Top Policy Issues
NOFA-NY’s work on organic food and agriculture has been at our heart since our founding. We are New York’s largest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) accredited organic certifier, and take pride in our 900+ farmers and processors who certify to the USDA standard, as well as the hundreds of other NOFA farmers who grow sustainably – all believing that organic and sustainable farming will bring health and environmental values to our communities and our tables. NOFA-NY is a member of the National Organic Coalition (NOC) - a national alliance of organizations working to provide a "Washington voice" for farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, consumers and industry members involved in organic agriculture. The coalition works to assure that policies are fair, equitable, and encourage diversity of participation and access. In order to achieve this goal, NOC monitors the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which is the federal advisory board that considers and makes recommendations on a wide range of issues involving the production, handling, and processing of organic products.
NOFA-NY’s policy work in this arena includes standing up for high integrity organic standards, understanding the value of restorative organic agriculture that helps fight climate change, and advocating for federal and state policies that support organic as the alternative to our current food and agriculture system. We also fight policies that support unsustainable systems, such as market concentration and genetic engineering, as well as other emerging technologies. This work takes us from the local level, promoting the availability of organic food for all, to the international level where NOFA-NY actively engages with IFOAM – Organics International.
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED DIAMONDBACK MOTH
Cornell University has applied for a permit to execute the world’s first open-air trial of a Genetically Engineered Diamondback Moth (GDM). The purpose of this new GE insect is to reduce pest populations of Diamondback moths through engineering a new female lethality trait (female larvae die, and males go on to reproduce until the population is destroyed) into male GDM. Created in the United Kingdom, those pushing this new technology have not completed any worldwide assessments of health and environmental safety, and only the most cursory of environmental reviews by the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Unless and until all environmental and health impacts have been reviewed, it is imprudent to release hundreds of thousands of novel organisms on the citizens and farms of New York State. NOFA-NY is working to make sure that these evaluations happen on both the federal and state levels, as well as by Cornell itself.
For more information, please see the following facts sheets:
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the process of implementing its new Food Safety Law – the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which will have significant impacts for farmers and all food processors. In 2015, the FDA finalized several major FSMA rules, including one covering produce farmers and another covering food processors.
FSMA gives the FDA broad new powers to prevent food safety problems, detect and respond to food safety issues, and improve the safety of imported foods. To do so, FSMA authorizes new regulations for farmers who grow certain kinds of fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) and for certain facilities that process food for people to eat. The regulations focus on addressing food safety risks from microbial pathogen contamination (e.g., Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Shigella). Deadlines for complying vary, according to the size and type of the operation. FSMA does not address food safety risks from genetically engineered crops, pesticide use or antibiotic resistance.
NOFA-NY is currently developing Food Safety training programs around the state – found out where and when! To learn more about the law itself, go HERE Please check out the helpful guide of Frequently Asked Questions by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
The Farm Bill is the primary agriculture and food policy legislation of the federal government, and is updated about every 5 years. This omnibus bill deals with agriculture, food assistance programs and other aspects under the US Department of Agriculture. The current Farm Bill expires Oct. 1, 2018, and that means it is time to get working on it – from preserving the programs that are important to sustainable and organic food and agriculture to getting active on new programs that will advance our goals. As in past Farm Bills, NOFA-NY works with organizational partners such as the National Organic Coalition and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to get bills developed that make sure that our farmers stay profitable, and that healthy food is available for all.
Some issues important to our farmers include the following: Crop Insurance, Loans, Program Access; Research for Organic Systems, The Farmer Protection Act –Support for Fair Contracts for Farmers and Climate Change Mitigation. Please stay tuned as we develop our full Farm Bill agenda!
Central to farmers’ ability to transform their farm and our environment to organic and sustainable agriculture is the availability of research on all manner of organic systems. NOFA-NY works with Cornell University and the land grant system to develop and support organic research. In addition, we advocate for programs at the federal USDA level to address the unique needs of organic agriculture. Existing federal research policies have marginalized organic research, and have been slow to acknowledge the significant difference of organic farming systems and their individual needs. USDA has largely stopped funding classical breeding efforts at State land grant institutions to develop public cultivars, and has shifted agricultural germplasm research toward only patented varieties that prevent farmers from saving seeds. Yet, one of the basic building blocks of any successful agricultural system - conventional or organic - is farmer access to seeds and breeds that are well adapted to local conditions, soils and climates.
Along with NOFA-NY’s partner, NOC, we work to make classical plant and animal breeding a priority within the USDA research apparatus. This includes supporting policies that acknowledge the significance of public plant breeding, organic plant breeding and support public plant breeders, as well as addressing problems of market concentration and restrictive intellectual property rights.