The briefing paper on PFAS-contaminated farmland in New York by Sierra Club brings much-needed attention to a nationwide issue. Farmland that is contaminated with PFAS aka “forever chemicals” is a threat to public health and farm viability and must be addressed to ensure a safe and prosperous future for New York agriculture and the millions who rely on it. NOFA-NY echoes the Sierra Club’s call to immediately take action to keep PFAS out of sewage sludge, away from water, and off our farmland. NOFA-NY calls for the state and federal governments to protect the livelihoods of New York’s farmers.
As contaminated soil, milk, produce, and crops are detected, farm families and farmworkers are most vulnerable and need immediate state and federal support to protect themselves, their businesses, and their communities against continued exposure. PFAS linger in soil for decades regardless of current farm practices. In Maine, farmers have identified contamination decades after sewage sludge spreading (the main vehicle of soil contamination) ceased. Even farmers who unknowingly purchased contaminated land years ago and never applied sewage sludge have lost their ability to farm on that land due to contamination.
New York lawmakers and state agencies must act now to immediately identify the extent of contaminated land in New York, curb exposure, and build a well-funded and accessible support network for impacted farms that includes access to soil and water testing, health screenings, and crisis support. Impacted farms will also need financial and liability relief including compensation for lost revenue due to contamination as well as assistance in navigating future business plans.
Additionally, NOFA-NY requests that the Department of Environmental Conservation reconsider the plan to scale up the application of increasing amounts of sewage sludge on land over the coming decades as outlined in the Draft New York State Solid Waste Management Plan. With growing awareness about the harms and prevalence of PFAS-contaminated land, we must revise our waste management strategies to protect public health.
The entire burden must not fall on the New York farming community. We join with Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) in calling for the federal government to take immediate action. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture must seek to better understand the scope of contamination across the country, establish safety standards, and immediately restrict the production and disposal of these forever chemicals. Since there are no current federal thresholds for PFAS contamination in food crops, state-level thresholds are being slowly developed on a case-by-case basis. Without action by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), farms are left with uncertainty over the safety of crops grown on land containing PFAS and consumers do not have the safety measures in place that they deserve.
Additionally, we urge members of New York’s Congressional Delegation to co-sponsor the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act (S.747/H.R.1517) which would authorize funding for states to assist affected farmers, expand monitoring and testing, and fund PFAS research.
Please direct media inquiries to:
Katie Baildon, Policy Manager, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York
315-988-4000 x 507