Projects

Pending food system legislation

The Massachusetts legislature has introduced many bills for consideration in the 2017-18 session that relate to the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan. This list includes bills that most closely align with goals and recommendations from the Plan, with short summaries, links to the full bill text, and links to the actions or recommendations from the Plan that are most closely related to the legislation. We encourage committees to consider these bills and priorities, and look forward to working with legislators to further shape these and other bills that move the Commonwealth toward a more sustainable and equitable food system.


Two bills introduced this session are the direct result of initiatives undertaken by the Collaborative and allied groups to address key priorities from the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan:

H.2465: An Act relative to Agricultural Commission input on board of health regulations, Rep. Stephen Kulik
Many municipal boards of health have no expertise around farming, but are tasked with making decisions that can impact the viability of local farms. This bill will require that municipal boards of health give local agricultural commissions an opportunity to weigh in on new or changing regulations related to agriculture, so that farmers’ perspectives and needs can be taken into account.

Farming 2.3.1: Develop a system of checks and balances to support appropriate engagement of municipal boards of health and conservation commissions in agricultural issues and reduce unwarranted or unjustified regulations.

H.2131: An Act relative to an agricultural healthy incentives program, Rep. Paul Mark
The Healthy Incentives Program doubles SNAP recipients’ purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers, improving health outcomes for vulnerable communities and increasing sales for local farms. This bill will establish the framework for the program's long-term sustainability.

Food Access, Security and Health 3.1.1: Leverage and maximize the FINI grant award to increase use of SNAP and complementary benefit programs at farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and for community supported agriculture (CSA) programs. Identify, support, and implement methods to sustain FINI-related healthy food purchasing incentive initiatives.

The Collaborative also supports the following budget priorities for FY2018, as supportive of the goals of the Plan.

A budget for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) that maintains its current level of services. (2511-0100)

Targeted funding for:

  • The Healthy Incentives Program, which doubles SNAP recipients’ purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers: $1,711,026, needed to leverage more than $5,000,000 dollars of additional federal and private investment in the program. (4400-1001)
  • The state’s buy local organizations, and their work to increase consumer awareness and sales of local agricultural products: $500,000, divided among the state’s nine buy local organizations. (2511-0100)
  • Mass Farm to School, which assists public schools, universities and state agencies in sourcing and expanding offerings of healthy, Massachusetts-grown and -caught foods: $120,000. (2511-0100)
  • The Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP), which provides needed food for vulnerable communities via Food Banks: $20,000,000, with 10% allocated to the MassGrown program which purchases eggs, dairy, fruits, and vegetables from Massachusetts farms. (2511-0105)
  • The Massachusetts Food Trust, which received a $6 million bond authorization last year to distribute as grants and loans to projects to improve access to healthy food in underserved communities: $100,000 for program implementation. (2000-0100)


Additional bills being considered include:


Farming

H.181: An Act relative to updating the plumbing code in order to accommodate agricultural uses, Rep. Leonard Mirra
Farms must currently adhere to the commercial plumbing code, which is often unnecessarily restrictive and costly for their purposes. This bill will establish an advisory committee to develop an agricultural plumbing code and recommend it to the board of state examiners of plumbers and gas fitters.

Farming 2.2.4: Bring together farmers, plumbers, and regulators to develop a suitable agricultural plumbing code.

H.441: An Act to promote the care and well-being of livestock, Rep. Stephen Kulik
Will establish a Livestock Care and Standards Board to consider and promulgate regulations or voluntary standards governing the care and well-being of cattle, swine, poultry, and other livestock.

Farming 2.2.3: Establish a state livestock care and standards board to ensure that livestock is treated humanely, and that state requirements are based on the standards of practice and the values of Massachusetts farmers, consumers, and residents.

H.2616: An Act relative to the Dairy Farm Tax Credit, Rep. Stephen Kulik
Will double the amount available to the dairy tax credit program, from $4 million to $8 million. Massachusetts continues to lose dairy farms at an alarming rate -- the Commonwealth has only 140 remaining dairies -- and such support is critical to sustaining those that remain.

Farming 3.1.7: Maintain the Massachusetts Dairy Farmer Tax Credit.

S.1532/H.3338: An Act to promote urban agriculture and horticulture, Sen. Linda Forry/Rep. Elizabeth Malia
Will allow cities with populations over 50,000 to adopt an optional property tax break for land used for urban agriculture, to help overcome the high price of urban land and promote the health, economic, and environmental benefits of growing food in cities.

Land 3.18.1: Support state and municipal tax incentives to encourage short- and long- term use of urban land and buildings for food production, such as for the installation of green roofs that include food production and the transformation of vacant lots into community gardens.

S.442/H.2938: An Act promoting agriculture in the Commonwealth, Sen. Anne Gobi/Rep. Paul Schmid
Many important elements of this ‘omnibus bill’ have been taken up via independent legislation, but a number of important items remain solely in this bill, notably: establishing a Farmland Preservation Task Force; opening Department of Conservation and Recreation land to community gardens; and allowing for delivery of raw milk by licensed famers.

Land 2.1.1: Establish a legislatively-appointed task force to develop a state Farmland Action Plan, and provide necessary funding for its development.

Farming 2.2.6: Develop regulations to facilitate dairy farms’ capacity to sell raw milk and related value-added products direct to consumers while ensuring adequate oversight to protect safety and consumer confidence.

Pollinators

Action is necessary to protect the pollinators that farmers rely upon for their crops. These actions should include both measures to ensure that management practices are not threatening the pollinators, and that investments are being made in planting crops and other vegetation that pollinators rely on as habitat. We support a science-based approach that balances the needs of production and protection of the environment. A number of bills are currently under consideration, and should be considered together, with the above principles in mind:

H.2113: An Act to protect Massachusetts pollinators, Rep. Carolyn Dykema
S.451/H.2926: An Act to protect pollinator habitat, Sen. Jason Lewis/Rep. Mary Keefe
H.457: An Act to promote pollinator forage, Rep. Keiko Orrall

Inputs 4.3.1 Increase education and technical assistance to ensure the health of pollinators, including education for beekeepers, pesticide applicators, farmers, landowners, municipalities, and regulators.

Farming 2.2.7: Establish a committee to review state apiary laws and propose recommendations to support the growth of native pollinators. 

H.904: An Act relative to farmers markets, Rep. Paul McMurtry
Will provide liability exemptions for farmers market sellers who sample products, and exempts such sellers from sanitary health codes.

Distribution 1.3.1: Provide public support to farmers markets to market local foods and expand the number of Massachusetts residents consuming local food.

S.1513: An Act relative to exemptions from taxation of structures and buildings essential to the operation of agricultural and horticultural lands,  Sen. Kenneth Donnelly
Will exempt newly-constructed agricultural buildings from property taxes for 10 years, rather than requiring the commercial tax rate which is often significantly higher than the agricultural use warrants.

Land 1.1.1: Enact legislation that provides a tax credit for agricultural buildings, exempting new or reconstructed agricultural buildings essential to a farm operation from local property taxes for a period of 10 years, provided the building remains in agricultural use.

H.2114: An Act to ensure appropriate regulation of piggeries, Rep. Carolyn Dykema
Will require that towns and cities follow state and federal guidelines when regulating piggeries, and require significant justification for any bans or prohibitions.

Farming 2.2: Review and revise state regulations hindering farms’ viability.

H.2715: An Act establishing an agricultural tourism study commission, Rep. Stephen Kulik
Creates a committee to examine agritourism and develop recommendations on how regulations, investments, and oversight can help support agritourism.

Marketing 1.4.4: Expand the State’s culinary tourism and agritourism programs to draw visitors to farms and businesses that feature locally grown and produced products, such as dairies, wineries, distilleries, cider producers, agricultural events, festivals, and restaurants that feature local products.

H.3321: An Act relative to farm training in Massachusetts, Rep. Bradford Hill
Will provide a tax credit to farms that hire students as trainees or interns, provided that the students are attending an agricultural school or participating in an agricultural program.

Farming 1.3: Develop and coordinate other educational, research, and technical assistance supports.

S.444: An Act relative to agricultural disaster relief, Sen. Anne Gobi
Will establish a disaster relief fund to assist farmers who have suffered agricultural losses, financial losses, or property damage due to natural disasters.

Farming 3.1: Strengthen governmental support systems for agriculture.

H.431: An Act relative to farmers' markets, Rep. Paul Heroux
Will define farmers markets as a public market occurring more than once per year selling products from more than one MA farm.

Distribution 1.3.1: Provide public support to farmers markets to market local foods and expand the number of Massachusetts residents consuming local food.

H.2663: An Act establishing the Executive Office of Food Resources and Security, Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante
Will create an executive office of food resources and security, encompassing all food-related programs from MDAR, DPH, and other agencies.            

Implementation 1.3.2 Develop an inventory of all State programs that relate to food and identifying synergistic opportunities for the allocation of State resources to best meet the goals of the Plan. This inventory could lead to further recommendations about State agency budget and administrative priorities, and more efficient coordination among State agencies. 


Farmland

Estate Tax
Because of the Commonwealth’s high farmland values, the state estate tax, with a $1 million individual threshold, impacts larger family farms and can result in part or all of a farm being sold for development to pay the tax. Action is needed to address this issue. We believe that tax relief should be granted family farms in exchange for a commitment by the heirs (and those who purchase the farm or land from heirs) to keep the farm in active agricultural use.  A number of bills are currently under consideration, and should be considered together, with the above principles in mind:

H.2618: An Act maintaining land in agriculture, Rep. Stephen Kulik
H.3323: An Act to establish estate tax valuation for farms, Rep. Kate Hogan
S.1584: An Act to establish estate tax valuation for farms, Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives

Land 3.9.1: Enact legislation to modify state estate tax to allow farmland to be valued according to its current use.

H.1465: An Act relative to non-contiguous farm land, Rep. Arciero, James
Will allow farms to qualify for Chapter 61A with non-contiguous land totaling at least 5 acres, provided that the parcels are within 10 miles of each other or in the same municipality. This will help the growing number of smaller farms with multiple parcels of land take advantage of the benefits of Chapter 61A.

Land 3.11.1: Enact legislation to expand Chapter 61A eligibility to parcels smaller than 5 acres. Consider requiring an increase in the value of production threshold on smaller parcels to ensure that those parcels are being actively used for commercial agriculture.


Energy

H.3398: An Act relative to small farm energy production, Rep. Peter Kocot
Will direct 25% of revenue from the Local Capital Projects Fund/Gaming Revenue Fund to a small farm grant program to develop farm-based renewable energy capabilities.

Inputs 5.3: Increase the ease of installation and amount of renewable generation in all sectors of the food system to provide economic and environmental benefits.

S.1829:  An Act promoting agricultural energy production and reducing greenhouse gases, Sen. Harriette Chandler
Will incentivize the use of on-farm anaerobic digesters.

Inputs 5.3: Increase the ease of installation and amount of renewable generation in all sectors of the food system to provide economic and environmental benefits. 


Food Waste

Numerous bills have been filed related to food waste, addressing issues of date labeling, liability protections, and tax deductions and credits. Many of them overlap, and each has potentially positive elements; however, they have been filed in several different committees. These bills should be considered together, and packaged in a way that incentivizes food donations and reduces consumer and donor confusion. The Collaborative supports elements that offer the greatest tax incentives for donations (credits, rather than deductions), clear exemption from liability concerns for all donors, and a standardized labeling system supported by a consumer education campaign.

H.879: An Act protecting businesses that donate to food banks, Rep. Kevin Kuros
Will provide farmers with a tax deduction of 25% of the value of food donated to those in need.

Farming 3.1.6: Implement a tax credit for farmers who donate their surplus crops.

H.1199: An Act relative to food donations, Rep. Paul McMurtry
Will provide a tax credit to food service establishments that donate prepared foods, and protect them from liability concerns.

Inputs 1.3.2: Implement a state tax credit for farmers and others who donate surplus food. Currently, there is no state tax credit for food donation and only C-corporations are eligible for the federal enhanced tax credits and most Massachusetts farmers do not meet these criteria.

S.838/H.3327: An Act encouraging the donation of food to persons in need, Sen. Eileen Donoghue/Rep. Hannah Kane
Will extend liability protections to direct donations and incentivize donations of produce by providing a tax credit to farmers.

Farming 3.1.6: Implement a tax credit for farmers who donate their surplus crops.

S.848: An Act relative to direct food donations, Sen. Ryan Fattman
Will provide liability protection for businesses that donate food directly to individuals.

Inputs 1.3.1: Increase outreach and education on food donation opportunities, including the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which provides liability protections for donators.  

S.1495/H.2626: An Act relative to the charitable donation of wholesome food, Sen. Joseph Boncore/Rep. Aaron Michlewitz
Will provide a tax credit of 15% of the value of donations of food.

Inputs 1.3.2: Implement a state tax credit for farmers and others who donate surplus food. Currently, there is no state tax credit for food donation and only C-corporations are eligible for the federal enhanced tax credits and most Massachusetts farmers do not meet these criteria.

H.3238:  An Act relative to the charitable donation of not readily marketable food, Rep. Susan Gifford
Will extend liability exemptions for donated food from businesses and institutions.

Inputs 1.3.1: Increase outreach and education on food donation opportunities, including the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which provides liability protections for donators.  

S.292: An Act authorizing school districts to donate excess food to local voluntary assistance programs, Sen. Barbara L'Italien
Will require the development of guidance for school programs encouraging the donation of surplus food from school meals to local food assistance programs.

Distribution 6.2.1: Educate retail food sellers, restaurant workers and managers, farmers market operators, and others in food distribution about food donations that can be made to food banks, pantries, and meal programs without liability. Focus on product labeling, freshness dating, and related information.

H.3348: An Act to provide a tax deduction for charitable donations of food by farmers, Rep. Paul Schmid
Will allow farmers to take tax deductions for donations of food.

Farming 3.1.6: Implement a tax credit for farmers who donate their surplus crops.

S.415/H.3244: An Act decreasing food waste by standardizing the date labeling of food, Sen. Eileen Donoghue / Rep. Hannah Kane
Will create standard language for date labels on perishable foods based on both safety and quality.

1.2.4 Clarify expiration/sell by dates, and reduce the number of foods that require a date label, using information from Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic.


School food

H.3549:  An Act relative to healthy eating in school cafeterias, Rep. Jennifer Benson
Will establish pilot programs to support schools in upgrading their kitchens to do more scratch cooking, provide mini-grants for farm-to-school programming, and set parameters for a Farm to School Interagency Task Force.

Food Access, Security and Health 4.2.2: Expand existing, and support new, farm-to-school programming to increase the amount of healthy and locally produced foods purchased and served by pre- and K-12 schools, childcare, and after-school facilities. Incentivize expansion and creation of farm-to-school programs with public and private funds to support school districts. 

S.242/H.327: An Act regarding breakfast in the classroom, Rep. Aaron Vega/Sen. Sal DiDomenico
Will require that all schools where 60% or more of the students qualify for free and reduced meals serve breakfast after the bell, in the classroom. This would help ensure an additional 48,000 students have access to a nutritious breakfast during the school year, reducing nurse visits, and increasing academic performance.

Food Access, Security and Health 4.3.3: Support more schools and school districts in implementing programming that serves breakfast in the classroom. Support increased awareness of Massachusetts DESE guidance to school districts that breakfast is counted as “time on learning.”


Food Access and Health

H.101/S.612: An Act improving public health through a common application for core food, health and safety-net programs, Rep. Jay Livingstone/ Sen. Sal DiDomenico
Will create a common application for Mass Health and SNAP benefits (as well as other DTA administered benefits), improving efficiency and increasing food security for over 570,000 people who are on MassHealth and qualify for SNAP.

Food Access, Security and Health 2.2.2: Explore use of a common application portal for other federal and state benefit programs including the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); Income Eligible Child Care; housing assistance benefits; and Cash Assistance benefits to ensure families seeking these benefits are offered simultaneous applications for SNAP and health care programs. Encourage inter-agency referrals under existing programs as an interim measure until a new and improved system is in place.

H2365/S1004: An Act to improve the Commonwealth’s economy with a strong minimum wage and a strong tipped minimum wage, Rep. Daniel Donahue/Sen. Kenneth Donnelly
Will increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2021. Approximately 29 percent of the state’s workforce, or 947,000 workers earn less than this now.

Food Access, Security and Health 1.2.1: Support the adoption of a living wage standard for Massachusetts workers, with exceptions for time-limited youth training on production farms and associated retail operations.

S.1276: Resolve establishing an advisory committee on the accessibility of fresh food retail in communities throughout the Commonwealth, Sen. James Welch
Establishes an advisory committee to examine the accessibility of fresh food retail in communities throughout the Commonwealth and to develop criteria to determine which communities lack adequate access to fresh food retail; investigate the causes of inadequate access to fresh food retail; study the public health impact of inadequate access to fresh food retail; and develop innovative strategies and recommendations to increase access to fresh food retail.

Food Access, Security and Health 7: Healthy and locally produced food will be more accessible through better public transportation and food infrastructure.

H.1468: An Act relative to the sales tax of candy and soda, Rep. Cory Atkins
Will remove the sales tax exemption from candy and soda.

Food Access, Security and Health 8.4.1: Eliminate the sales tax exemption for sugar-added soda beverages and direct the resulting tax revenue to nutrition programs that increase the access to, and consumption of, healthy foods, including locally produced foods.

H.1561: An Act to reduce childhood obesity, Rep. Kay Khan
Will remove the sales tax exemption from soda and direct the revenues to the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund.     

Food Access, Security and Health 8.4.1: Eliminate the sales tax exemption for sugar-added soda beverages and direct the resulting tax revenue to nutrition programs that increase the access to, and consumption of, healthy foods, including locally produced foods.

S.1217: An Act relative to expanding access to healthy food choices in vending machines on state property, Sen. Jason Lewis
Will allow DPH to establish nutritional guidelines for food sold in vending machines on state property.

Food Access, Security and Health 7: Healthy and locally produced food will be more accessible through better public transportation and food infrastructure. 

S.1220: An Act to protect youth from the health risks of sugary drinks, Sen. Jason Lewis
Will prohibit soda advertising and corporate-sponsored in schools, as well as warning labels on soft drinks. Also calls for media literacy education in schools concerning, but not limited to, teaching of skills for analyzing and evaluating advertising content for food, beverages, drugs and alcohol. Also limits beverages in restaurant children's meals. Also establishes Special Commission on Access to Drinking Water in Public Places.

Food Access, Security and Health 8.4.1: Eliminate the sales tax exemption for sugar-added soda beverages and direct the resulting tax revenue to nutrition programs that increase the access to, and consumption of, healthy foods, including locally produced foods.

S.1562: An Act to promote healthy alternatives to sugary drinks, Sen. Jason Lewis
Will impose a tax on sugary drinks and direct revenues from the tax to a newly established Children’s Health Promotion Fund. Also includes sections on media literacy, and prohibition of soda in schools.

Food Access, Security and Health 8.4.1: Eliminate the sales tax exemption for sugar-added soda beverages and direct the resulting tax revenue to nutrition programs that increase the access to, and consumption of, healthy foods, including locally produced foods.


Fisheries

H.1712: An Act relative to the Massachusetts Food Policy Council, Rep. Paul Schmid
Will add the Commissioner of Fish and Game to the MA Food Policy Council, adding a much needed voice for fisheries to this body addressing system-wide food issues in Massachusetts.

Fishing 4.1.1: Create a seat for the Commissioner of The Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game on the Massachusetts Food Policy Council.

H.472/S.410: An Act establishing an ocean acidification task force, Rep. William Straus/Sen. Julian Cyr
Will establish a special commission to study the effects of coastal and ocean acidification and its existing and potential effects on species that are commercially harvested and grown along the Massachusetts coast.

Fishing 5.1.5: Study climate conditions including sea level rise, severe storms, and ocean acidification, and assess the impact of these on the marine ecosystems, estuaries and fisheries.


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