Program recognized this foundation of organic when they wrote the Organic Rule.  At the heart of the regulation of organic production (7 CFR Part 205 National Organic Program; Final Rule) is the definition:

Organic Production- A production system that is managed in accordance with the Act and regulations in this part to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.

And whereas: In organic agriculture, soils are valued for the multiple functions a biologically diverse soil food web provides, not just as a substrate for holding plant roots so the plant grows upright. Many soilless systems, including hydroponics, represent the antithesis of organic production systems because they aim to diminish the ecological complexity of the natural production systems.  By reducing the living organisms in a hydroponic system to solely the crop, the ecological balance is lost. Such a ‘system’ merely feeds the crop with simple inputs of ‘required’ nutrients.  On the other hand,  soilless crop production that is part of a complex ecological system may fit the definition of organic as laid out in the Rule (for example, transplants which eventually are planted in soil, or a system of aquaponics  that cycles nutrients from fish through plants and back, and adds wormcastings and compost).

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY hereby resolve that until a clear definition of organic hydroponics in keeping with principles of organic as a soil based system based on managing ecological balance has been provided by the NOP, certifiers should not be allowed to certify hydroponic systems. Certifiers need to be directed as to which systems may be certified, and which do not meet the criteria and are not eligible for organic certification.   Together with the National Organic Coalition (NOC), NOFA-NY urges the NOP to write “NOP Instruction to Certifiers” that leads to Rulemaking.  The instruction should include clear criteria that follow the NOSB 2010 recommendation, and adhere to the definition of organic production presented in the Rule. 

RENEWABLE ENERGY

Whereas: New York State is in the midst of one of the most ambitious programs in the US to accelerate the transition from the traditional way in which electric energy was generated, managed and delivered, to a completely new, less environmentally damaging, model of an electric energy system. An excellent overview of this transition, termed by the NYS Public Service Commission the REV (Reforming the Energy Vision), can be found in this recent article by David Roberts, New York's Revolutionary Plan to Remake Its Power UtilitiesOur support for a move to more distributed energy generation (known as "DER") and efforts to make our electric grid more efficient and ready to accept green energy from DER is essential, as the alternative to this approach is an ever-greater reliance on natural gas from fracking, which our policy identifies as a dangerous practice that should be banned worldwide. Currently, New York is experiencing a trend of increasing use of natural gas in electric generation, consistent with national trends, as explained by the US Energy Information Agency. Additionally, there is an unprecedented rise in the use of natural gas for heating in New York State, as explained in this recent article by Scott Waldman and Bill Mahoney. If natural gas increases continue, they will result in the need for vast networks of pipelines, compressor stations, and storage facilities to be capitalized and funded across the state. These projects represent real threats to our farmland, as so well explained in the book by past NOFA-NY Conference Plenary Speaker, Atina Diffley, in her book Turn Here Sweet Corn.  These pipelines, as Atina points out, seem to specifically target organic farms-- as natural gas companies recognize that those of us who do not use their synthetic fertilizers made of natural gas are less likely to support the growth of their industry. In New York, we now have the political leadership and will to transition to greener alternatives for heat and power, but the State is looking to the private sector-- which includes us -- to change the direction of the capital markets from supporting the build-out of additional natural gas delivery infrastructure to the widespread support of wind, solar and other renewable DER (distributed energy resources). Now is the time for us to urge divesting from the dirty fuels that threaten to decrease the clean land available to farm, and encourage investment in the technologies compatible with organic farming, which can provide revenue streams to our farms, as well as cleaner energy for our communities.

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY hereby resolve to support the transition to renewable energy sources and join in the call for institutions and individuals to divest from fossil fuel-based energy industries.  We support investment in community-based distributed renewable electric and heat energy systems that do not harm ecosystems and that support healthy soil and clean water required for organic agriculture to thrive in our region. We particularly support community-based distributed energy generation using renewable energy sources because community-based projects allow us to keep our energy local, which results in greater system efficiency and resilience for the general public and for farmers.

 

ORGANIC CHECKOFF

Whereas checkoffs have historically been damaging to small and medium sized farmers;

Whereas the organic checkoff proposal was made with very little input from farmers;

Whereas organic farmers are innovative and creative and have a history of finding solid solutions to the community’s problems, we can do better at organic research and promotion than a mandatory adoption of a failed federal program.  

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFANY oppose the creation of an organic checkoff.


2015 Policy Resolutions

FOOD HUBS AND FOOD PROCUREMENT POLICY

Whereas, Food Hubs facilitate the ability of small and mid-sized farms to gain access to wholesale and institutional markets and distribution channels, as well as to add value-added services that cannot easily be accomplished on-farm, such as peeling, chopping, freezing, drying and packaging; and Whereas, farmers selling to these larger markets often are subject to unfair pricing and contracts, “take it or leave it,” without negotiation, and are unable to cover their full costs of production; and Whereas, far too many of the jobs in the food system do not provide living wages, forcing people who work long hours to resort to government support programs like SNAP to be able to provide for their families, therefore:

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY resolve that whenever public monies are invested in the development of food hubs or similar improvements in the food supply chain and when municipal, county and state government create food procurement policies, NOFA-NY shall advocate that there be the requirement that farmers will be paid fairly negotiated prices that fully cover their costs of production and any jobs created will be living wage jobs with market competitive benefits.

GMO LABELING

Whereas, bona fide GMO labeling is not currently the law of the land, and Whereas, we support and encourage local, state and national food campaigns to promote GMO awareness, therefore:

 RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY resolve that we support and encourage local, state and national food campaigns to promote GMO awareness by communicating to the public that over 75% of processed foods already contain a GMO.

NANOTECH MATERIALS

Whereas, IFOAM defines nanomaterials as follows: “Substances deliberately designed, engineered and produced by human activity to be in the nanoscale range (approximately 1-300 nm) because of very specific properties or compositions (e.g. shape, surface properties, or chemistry) that result only in that nanoscale. Incidental particles in the nanoscale range created during traditional food processing such as homogenization, milling, churning, and freezing and naturally occurring particles in the nanoscale range are not intended to be included in this definition”, and Whereas, there are more than 1,600 consumer products containing man-made nano-ingredients on the market today and the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies database lists 96 food items currently on US grocery shelves that contain unlabeled nano-ingredients, and Whereas, research indicates that they can have a high toxicity to aquatic life, bacteria and human cells and tissues in vitro due to the ability of nanoparticles to be directly taken up by individual cells and cell nuclei (where they may cause DNA mutation and even cell death), especially through the respiratory system, and to pass the blood brain barrier; and Whereas, the US Food and Drug Administration which oversees the safety of the food supply, acknowledges in a 2012 draft report, that 1. nanoparticles pose risks that are substantially different from 7 those of their regular-sized counterparts and 2) "particle size, surface area, aggregation/agglomeration, or shape may impact absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) and potentially the safety of the nano-engineered food substance," and Whereas, nanomaterials are advertised as a component of market-available fertilizers—designed to increase the effectiveness of fertilizers by making them the same size as plant and root pores—but there is no pre-market safety assessment, therefore: 

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY hereby resolve that manufactured nanomaterials are intentionally transformed in new and novel ways that render them unnatural or ‘synthetic’ by most common forms of understanding, and should be defined as one of the "excluded methods" as defined in the regulations of the National Organic Program (7 CFR § 205.2), and be considered as inputs excluded from organic production, processing and packaging, even if they are identical in name and chemical composition to natural and permitted substances and materials. In the future, these materials could be reconsidered if they have been proven safe through peer reviewed science and compatible with the principles of Organic Agriculture

SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY

Whereas, Synthetic biology (Synbio) broadly refers to the use of computer-assisted, biological engineering to design and construct new synthetic biological parts, devices and systems that do not exist in nature and the redesign of existing biological organisms. While synthetic biology incorporates the techniques of molecular biology, it differs from recombinant DNA technology in that synthetic biology introduces synthetically constructed parts and is not limited to the modification of natural organisms, but also extends to the construction of new life forms with no natural counterpart. Additionally, synthetic biology is working at an increased level of complexity not seen in “traditional” genetic engineering. [Issue Brief, FOE] Like genetic engineering, synbio involves tinkering with DNA, except instead of transferring genes between unrelated species—such as putting genes from a bacteria into corn—synbio involves synthesizing entirely new life forms or gene constructs in a laboratory that are sometimes released into the environment, which happens with no real regulatory oversight or labeling. Whereas, The ways in which synthetic organisms will interact with the natural environment are unpredictable and potentially devastating and permanent. While other types of pollution can be cleaned up and do not breed, synthetic biological creations are designed to self-replicate and, once released into the environment, they will be impossible to recall. A synthetic organism designed for a specific task, such as eating up oil from oil spills in the ocean, could swap genes with naturally occurring organisms and outcompete them, potentially disrupting entire ecosystems as a new class of invasive species. EXAMPLES of a few of the current uses of synbio: Evolva is planning to market its synthetic biology version of vanillin this year and plans to market synthetic biology copies of stevia and saffron flavors. Solazyme is developing a “synthetized in algae” version of cocoa butter, as well as an oil designed to mimic the properties of palm oil. Amyris, the first company in the field, is already marketing its farnasene oil to a Japanese pharmaceutical company and to the US military as “jet fuel.” [Jaydee Hanson, CFS blog, May 5, 2014] Whereas, These potential threats underscore the need for a precautionary approach. As a first step, we are pushing for a moratorium on the release and commercial use of synthetic organisms until there is a better understanding of the risks and appropriate regulations are in place. Whereas, “Synthetic biology is an extreme form of genetic engineering that is developing rapidly with little oversight or regulation. A strict adherence to the Precautionary Principle is fundamental in guaranteeing the safe development of synthetic biology. A precautionary approach requires mandatory, synthetic biology-specific oversight mechanisms to account for the unique characteristics of synthetic organisms and products of synthetic biology. Within those mechanisms, ensuring public health, worker safety and ecosystem resilience requires a committed focus on critical risk research and immediate action to mitigate potential exposures until safety is demonstrated. Protection of the public includes a ban on using synthetic biology to manipulate the human genome in any form. Decisive action must also be taken to protect the environment and human health, and to avoid contributing to social and economic injustice. Developers and manufacturers must be responsible for the safety and effectiveness of their processes and products, and must retain liability for any adverse impacts. Throughout, oversight must be transparent and provide public access to information regarding decision-making processes, safety testing and products. Open, meaningful and full public participation at every level is essential and should include consideration of synthetic biology’s wide-ranging effects, including ethical, social and economic” [FOE petition]; therefore;  

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY resolve that manufactured synbio materials are intentionally transformed in new and novel ways that renders them unnatural or ‘synthetic’ by most common forms of understanding, and should be defined as one of the "excluded methods" defined in the regulation at § 205.2 Terms defined, and should be considered as a process excluded from organic production, processing and packaging, even if Synbio products are identical in name and chemical composition to natural and permitted substances and materials. In the future, these materials could be reconsidered if they have been proven safe through peer-reviewed science and compatible with the principles of Organic Agriculture. For more information see: http://www.foe.org/projects/food-andtechnology/synthetic-biology.

TRADITIONAL CHEESE MAKING

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY resolve that in making value-added products, farmers should be free to use traditional materials such as wooden boards to age and store cheeses.


2014 Policy Resolutions

CSA AND SNAP

Whereas, NOFA-NY members agree that people of all income levels should have access to organically grown food from our NY organic farms. To increase access by low-income people, NOFANY has been providing information to help organic farmers gain authorization from USDA to accept SNAP benefits (formerly called Food Stamps). For several years, SNAP benefits have come in the form of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) swipe cards that resemble credit cards. While USDA allows farms that do Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to accept SNAP payments with an EBT card, USDA does not allow payment in advance for more than two weeks at a time and prefers that farms process weekly payments. This results in a greatly increased administrative burden for CSA farms, and Whereas, in order to qualify to administer food stamps, Community Based Organizations have to supply a social security number of an executive director or board member. As this person is not the owner of a business, we feel it is unreasonable to require them to supply this information as this may stop some organizations from moving forward with licensing, therefore:

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY resolve that USDA should simplify the process for EBT customers to participate in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Two possibilities for EBT policy changes that would address this are: 1) allowing EBT customers who are joining a CSA to pay ahead one month at a time for their share, or 2) allowing EBT customers to sign and post-date enough vouchers for the entire CSA season. Both of these changes would allow the farmer to bill for each CSA share on the day it is delivered rather than having to connect with the customer every week.

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY resolve that the USDA should allow CSA farms to keep their EBT machines year-round, even during months of no income.

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY resolve that the USDA should allow Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to use their Federal EIN number on the SNAP licensing application, rather than an individual’s social security number, to increase the ability for CBOs to support EBT customers participating in CSA.

force majeure by Gas Companies

Whereas, the “force majeure” clause is a common contractual clause that frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, or an event described by the legal term act of God (such as hurricane, flooding, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc.), prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract; and Whereas, most force majeure clauses do not excuse a party's non-performance entirely, but only suspend it for the duration of the force majeure; therefore

RESOLUTION: The membership of NOFA-NY opposes the application of "force majeure" by gas companies to extend gas leases when the delay in drilling is due to government regulation

FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS

Whereas, our government has been engaging in secret trade negotiations with the other governments around the Pacific Rim and across the Atlantic; and Whereas, the NAFTA promised an increase of 200,000 jobs in the United States, but resulted in a job loss of over 250,000; and Whereas, since the NAFTA and other free trade agreements, imports of fresh produce from Canada, Mexico and Central America have grown faster than US exports to those countries resulting in serious economic damage to the farmers of the Northeast; and Whereas, the Trans-Atlantic and Pacific Rim Treaties may allow corporations the right to sue legal local, state and national governments for control of public resources, such as the fresh waters of the Great Lakes; and Whereas, the Trans-Atlantic and Pacific Rim Treaties may allow corporations to sue legal governments for the removal of standards or laws designed to protect public health and safety if those laws or standards increase corporate operating costs or reduce profits; therefore;

RESOLUTION: The membership of NOFA-NY resolves that the United States government should withdraw from the Trans-Atlantic and Pacific Rim Free Trade negotiations, and that our representatives in government should vote against the fast track process and against ratifying the Trans-Atlantic and Pacific Rim Treaties.

GENETICALLY ENGINEERED APPLES

RESOLUTION: The membership of NOFA-NY opposes the introduction of GE Arctic Apples in the United States of America and requests APHIS to extend the comment period.

NEONICOTINOIDS

Whereas, these newer chemical compounds were introduced as substitutes for older insecticides such as carbamates and organophosphates that have proven to be high risk for people and the environment, neonicotinoids are poisonous to birds and are implicated in colony collapse syndrome that has ravished populations of honey bees, and Whereas, neonicotinoids are relatively persistent in the environment and mobile in water so that they can find their way into streams, wetlands, and lakes where they may harm aquatic life as well as birds and bees, and Whereas, seed for major crops like corn, grown on over 90 million acres in the U.S., is now routinely coated with these systemic chemicals that travel through the plant and end up in pollen (and the edible parts of the crop) where they are picked up by pollinators, or the treated seeds are eaten by birds, where they may cause mortality or reproductive problems, therefore:

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY hereby resolve that the EPA should ban the use of neonicotinoids and other agri-chemicals that harm bees, pollinators so essential to our food supply.

2013 Policy Resolutions

GLYPHOSATE BAN

Whereas glyphosate (commonly marketed under Monsanto's brand name Roundup) is already used heavily in agriculture, and scientifically has been shown to be a powerful soil biocide, resulting in the increase of microbial plant pathogens, some of which form mycotoxins. Through natural selection, glyphosate is creating the rapid development of herbicide-resistant weeds, limiting the longevity of this chemical as a weed control tool. Glyphosate is being implicated as a possible threat to animal health and ecological diversity, both through its direct effects and through the effects of mycotoxins in our food. Given the real and documented risk of these toxic effects, there is no valid justification to increase the use of glyphosate in the environment by growing or developing new glyphosate-resistant plants, or by any other means. And whereas the discovery of glyphosate in the bloodstream of unborn babies suggests that everyone in North America may have glyphosate in their systems due to the enormous agricultural, suburban and urban acreage around the country doused with this herbicide. This presence, persistence and the consequent problems from glyphosate use are inconsistent with industry-funded research and claims resulting in U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval of this herbicide and the patented crops genetically-engineered to tolerate it. And whereas there are much better ways to control weeds, improve soil health, grow healthy nutrient dense crops, and make for productive, profitable farms than increasing the use of glyphosate, 2,4- D, dicamba and other synthetic herbicides. Rather than increasing the volume of these chemicals used by perpetuating unwise farming practices and the continuing development of herbicide-resistant GMOs, it is much more important for government to encourage farmers to adopt alternative practices that improve soil health, soil microbial diversity and competition, natural weed control and crop health, and produce healthy, reasonably priced food and feed.

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY resolve that in view of the many troubling questions about livestock and human infertility, health and environmental impacts linked to the production and consumption of round-up ready GMOs, the precautionary principle requires us to ban glyphosate until it is proven safe. We support mandatory disclosure of all glyphosate-related research findings, including any industry-funded research that may reveal threats to public well- being. We support government mandates allowing independent research of genetically-engineered crops, including any patented chemicals these GMO's have been engineered to work with. We urge testing for glyphosate be made a regular procedure that doctors can prescribe for their patients.

MANUFACTURER RESPONSIBILITY FOR CONSEQUENCES OF 2-4D and DICAMBA

Whereas there is a likely increase in the use of 2-4D and Dicamba as Round-up's effectiveness as an herbicide decreases and gmo varieties resistant to 2-4D and Dicamba are commercialized. Whereas organic and conventional farms that choose to grow non-gmo crops should not suffer crop losses or contamination due to the actions of these herbicides and should be able to seek compensation from the manufacturer. Whereas 2-4D and Dicamba must be used much more carefully than Round-up and have a significant risk of volatilizing, causing problems well beyond the buffer zone. For example, a sprayer could be some distance from the damaged crop and it may not be possible to identify which farm actually did the spraying, which impacted the crop on a nearby organic or non-gmo farm. 

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY reaffirm our position that the manufacturers of 2-4D and Dicamba herbicides must be held responsible and liable for the consequences of the spraying of these herbicides. The farm that suffers damage should be able to claim compensation that reflects the farm's actual losses; i.e., if the farm is 100% retail, the loss in retail sales, not an arbitrary wholesale value

STATE MINIMUM WAGE FOR FARMWORKERS

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY support linking the floor for farmworkers’ hourly wage to the state minimum wage or the federal minimum wage, whichever is higher.

LIQUID NATURAL GAS EXPORTATION

Whereas, the extraction and production of natural gas puts our soil, and water at risk, adding greenhouse gases to the air. And whereas developing a non-renewable resource that will be exported does not increase US energy independence while it harms all farmers, both organic and conventional, endangering the purity of locally produced food.

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY oppose the international export of Natural Gas derived from sources within the United States and the development of Liquid Natural Gas international export facilities in the United States.

FEDERAL ETHANOL PURCHASING MANDATES

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY oppose federal ethanol purchasing mandates because these mandates raise the price of feed and food.

EXTENSION OF THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS ACT & FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT

RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY call for an extension of the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act to all currently exempted groups and for the expansion of unemployment insurance coverage to all workers with a change in the funding mechanism to make the expense more affordable to small-scale employers.