Create a professionally-facilitated working group that includes representatives from the fields of public health and food systems, as well as regulatory agencies, to develop a proposal to improve regulatory oversight of the local food system with respect to public health. This proposal should address: (1) Actions to achieve consistent, science-based state and local regulations that are developed by practitioners and public health professionals concerning animal slaughter, on-farm processing, product aggregation, farmers markets, and other relevant issues that may be identified. (2)Requirements for training local regulators in food system practices and current science, and a plan for developing resources for doing so. (3) Requirements for training local regulators to enforce regulations consistently and, wherever possible, to offer resources to remedy concerns before taking punitive action. (4) A requirement for public review of new regulations that is timely and transparent, involves affected stakeholders early on, and includes at least one public hearing. (5) A system of checks and balances on local regulations and actions, including appeal processes. (6) Consideration of other, related issues as raised in this plan. The working group should present its proposal to the Food Policy Council, appropriate agencies within the state administration, and the legislature within nine months of the first working group meeting. The proposal should note whether or not state legislative or regulatory changes are needed to implement the proposal’s recommendations, and it should include a draft budget for implementation.
Local officials in Massachusetts are responsible for implementing and enforcing a complex array of State and local regulations that pertain to public health. In small towns in particular, the volunteer boards of health and part-time professional staff who are responsible for overseeing the development of regulations and for compliance are often not well-prepared to address agricultural issues that come before them without additional technical assistance and education. And farms that do business in more than one town often find themselves trying to comply with different regulations in each community.
The Collaborative facilitated the Working Group on Farming and Public Health, in an effort to develop a set of regulatory, legislative, and educational solutions to this challenge. As a result of that work, legislation has been filed that will require municipal boards of health to work with agricultural commissions when considering farming-related regulations.
MFSC regularly updates Action items with information about related projects, organizations, legislation, news, and other activities. If you have a suggestion for an update, please email Director Winton Pitcoff.