Legislation

NEFU works on federal, state and local policy issues for the benefit of our members and of family agriculture.

On the federal farm bill we seek effective policies and programs that serve the small, mid-sized and diversified family farms of New England. NEFU works on the annual agricultural appropriations process to ensure adequate funding for working lands conservation and many of the programs essential to support a local and regional food system. We also comment on proposed rules, meet with USDA officials and communicate with our delegation about how programs and policies are being implemented on the ground.

We participate in state and local issues that serve our members and meet our policy goals.

Action Alerts


Action Alerts
Let’s Support our Fishermen Members!
Call Gov. Baker Today!

New England’s fishing industry has been in the news a lot recently, from the decline of cod to fishermen having to pay for observers on their boats. These issues are precipitating the greatest fishery crisis in recent history: It will put fishermen in our state out of business. Governor Baker has the power to fix the problem and save our fleet.

According to the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, longtime members of the New England Farmers Union, New England’s groundfish fishery was officially declared a disaster by Congress in 2012, and money was appropriated to each state to help fishermen affected by the decline of cod make it through tough times.

The last pot of money (bin 3 groundfish disaster money, approximately $6.7M) is now slated for distribution, but Governor Baker’s current plan only proposes to help a select few fishermen while excluding the vast majority, including 90 percent of the Cape Cod day-boat fleet. We are asking Governor Baker to help the small-boat fleet and revise his proposal to distribute the last remaining disaster funds to all active commercial groundfishermen in the state.

The governor championed the state’s family fishermen during his election campaign, and we can all ask him to make good on his promise. He has the power to save Cape Cod’s commercial fishing fleet; let’s help him make the right decision.

If you care about the future of Cape Cod’s fishing families and eating fresh, local fish, please call Governor Baker. Call 617-725-4000 and let the Governor know that you want him to distribute “bin 3 groundfish disaster money,” which was paid for with your tax dollars, to all active commercial fishermen so that the small-boat fleet can keep fishing!

Here is an important Cape Cod Times story outlining the issue.

You can also call the following:

Federal

US Congressman Bill Keating – 508-771-0666 (district office)

Cape & Islands delegation

State Senator DeMacedo – 617-722-1330

State Senator Dan Wolf – 617-722-1570

State Rep. Tim Whelan – 617-722-2014

State Rep. Brian Mannal – 617-722-2210

State Rep. David Viera – 617-722-2230 or 508-548-8683 (district office)

State Rep. Sarah Peake – 617-722-2040 or 508-487-5694 (district office)

State Rep Randy Hunt – 617-722-2396 or 508-888-2158 (district office)

State Rep Tim Madden – 617-722-2810 or 508-540-0035 (district office)

State Administration

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton – 617-626-1000

Thank you for supporting the small boat fishermen members of New England Farmers Union!

Farm Bill


Farm Bill

In February of 2014, President Obama signed into law the Agricultural Act of 2014, the farm bill. It represents a major compromise and is the result of more than two years of hard work. While a clear majority of New England’s congressional delegation voted against it, the bill does include more than $1.2 billion of investments over the next five years in programs for local and regional food systems, organic agriculture, rural development, beginning farmers, and dairy production.

As the farm bill was being worked on, New England Farmers Union (NEFU) identified five priority areas: 1) local and regional food systems, 2) dairy policy for New England, 3) conservation and renewable energy, 4) organic agriculture, and 5) beginning farmers. The bill funds many of NEFU’s priority programs at record levels.

Local and Regional Food Systems

The farm bill tripled funding for the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program and expands the program to allow grants to direct-to-consumer projects and projects that support local and regional food enterprises through processing, aggregation, distribution, storage and marketing.

Funding for the Community Food Projects — a grant program that works to increase food security in communities through promotion of self-reliance of communities to meet their own food needs, increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and creating innovative solutions that mutually benefit agricultural producers and low-income consumers—was nearly doubled at $9 million per fiscal year.

The bill includes a new grant program, the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grant program for nonprofits (including agricultural co-operatives, farmers’ markets, and community-supported agricultural programs) engaged in programs that increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The bill also includes authorization for a pilot project for procurement of unprocessed fruits and vegetables under the National School Lunch Act by allowing for geographic preference, including requirements for at least one project to occur in the Northeast region.

SNAP benefits will now be able to be used for purchase of community-supported agriculture shares, and the bill includes pilot projects for improving online and wireless technologies used in purchases made with EBT cards.

USDA was also directed to develop and implement a new nationwide Whole Farm Diversified Risk Management Insurance product to provide revenue insurance for highly diversified farms of all kinds, including specialty crop farms, integrated grain-livestock farms, organic farms, and farms geared towards local markets.

Dairy

The farm bill repeals the Dairy Product Price Support Program, the Milk Income Loss Contract, and the Dairy Export Incentive Program. In their stead, the bill includes two new programs, the Margin Protection Program and the Dairy Product Donation Program, while maintaining the 1949 Dairy Price Support Program.

The Margin Protection Program for Dairy Producers is a voluntary program that pays farmers an indemnity when a national benchmark for actual dairy production margin (the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed cost) falls below an insured level that can range from $4 to $8 per hundredweight of milk.

The Dairy Product Donation Program is another new program under the bill that requires the Secretary of Agriculture to administer a dairy product donation program that addresses low operating margins experienced by participating dairy operations and provides nutrition assistance to individuals in low-income groups, triggered when the actual dairy production margin has been $4 or less per hundredweight of milk for each of the preceding two months.

The Dairy Forward Pricing Program, the Dairy Indemnity Program, and certain provisions of the National Dairy Promotion and Research Program are continued under the bill.

Conservation and Renewable Energy

Wetland and soil conservation rules (conservation compliance) will apply to any farmer who receives crop insurance premium subsidies.

Wetlands Reserve Program, Grasslands Reserve Program, and Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program are consolidated under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and are provided with permanent funding.

The Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative, and Agriculture Water Enhancement Program are consolidated under the Regional Conservation Partnership Initiative.

Funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is set at $8 billion total for fiscal years 2014 through 2018.

The bill provides funding for the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels in the amount of $15 million per year. The Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels helps to ensure the expanding production of advanced biofuels other than ethanol derived from corn kernel starch and supports producers to support and expand production.

Organic Agriculture

The National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, which helps offset the costs of annual certification for organic farmers and handlers, more than doubled its annual funding with $11.5 million annually.

The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative was renewed at $20 million per year and the Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives at $5 million over five years.

The bill also includes exemption of certified organic products from promotion order assessments (checkoff programs) and to allow for the establishment of an organic checkoff program if so elected.

Beginning Farmers

The bill reauthorizes the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, a program designed to develop and offer education, training, outreach and mentoring programs to enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers with $20 million per year.

The bill also provides $33 million for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)Transition Incentives Program to incentivize retiring landowners to rent or sell their expiring CRP land to new or minority farmers. The bill also increases the advance payment that beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer can receive from EQIP and creates a new emphasis on ensuring the sustainability of the next generation of farmers within USDA’s new agricultural conservation easement programs.

Policy Book


Policy Book

The New England Farmers Union Policy Book is discussed, debated and adopted at our Annual Conventions. The Policy Book guides our work all year long and provides an overview of the public policies for a food, fiber and energy policy we believe are essential to our region’s long-term sustainability. The Policy Book helps us to introduce ourselves to prospective new members – and to policy makers. Click here to download a copy of the 2015 Policy Book .

NEFU is a grassroots and member-driven organization and members are invited to submit proposed revisions and amendments to the Policy Book to our Policy Committee. Prior to our Annual Meeting, the NEFU Policy Committee meets to consider all proposals from members and from the NEFU Legislative Committee and them membership at large. All revisions as accepted by the Policy Committee are made available to the membership no fewer than 10 days prior to the Annual Convention by electronic notice and by publication on the NEFU website. At the Annual Convention, members present will be asked to vote on the Policy Book as revised. Amendments may also be proposed from the floor. The 2015 Annual Convention is set for December in New Hampshire. Stay tuned for more details as the date approaches.

Guidelines for policy proposals:

  • NEFU Members in good standing may submit proposed revisions or additions to the policy book at any time.
  • Proposals must be submitted using this official form
  • .

  • Proposals received at least 30 days prior to the NEFU annual meeting will be reviewed by the Policy Committee, which will decide whether or not to approve a proposal as submitted, approve it with revisions, or reject it. A majority vote of the Policy Committee shall be required to move the proposal on to the annual meeting for consideration.
  • Individuals who submit proposals may be called upon to discuss their proposals with the Committee.
  • It shall be the Policy Committee’s responsibility to determine if the proposed revision or addition requires changes to other language in the book in order to avoid contradictory positions, and to amend the proposal or other language if needed.
  • The NEFU Legislative Committee may also propose revisions or additions to the policy book when such revisions or additions are approved by majority vote of the Committee.
  • The Policy Committee may also propose revisions or additions to the policy book. A majority vote by the Committee shall be required to move its proposed revisions or additions on to the Annual Meeting for consideration.
  • Proposals and the decisions of the Policy Committee will be published on the NEFU website no less than 30 days prior to the annual meeting. Members will be notified of their availability for review.
  • NEFU Members in good standing may also propose revisions or additions to the policy book from the floor during the annual meeting. Proposals must be submitted in writing, using the NEFU form, and the author of the proposal identified. The author may be asked to clarify or speak to the proposal. The Chair of the Policy Committee or the Chair’s designee will be asked to comment on the proposal, and may recommend amendments to the proposal or that the proposal be referred to the Committee for additional review and discussion. Discussion on any proposal made from the floor will be limited to a maximum of five minutes, unless a majority of members present vote to allow further discussion.
  • A majority vote of members present is required for passage of any individual policy proposals, and for adoption of the policy book, with any revisions, for the following year.