MOFGA is working on many bills in the State Legislature. We’ll provide updates here as they are reported out of the Revisor’s office to various committees.
Please note, the Legislature has adjourned until April 28. Legislators continue with committee work but will not make final votes on the House and Senate floors until they reconvene in late April.
We hope you will reach out to your legislators and urge them to support MOFGA’s position on these priorities. Civic engagement is virtual in the Legislature due to COVID-19. Here’s how you can participate. You may watch hearings or work sessions live or recorded on the Legislature’s various committee YouTube channels.
MOFGA Priority Bills
LD 437 – An Act To Establish the Maine Healthy Soils Program
Sponsored by Senator Stacy Brenner
Summary: This is MOFGA’s top legislative priority and we’re working closely with Maine Farmland Trust and the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club to advance this important bill. Maintaining soil organic matter levels is at the heart of organic farming. Not only does organic matter improve structure, but it is the key to supporting the dynamic balance of the soil system by feeding bacterial and animal life as well as plants. Farmers across the management spectrum reap benefits from healthy soils practices especially as they face dramatic shifts in weather patterns. The goal of this legislation is to create a one-stop shop for farmers seeking healthy soils information including: healthy soils management practices; technical assistance services provided by both governmental and non-governmental entities; connections to farmers who are using these practices successfully; and funding opportunities to support the use of these practices. The Program would have a fund associated with it that could receive state funding in future years, but, in the interim, could be a depository for any federal or philanthropic funding.
Status: The Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry worked on this bill. A public hearing took place on Thursday, March 4, and a work session on the bill happened on Tuesday, March 16 generating a near unanimous committee vote in support of this legislation. MOFGA co-authored a Portland Press Herald opinion editorial with Maine Farmland Trust and the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club. The Press Herald also published its own editorial in support of this bill. A . Take action to encourage your legislators to support this healthy soils legislation.
LD 125 – An Act To Prohibit the Aerial Spraying of Glyphosate and Other Synthetic Herbicides for the Purpose of Silviculture
Sponsored by Senator Troy Jackson
Summary: This is a MOFGA priority and also a priority of Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition. Forestry herbicides such as glyphosate threaten public health, ecological systems, and local farms—yet Maine’s largest forest landowners routinely use aerial spraying of these hazardous chemicals to manage their property. Banning this practice will encourage a shift toward more ecologically friendly forestry management.
Status: The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee (ACF) is working on this bill. A hearing took place on Tuesday, March 2, and, on Tuesday, March 16, the ACF held its first work session on the bill. You can watch the public hearing on the ACF’s YouTube channel. You can also watch the work session (go to the 1:09 mark). The Bangor Daily News ran an op-ed from MOFGA on this topic. More information about this issue is here. Governor Mills and Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry oppose this bill. Please contact Governor Mills and urge her to change her position and support this important legislation to protect Maine’s people, environment and North Woods economy. We await a second work session on this bill. Committee members have requested additional information from the forest industry. Take action to encourage your legislators to support this bill here.
LD 155 – Resolve, Directing the Board of Pesticides Control To Prohibit the Use of Certain Neonicotinoids for Outdoor Residential Use
Sponsored by Representative Nicole Grohoski
Summary: A growing body of scientific evidence links neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) with the alarming decline of bee populations. In addition to killing bees outright, research has shown that even low levels of these dangerous pesticides impair bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to mount an effective immune response. Neonics are “systemic” pesticides, which means that the chemicals move inside plants. Generally, plant roots absorb the chemicals and then the chemicals move throughout the entire plant. Neonics are very efficient tools for many conventional farmers, landscapers and gardeners because any pest that feeds on any part of the plant will be exposed to the toxin. The poison also flows through to the pollen and nectar and is toxic to bees and other important pollinators. The Legislature will take up discussion on this important step toward reducing the use of products with certain neonic active ingredients: dinotefuran, clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. The bill seeks to ban the use of these chemicals for application in outdoor residential landscapes.
Status: The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee (ACF) held a public hearing on this bill on Thursday, February 18, held two subsequent work sessions, and, on Tuesday, March 9, astoundingly voted (7-5, with one member absent) that the bill should be weakened significantly to continue the licensed applicator use of neonics for aesthetic purposes. A minority report amendment, which would maintain the prohibition for homeowners’ outdoor use and allow licensed applicator use only for invasive species in landscaping, still is in play. This is the ACF’s first vote on pesticides legislation and it is a HUGE disappointment. Those voting to continue to allow pollinator-poisoning neonics to be used for aesthetic purposes include: Senator Jim Dill of Penobscot, Senator Russell Black of Franklin, Representative Sue Bernard of Caribou, Representative Jeffrey Gifford of Lincoln, Representative Randy Hall of Wilton, Representative Scott Landry of Farmington, and Representative Thomas Skolfield of Weld. Please take action to encourage your legislators to support the original intent of LD 155 — to prohibit the use of neonics for landscaping purposes. Urge them to resist pesticide industry influence on the legislative process and reject the drastically weakened amendment that would allow continued poisoning of the landscape for aesthetic purposes.
LD 316 – An Act To Prohibit the Use of Chlorpyrifos.
Sponsored by: Representative Vicki Doudera
Summary: Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide used for many food crops, mosquito control and turf management. It has been at the forefront of concern about synthetic pesticides for decades due to its neurotoxicity, especially among young children. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned chlorpyrifos for residential use in 2001 recognizing that children exposed to the substance exhibited impaired cognitive function, developmental delays, lower IQs, attention deficit disorder, and other disorders of the neurosystem. Chlorpyrifos also was linked to adverse impacts on the reproductive system, renal, hepatic, and endocrine systems. In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its intention to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos. In 2017, EPA reversed the order to ban the chemical and re-registered it for sale and use in agriculture in the U.S. Recognizing the dire impact that chlorpyrifos has on children, several states, including Hawaii, New York, Maryland and California have since passed laws to restrict or ban the pesticide. LD 316, would prohibit the use of chlorpyrifos in Maine beginning in 2022, allowing limited exemptions for one year. MOFGA supports a full ban on the sale and use of chlorpyrifos.
Status: A public hearing before the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, took place on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, at 9:00 a.m. A work session took place on Tuesday, March 16 and MOFGA Public Policy Committee member Sharon Tisher provided excellent information supporting the long-overdue ban on chlorpyrifos. You still may see Sharon’s presentation on the ACF YouTube Channel (go to the 44 minute mark).
Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition
Through our membership with Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC), MOFGA also supports collective opportunities to tackle climate change, help create jobs, reduce pollution in our communities, increase investment in critical infrastructure, and bring more equity into environmental policy decisions. Priorities in the EPC’s common agenda include:
- Banning aerial herbicide spraying for forestry management
- Recognizing tribal sovereignty
- Investing in the Land for Maine’s Future Program
- Closing the loophole in waste management laws that allow out-of-state wastes to be dumped at the Juniper Ridge landfill
- Saving Maine’s municipal recycling programs
- Aligning state agencies with requirements of Maine’s Climate Action Plan
- Establishing a Green Bank to finance climate solutions
- Phasing out toxic PFAS chemicals
- Funding energy efficiency and weatherization projects
Additional Bills That MOFGA Is Tracking
We’re following many other bills in the Legislature. We’ll provide updates as the Legislature schedules hearings. The following list includes bill titles that we know are important to MOFGA’s community. As these bill concepts come to life, we’ll provide more details. Let us know if you hear of a bill that needs MOFGA’s attention. Send an email to Heather Spalding – MOFGA Deputy Director and Senior Policy Director.
Climate & Energy
- Resolve, To Support Farmland Preservation by Allowing the Siting of Solar Energy Installations on Land Enrolled in the Farm and Open Space Tax Law Program. Note: the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is convening a stakeholders committee to work on this issue. This bill will be carried over to the 2022 session and adapted to reflect recommendations of the stakeholders committee. The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee held a work session on a related bill, LD 820 – Resolve, To Convene a Working Group To Develop Plans To Protect Maine’s Agricultural Lands When Siting Solar Arrays, and moved to carry over this bill to the next session as well. We know that this topic is of great concern to MOFGA’s farmers and we will let you know of opportunities to weigh in on the stakeholder process.
- An Act To Require the Public Utilities Commission and Other State Agencies To Consider Climate Change and Vulnerable Communities in Their Decision Making. This bill awaits an LD number and committee assignment.
- LD 983 – An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Promote Land Conservation, Working Waterfronts, Water Access and Outdoor Recreation (Land for Maine’s Future). MOFGA supports this bill, which would provide a bond issue, in the amount of $80,000,000, to: fund the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Bureau of Parks and Lands and the Land for Maine’s Future Board; allow proceeds of the Land for Maine’s Future Fund to be spent on property for community conservation projects; and emphasize the importance of climate change challenges in decisions about land acquisition.
- An Act To Establish the Maine Food System Investment Program To Create Quality Jobs and Support Farms, Fisheries and Food-related Businesses. This bill awaits an LD number and committee assignment.
- LD 204 – An Act To Amend the Law Regarding the Interest Rate for State Loans under the Potato Marketing Improvement Fund. MOFGA supports this bill, which would change the interest rate on loans made through the Fund from a fixed rate of 5% to the federal prime rate on the date of loan closing or up to a maximum of 5% and allows existing loans in good standing to be refinanced at the same rate. The House and Senate voted to support this bill.
- LD 33 – An Act To Improve the Laws Governing Hemp by Bringing Them into Compliance with Federal Law. MOFGA supports this bill. This bill has been tabled by the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.
Human Health & Environment
- LD 489 – Resolution, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Establish a Right to a Healthy Environment. The Committee on Environment and Natural Resources held a hearing on this bill on March 8 and a work session on March 17. The Committee voted in support of this constitutional amendment.
- LD 519 – An Act To Protect Children from Exposure to Toxic Chemicals. This bill would ban the use of synthetic herbicides, including, but not limited to, glyphosate, within 75 feet of school grounds. The prohibition would not apply to agricultural land or residential property. The bill also would direct Maine’s Board of Pesticides Control to establish an environmental risk advisory committee to assess the environmental and human health risks associated with the use of glyphosate. The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee held a public hearing on this bill on March 25. A work session is scheduled for April 8.
- LD 1158 – An Act Regarding the Application of Certain Pesticides for Nonagricultural Use. This bill prohibits the use of persistent synthetic pesticides except pesticides that are used in the production of agricultural products. The bill also directs the Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to convene a working group to review the composition of the Board of Pesticides Control with respect to whether the board equitably represents public, environmental and industry interests and to identify whether the service of any of the board members gives the appearance of a financial conflict of interest. MOFGA generally supports this bill but will offer some friendly amendments regarding the scope of the bill and the qualifications for the Board of Pesticides Control. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, April 13 before the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.
- LD 1159 – An Act To Amend the Membership Requirements of the Board of Pesticides Control. This bill amends the membership requirements of Maine’s Board of Pesticides Control to ensure that the two public members have a demonstrated interest in environmental protection. MOFGA supports this bill and will advocate for more precise language at the hearing scheduled for April 13 before the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.
- LD 164 – An Act To Establish Maximum Contaminant Levels under the State’s Drinking Water Rules for Certain Perflouroalkyl and Polyflouroalkyl Substances. MOFGA supports this bill and provided comments at a hearing before the Health and Human Services Committee on February 9 calling for comprehensive testing of public and private water sources.
- LD 264 – An Act To Prohibit Aerial Application of Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. This bill prohibits the aerial application of a pesticide unless the Board of Pesticides Control has determined that the pesticide has been analyzed by a 3rd-party entity not associated with the manufacturer of the pesticide who has determined that perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are not part of the formulation of the pesticide. The bill also prohibits the aerial application of a pesticide if perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances are part of the formulation of the pesticide. The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee held a public hearing on this bill on April 1.
- LD 363 – An Act Regarding the Statute of Limitations for Injuries or Harm Resulting from Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. MOFGA supports this bill, which provides that an action arising out of any harm or injury caused by a perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) must be commenced within 6 years after the plaintiff discovers or should have discovered such harm or injury. It does not alter the notice period or limitation period applicable to claims against a government entity. There is an identical bill – LD 627. A hearing on the bills took place on March 17, and a work session is scheduled for April 7 before the Judiciary Committee.
- LD 960 – An Act To Require Reporting of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, PFAS, in Products and of Discharges of Firefighting Foam Containing PFAS. This bill requires manufacturers of products with intentionally added perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances to report the presence of those substances in those products to the Department of Environmental Protection beginning in 2023. This bill also requires any person who causes a discharge of aqueous film-forming foam into waters of the State to report that discharge to the department within 24 hours. The Environment and Natural Resources Committee held a public hearing on this bill on April 5.
- LD 1388 – An Act To Require Testing of Public Drinking Water Supplies for Toxic Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances and To Establish Maximum Contaminant Levels. This bill has been referred to the Health and Human Services Committee but has not been scheduled for a hearing yet.
- An Act To Stop Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Pollution
- An Act To Investigate Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance Contamination of Land and Groundwater
- An Act To Provide Maine People with Access to Information Regarding the Use of Pesticides in Maine
Organic Research & Education
- LD 558 – Resolve, Directing the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry To Study Alternative Cropping Systems for Farmers Affected by Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Contamination. This bill directs the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, in consultation with the University of Maine, to study alternative cropping systems that are more cost-effective than soil and water remediation systems for farmers whose land has been contaminated by perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances and whose business development has been limited. The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee held a public hearing on this bill on March 25.
Social Justice & Equity
- LD 2 – An Act To Require the Inclusion of Racial Impact Statements in the Legislative Process. Governor Mills signed this bill into law on March 17. This law requires, upon the request of a committee of the Legislature, the commissioner of a department or director of an agency to provide to that legislative committee data, analysis and other information necessary to prepare a racial impact statement, which is an assessment of the potential impact that legislation could have on historically disadvantaged racial populations.
- LD 95 – RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Establish a Right to Food. MOFGA supports this bill, which declares that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being. A public hearing happened on February 23, before the ACF Committee.
- LD 174 – An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Ending Hunger by 2030 Advisory Group. In 2019, the Legislature called for a comprehensive strategic plan to eliminate hunger in the State by 2030. LD 174 proposes to implement the recommendations of the plan. The bill awaits a public hearing.
- LD 691 – An Act To Support Farms and Address Food Insecurity. MOFGA supports this bill, which would
establish the Fund To Address Food Insecurity and Provide Nutrition Incentives within the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to provide incentives to federal food and nutrition assistance program participants for the purchase of locally grown fruits and vegetables and to support outreach for and administration of programs that offer nutrition incentives to participants of federal food and nutrition assistance programs. The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee held a public hearing on this bill on March 25, and the bill sponsor, Representative Bill Pluecker, moved to carry over this bill to the next legislative session, siting a temporary loss of philanthropic support for the program and recognizing the state’s financial challenges due to the pandemic. Rep Pluecker was hopeful that expanded funding would be available in the coming year.
- LD 870 – Resolve, Directing the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations To Study the Impact of Policies Regarding Agriculture, Access to Land, Access to Grants and Access to Financing on African-American and Indigenous Farmers in the State. The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee held a public hearing on this bill on April 1. A work session has not yet been scheduled.
An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act. This bill awaits an LD number and committee reference.