The purpose of NOFA-NY’s policy work is to advocate for sustainable, local, organic food and farm systems. Our advocacy efforts are grounded in the principles of organic agriculture, health, ecology, fairness, and care, established by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).
Each year NOFA-NY members vote on policy resolutions that guide the advocacy work of our organization.
Proposed policy resolutions are drafted and formally approved by both the member-based 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 to pass a resolution. Current members are encouraged to submit proposals for policy resolutions to be considered by the Policy Committee and Board of Directors. View all policy resolutions from years past here (PDF).
NOFA-NY’s 2023 policy resolutions are listed below.
Whereas, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of chemicals that have been used for decades in a wide range of products, including fire extinguishing foam, water-resistant clothing, grease-resistant food packaging, nonstick cookware, pesticides, and personal care products. Nicknamed “forever chemicals” because of their persistence in the environment, they have also been found in drinking water, dairy products, at industrial sites, and more recently in agricultural land as a result of the application of biosolids (the solid material left after municipal wastewater treatment, also known as sewage sludge), industrial sludges and ash.
And whereas, while research is ongoing, the Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged that PFAS exposure (possibly at low levels), including from eating and drinking contaminated materials, is linked to reproductive effects, developmental effects in children, increased risk of some cancers, and immune system impacts.
And whereas, over the past few years, PFAS have emerged as a growing contaminant of concern not only for drinking water nationwide (including in several communities in New York), but also in agriculture. Both milk from cows grazing on contaminated land or consuming contaminated water and farmland have tested positive for PFAS at high levels. Some organic farms in the state of Maine have discovered PFAS-contaminated soils, most likely due to the application of biosolids decades ago, before the farms were organic.
And whereas biosolids application is not allowed in organic production, legacy pollution from practices used before a farm became organic can still harm organic producers and consumers.
Therefore, the members of NOFA NY resolve to urge federal and state leaders and agencies to take immediate actions to address the issue of PFAS contamination of agricultural land, including:
- Prohibiting the spreading of biosolids on any agricultural land.
- Prohibiting the addition of PFAS ingredients in pesticides.
- Limiting the sale of PFAS-containing products.
- Facilitating and funding state-wide testing of soil and groundwater where biosolids have been applied.
- Funding research into how PFAS contamination impacts farmland and potential methods for remediation of contaminated farmland.
- Developing a program to support farms impacted by contamination with expenses related to testing, compensating losses in revenue due to contamination, and assistance in navigating future business plans.
- Establishing a threshold for PFAS contamination in food crops.
- Establishing a new disaster assistance program to support farms impacted by contamination.
Whereas, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, cascading disruptions in our global supply chains left shelves in grocery stores bare while an increasing number of families turned to emergency food services for meals. At the same time, local growers and processors found renewed consumer appetite for local food and demonstrated how nimble, responsive, and resilient local food systems can be. Within a week of the declaration of the pandemic in March 2020, NOFA member farms had developed protocols for providing food to their customers safely, farms set up online stores to sell not only their own food, but food from neighboring farms as well, farmers donated generously to mutual aid networks in their areas, and were eventually able to receive payment for produce for lower-income families through the Nourish NY Program. (See The Natural Farmer special issue on the challenges of COVID-19.)
And whereas, nearing three years into the pandemic, prices on agricultural inputs and transportation have continued to increase at an even higher rate in 2022, farmers who are able to source fertilizer, feed, and other inputs locally, are insulated from some of the added costs associated with fuel and overextended global supply chains.
And whereas, even the most resilient local food systems are not immune to the national and global economic landscape. Too often, corporate control over agriculture markets pits farm profitability and fair wages for farm- and food-chain workers against family food budgets while companies are making record profits. We must challenge this false dichotomy and advocate for local, state, and federal policies designed to support farmers, farmworkers, and food sovereignty alike.
Therefore, in the next and future Farm Bills, NOFA-NY calls on federal leaders and agencies to support and strengthen local food systems that boost local economies and decrease greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). We want a Farm Bill that:
- Invests in and protects the integrity of organic and agroecological practices as a core solution to our climate and biological crises.
- Ensures fair treatment and just livelihoods for farmers and workers throughout the food and farming system.
- Invests in rural communities, increases fairness and resilience of local and regional supply chains, and breaks up consolidation in agriculture.
- Centers racial justice across all programs and repairs past and ongoing racialized harm.
- Promotes food sovereignty for disadvantaged communities and ensures nutrition security for all.
- Eliminates the use of toxic substances on farmland and in our food system while supporting a just transition for farmers.
Whereas, agricultural enterprises of all kinds use an enormous amount of plastic, most of it single-use. According to a 2019 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), agricultural value chains used 12.5 million tons of plastic for plant and animal production for mulch, silage, tunnel and greenhouse films, irrigation tubes, and drip lines, bags, sacks, and bottles, coatings on fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds, with an additional 37.3 million tons for food packaging, which is roughly 15% of all annual plastic production;
And whereas, plastics are produced from fossil fuels contributing to global warming and damaging air quality, and most of the factories that make them are located in low-income communities, often communities of color as in “Cancer alley” in Louisiana;
And whereas, the complex mixtures of polymers and additives in these plastics make them difficult to make recyclable or biodegradable versions;
And whereas, plastics are very persistent in the environment and cause widespread harm to marine and terrestrial ecosystems through physical effects, such as entanglement or entrapment; chemical effects, such as the release of additives or combustion products; and biological effects, such as root impediment or tissue/cellular damage;
And whereas the hollowing-out of government since the 1970s has led to fewer and fewer state resources allocated to waste management or the development of innovative waste solutions, with even basic recycling services often failing to deliver promised results in sustainable reuse of consumer plastics;
Therefore, the members of NOFA-NY support the “polluter pays” principle, and call upon state and federal legislatures and executive agencies to mandate Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes that promote closed-loop recycling of agricultural plastics, funded by the corporations that produce them, and that these corporations be held responsible to fund and develop the infrastructure needed to collect and recycle all agricultural plastics.
Whereas farm to school programming brings nutritious, fresh, local food to school and early care and education sites across the nation increasing access to healthy food for children, creating markets for farmers, and building local supply chains that are more resilient to shocks in our global food economy;
And whereas, the farm to school movement has grown since 1997 in New York State, and today, New York’s Farm to School Reimbursement Incentive (also called the 30% Initiative Program) and the Farm to School Grant Program incentivize school food authorities to purchase NY grown and raised foods for school lunches—the 30% Initiative Program raises the state portion of school lunch reimbursement from 5.9 cents per meal to 25 cents per meal for any district that purchases at least 30% of their total food costs for lunch using New York State products, defined as either NY Grown & Certified, or containing 51% or more raw NY agricultural product;
And whereas, the 30% Initiative has generated approximately $13 million in spending on products from New York farms and has reached nearly 100,000 kids statewide, a small fraction of the nearly 1.7 million school lunches and nearly 800,000 breakfasts served each day in New York pre-pandemic (2018-2019 school year); this gap demonstrates a large opportunity to expand farm to school and increase the share of school meals that include fresh, locally grown and raised products;
And whereas this increase in farm to school programming can be achieved through federal and state support and investment that increase equity and access to resources for schools and communities while supporting and prioritizing participation in programming by small and mid-sized local producers;
Therefore, NOFA-NY members support the expansion of federal, state, and local farm to school programming that:
- Enables and incentivizes increased local and regional food procurement for all school meals including breakfast and meals served in early care and education settings including through the 30% initiative program
- Increases public investments in farm to school program expansion including through the 30% Initiative Program and the New York State Farm to School grants program
- Prioritizes participation in programming by small and mid-sized local, organic, and agroecological farms
- Ensures fair pricing and contracting for all participating farmers including by increasing the small purchase thresholds to enable schools to purchase more fresh food directly from New York farmers using informal bidding methods
- Reduces or eliminates costs to children and families who receive school meals such as through universal free meals legislation.
Whereas, A holistic approach to farm safety encompasses not only physical hazards, ergonomics, hazardous materials, noise, air quality, and equipment use and repair, but also interpersonal relationships, conflict resolution, and workers’ rights;
And whereas, farms often make the top of the national list for workplace injuries and even deaths. In 2020, 368 farmers and farm workers died from a work-related injury, resulting in a fatality rate of 18.0 deaths per 100,000 workers. Transportation incidents, which include tractor overturns were the leading cause of death for these farmers and farm workers;
And Whereas, the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH) provides comprehensive resources that cover every imaginable farm safety hazard in English and Spanish, free visits to assess safety issues on farms as well as training for farmers and their staff in farm safety, funding to add ROPS to tractors that lack them greatly reducing deaths from roll overs, testing for skin cancer at farmer events, and readily available advice;
And Whereas, New York FarmNet offers its services to farms of all sizes and crop mixes, providing guidance in strategies to manage finances, family communications, and all kinds of stress-related emotional issues (Relationship issues, Family and/or parent-child concerns, Domestic violence, Divorce/separation adjustment, Alcohol, and drug concerns, Grief/loss, Depression and anxiety, Farm conflicts and concerns, Farm retirement, transfer or exit adjustment, Health concerns, Referrals to additional organizations and specialists;
And Whereas, the New York State Agricultural Mediation Program (NYSAMP) offers free or low-cost remote and in-person workshops on farmer well-being, community circles, and professional mediation, conciliation, facilitation, and conflict coaching services for farmers and our communities;
And Whereas, the Agricultural Justice Project, a not-for-profit in which the NOFA Interstate Council is a founding partner, provides technical assistance free of charge in farm labor policies and practices, including an easily adaptable model employee handbook;
Therefore, NOFA-NY supports continued and full funding for the NY Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, NY FarmNet, and NYS Agricultural Mediation Program. It is essential for these State programs to have enough funding to provide staff to work with farmers through education and providing assistance in complying with safety regulations and law.
New York Organic Action Plan
After four decades of spreading organic food, farming, and gardening, NOFA-NY continues to pursue the vision of healthy communities, where everyone has access to fresh, locally grown food and the resources to produce. That goal led to the creation of the New York Organic Action Plan (NYOAP), using the National Organic Action Plan as a model. Volunteer members of the NOFA-NY Policy Committee set out in 2010 to coordinate a state version. To learn how you can support organic, check out the New York Organic Action Plan here.
NOFA-NY maintains membership within several organizations that work to grow a robust organic food and farm system regionally, nationally, and internationally. You can learn more about our partners by visiting their websites linked below.
NOFA-NY is a member of:
- Alliance for New York’s Farmland
- Fossil Fuel Subsidy Elimination Coalition (NY)
- National Healthy Soils Policy Network
- NY Pollinators Coalition