Food system inputs include all the components necessary to produce food, among them soil, fertilizers, energy, water, seeds, pesticides, pollinators, and land. Because farmland has so many unique issues, it is treated in a separate section. Inputs can represent the beginning and end of the food system, with food waste, washwater, and other organic waste being both end products and then being redirected into the food system as compost, or animal feed, or converted to energy through anaerobic digestion. The costs of inputs are critically important to farm viability. By reducing the costs of inputs, food system businesses have more dollars to reinvest in their operations, remain viable, and keep the prices of their products competitive.
Food system inputs also have a direct effect on our environment – energy sources, water usage, and farming practices all have an ecological impact. The Commonwealth’s constitution provides the people of Massachusetts with the right to clean air and water, and declares natural resource protection, including agricultural lands, to be a public purpose. This focus will be even more important to ensure continued success and viability in light of climate change. The goals, recommendations, and actions in this section provide a roadmap for how farmers and other food system businesses can reduce the costs of inputs, while ensuring that externalities such as pollution and waste are minimized. A common theme through the recommendations is that incentives, technical assistance, and grant programs need to be better aligned and funded in order to meet the needs of the food system. Recommendations include reducing surplus food, maximizing food donation, and supporting the development of anaerobic digestion facilities and encouraging sites for composting. Recommendations also include actions to improve the health of farmland soils, practices that conserve water and reduce runoff, and supports for reductions in energy use and developing new sources of renewable power.