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Cosponsors sought for food system legislation
February 01, 2017
MA Farmers National Leaders in Local Sales
January 04, 2017
Massachusetts Food Policy Council sets priorities
December 02, 2016

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February 01, 2017

Cosponsors sought for food system legislation

Members of the MA State Legislature have introduced more than 5,000 bills for the 2017-18 session, many of them related to the Commonwealth’s food system. A number of these bills would take action toward the goals of the MA Local Food Action Plan.

Legislators are being asked to co-sponsor bills right now. This is an opportunity for citizens to reach out to their senators and representatives, let them know about bills that are important to them and their communities, and ask for their support. Below are some bills that directly relate to the Collaborative’s priorities.

Please contact your senators and representatives by Friday, February 3, and ask them to co-sponsor any of the bills below that are important to you or your organization. To find your legislators, visit: https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator. Call or email them, and tell them:

  • your name and town, so they understand that you’re their constituent;
  • the name of the bill and the name of the legislator introducing it; and
  • a little bit about what the bill’s enactment would mean for you or your community.

Many of the bills below include links to the full text of the legislation – where there is no link, the language has not yet been posted.

Note that getting co-sponsors for these bills is just a first step – throughout the two-year legislative session there will be hearings, opportunities to advocate for language that strengthens the bills, and votes. But now is a great opportunity to make legislators aware of the bills and issues that you care about, and to build support for key pieces of legislation so that they are more likely to make their way through the legislative process this session.


Food Production

An Act Relative to Agricultural Commission Input on Board of Health Regulations
HD.2574
Representative Stephen Kulik
Would require municipal boards of health to seek input from their local agricultural commission before implementing changes to existing regulations or new regulations that impact farms or farmers markets.

An Act promoting agriculture in the Commonwealth
SD.1796
Senator Anne M. Gobi
HD.3144
Representative Paul Schmid
Also known as the “Ag Omnibus bill,” this bill contains provisions that would, among other things: allow non-contiguous land to be considered for the 5-acre minimum for enrollment in Chapter 61A; allow raw milk dairies to deliver milk to customers; allow for land held by the Department of Conservation and Recreation to be used for community gardens and farmers markets; and establish a committee to develop a farmland protection and viability plan.

An Act relative to updating the plumbing code in order to accommodate agricultural uses
HD.340
Representative Leonard Mirra
Would create a committee to make recommendations on possible changes to the State Plumbing Code, with the intent of creating provisions for agricultural projects, to alleviate the burden of the commercial plumbing code that farms must currently follow. 

An Act to establish estate tax valuation for farms
HD.3032
Representative Kate Hogan
SD.1299
Senator Kathleen O'Connor Ives
Would exempt farmland from the Massachusetts estate tax as long as it remains in agriculture for at least 10 years, in order to keep more land in farming by reducing the likelihood of heirs needing to remove agricultural land from production in order to sell it to pay the tax burden.

An Act to Promote Urban Agriculture and Horticulture
SD.2030
Senator Linda Dorcena Forry
HD.3673
Representative Elizabeth A. Malia
Would allow cities with population over 50,000 to adopt an optional property tax break for land used for urban agriculture, as a way of promoting the health, economic, and environmental benefits of growing crops in cities.

Food Access

An Act Relative to an Agricultural Healthy Incentives Program
HD.2825
Representative Paul Mark
Would lay the groundwork for the long-term sustainability of the Healthy Incentives program, which matches, dollar-for-dollar, SNAP households’ purchases of fresh, healthy, local foods.

An Act improving public health through a common application for core food, health and safety-net programs
SD.247
Senator Sal N. DiDomenico
Would streamline the application process to multiple supportive programs, as a way of ensuring that families that receive benefits from one program are better able to take advantage of all of the benefits they are entitled to.

School Food

An Act Relative to Healthy Eating in School Cafeterias
HD.1488
Representative Jennifer E. Benson
Would establish pilot programs to support schools in upgrading their kitchens to do more scratch cooking and give mini-grants for farm to school programming, and set parameters for a Farm to School Interagency Task Force that would bring together stakeholders to strategize ways to support and spread farm to school programs across the Commonwealth.

An Act to Promote Breakfast in the Classroom
SD.1986
Senator Sal DiDominico
HD.1046
Representative Aaron Vega
Would require that all public K-12 schools that are required to serve breakfast (where at least 60% or more students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program) offer all students a school breakfast after the bell.

Food Waste

An Act encouraging the donation of food to persons in need
SD.1043
Senator Eileen M. Donoghue
Would relieve individual and business food donors from liability for injury arising out of the condition of donated food, and allow farms to claim a tax deduction for the value of donated crops.

An Act decreasing food waste by standardizing the date labeling of food
SD.1041
Senator Eileen M. Donoghue
Would establish standard language for food date labels, reducing confusion and the often unnecessary disposal of food that is still safe to eat.

An Act relative to direct food donations
SD.1520
Senator Ryan C. Fattman
Would relieve individual and business food donors from liability for injury arising out of the condition of donated food, often cited as a barrier to donations and resulting in wasted food.

An Act authorizing school districts to donate excess food to local voluntary assistance programs
SD.1313
Senator Barbara A. L'Italien
Would direct the state board of elementary and secondary education to develop voluntary guidelines for school districts to encourage and facilitate donation of excess food from school cafeterias to groups that distribute food to underserved communities.

January 04, 2017

MA Farmers National Leaders in Local Sales

Data from the first extensive survey of local food sales in the U.S. shows that Massachusetts farmers are national leaders in sales of food products directly to consumers.

Massachusetts ranks fifth nationally in direct to consumer sales from farms, with $136 million in sales in 2015 from farmers markets, farmstands, community-supported agriculture (CSA) operations, and other farmer-run retail outlets, according to the USDA’s 2015 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey. This number is made even more significant when noted that the other high-ranking states include California, New York, and other large agricultural states, while Massachusetts ranks only 47th among all states in total cash receipts for farms, according to 2015 data from USDA. In fact, when direct-to-consumer sales are measured against total farm sales, Massachusetts leads the nation.

The survey also ranked Massachusetts eighth among states based on total direct farm sales, with $229 million in sales from farms directly to institutions, retailers, and local distributors, as well as consumers. A total of 2,426 Massachusetts farms combined for these sales. $75 million of these sales are value-added products like meats, eggs, preserved fruits and vegetables, and dairy products, such as cheese and butter.

Direct farm sales are critical to farm sustainability, because by eliminating many of the steps along the wholesale supply chain, farmers are able to sell their products at a price which allows them to cover their costs of producing the food. In turn, these sales boost the local economy, create jobs and economic opportunity, and preserve farmland and natural resources.

Massachusetts has long been a pioneer in direct to consumer sales. The first CSA was established in Great Barrington in 1986, The number of farmers markets has grown dramatically in the last decade, supported by the work of the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets. South Deerfield-based Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) launched one of the first buy local education campaigns in 1994, and many other regional organizations have followed suit. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resource’s “Massachusetts grown…and fresher” initiative was one of the first statewide branding efforts in the nation.

The first goal of the 2015 Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan is “Increase production, sales and consumption of Massachusetts-grown foods,” and dozens of organizations around the Commonwealth are working toward that goal. The Massachusetts Food System Collaborative works to promote, monitor, and facilitate implementation of the Plan.

The 2015 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey was designed to collect data related to the marketing of foods directly from farm producers to consumers, institutions, retailers who then sell directly to consumers, and intermediate markets who sell locally or regionally branded products. The primary purpose of the Local Food Marketing Practices Survey was to produce benchmark statistics on the number of operations that sell using direct marketing channels, the value of these foods sales, and marketing practices.

December 02, 2016

Massachusetts Food Policy Council sets priorities

On November 21, the Massachusetts Food Policy Council sent this letter to Governor Baker and legislative leaders, outlining the Council's priorities based on the 2015 Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan. These are issues that the Council hopes to amplify and address, through collaboration, research, and education.


November 21, 2016 

Governor Charles Baker
Massachusetts State House, Room 280
Boston, MA 02133 

Dear Governor Baker, 

On behalf of the Massachusetts Food Policy Council, I am pleased to submit the priorities from the Council's ongoing work related to the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan (http://mafoodsystem.orglplan/). At my request, Council members have continued to review and discuss the Plan during meetings since July and have further prioritized goals from the longer list submitted at that time. Our hope is that the Administration can amplify these broad goals and supporting programs, and link to larger policies. In many cases, agency members of the Council are already undertaking programs and projects that support the core goals of the Plan, and in some situations the Plan has provided guidance about where additional resources or efforts are needed.

Priorities follow: 

  1. Support programs that facilitate access to healthy foods for underserved communities. A current focus is to provide support to leverage the Department of Transitional Assistance's USDA/FINI grant award, known as the Healthy Incentives Program, which will increase use of SNAP at farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and for community supported agriculture (CSA )programs, providing fresh, healthy food for low-income families, and increasing sales for Massachusetts farmers. Additional examples include the MA Food Trust and the MA Food Ventures Program. 
  2. Reduce food waste through state programs for farmers, restaurants, processors, schools and other institutions, and consumers. A current focus is to support the Commercial Food Waste Ban by developing policies and programs to divert food waste from landfills. Support for donation programs, conversion of food waste to animal feed, composting, and the development of anaerobic digestion facilities are also priorities. 
  3. Support regulatory policies and practices that allow farms and other food system businesses to thrive. The current focus is to develop circuit rider positions at state regulatory agencies, subject to appropriation, to provide food business guidance in a non-enforcement capacity in an effort to aid in compliance.Additionally, circuit riders will provide support and guidance to local regulatory agencies. 
  4. Support and grow local food system infrastructure. The current focus is to target opportunities for growers, food processors and distributors to access capital, incentives, and technical assistance though agency partners and programs, private organizations, and universities. 
  5. Support increased purchases of Massachusetts grown and produced foods. The current focus is to support increased purchases of local foods by state institutions, public and private educational programs, and meals programs. Increased funding for state agency and institutional food procurement and standardized contract language for state and municipal purchasers, are also priorities. 
  6. Support expanded educational opportunities for farmers and other food system workers. The current focus is to support Massachusetts higher education, UMass Extension,and vocational technical schools by developing and offering appropriate curricula to meet food system needs. 

In order to better work toward the goals of the plan with representatives of all of the key agencies engaged in the food system, the Council further recommends legislative action to add a seat to the Council for the Department of Fish and Game.

The Council appreciates the Administration's leadership and commitment to the Plan's vision of a sustainable and equitable food system. Please accept this letter as the Council's annual report, pursuant to MGL Chapter 20, Section 6(e).

We ask that you give consideration to these priorities as relevant legislative and regulatory actions are developed. As always, members of the Council would be happy to meet with you or your staffs to offer further detail to these priorities, as well as review any parts of the Plan or our work to implement it.

John Lebeaux, Commissioner and Chair, MA Food Policy Council