May 17, 2021

Action needed: Contact Senators about local food system budget priorities!

Last week’s budget draft from the Senate Committee on Ways and Means reflects how effective all of your advocacy has been! The proposal included funding at the requested levels for priorities like the Healthy Incentives Program, Buy Local Organizations, MEFAP, the MA Food Trust, and others.

Four amendments have been introduced that would further strengthen the local food system’s ability to contribute to the Commonwealth’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, and increase resiliency for Massachusetts farms and other food system businesses for many years to come. Please contact your senators and urge them to cosponsor and support these items.

Amendment #308: UMass Extension (Sen. Comerford). Farmers rely on UMass Extension’s services to remain competitive in the marketplace, and to stay current on management practices that help them protect the farmland and natural resources they steward. This funding would allow Extension to respond to the demands for services they receive most often by hiring eight educators to work with farmers and other businesses on integrated pest management, soil health, pollinator stewardship, and urban agriculture. ($1,046,400)

Amendment #456: Mass in Motion (Senator DiDomenico). The Department of Public Health operates this innovative program, supporting municipal networks in implementing policy and practices to lower the risk of preventable chronic diseases by promoting opportunities for healthy and affordable food access, as well as increasing physical activity. This increase in funding would allow the program to expand to reach more communities that have expressed interest in participating. ($1,000,000)

Amendment #428: Healthy Incentives Program (Senator Gobi). Both the House and the Senate have proposed supporting HIP with $13 million, but the Senate's draft language is missing an important phrase, requiring the program to operate year-round. This amendment would add that language, matching the language in the House budget and in the 2020 supplemental budget that both chambers passed last February. (No cost.)

Amendment #309: Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program (Sen. Comerford). This program was launched last year as a way to provide needed resources for capital infrastructure for farms, fisheries, schools, food pantries, and other food chain enterprises. More than $200 million in requests were submitted, far outpacing the $36 million that was available and has since been committed. This funding would allow for a renewal of the program, targeting these resources to where the first round of applicants identified the greatest need. ($30,000,000)

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Action needed: Contact Representatives about local food system budget priorities!