The governor has introduced, and the legislature is considering, the quadrennial environmental bond bill. The 2018 version of this spending authorization (H.4599, An Act promoting climate change adaptation, environmental and natural resource protection, and investment in recreational assets and opportunity) proposes funding for many programs supported by Plan recommendations. The Collaborative has been working with allies to ensure that this bill provides appropriate resources for programs critical to the local food system. This includes advocating for:
Also critical is that the State carry forward unexpended funds from the 2014 bond bill, so that those resources can still be invested in their respective programs. The Collaborative is particularly concerned with the fact that much of this authorization is never spent, so that the impression is given that the state is making significant capital investments in agriculture, but the spending never actually happens.
Some sections of the bill and proposed amendments are not funding-related, but still address issues cited in the Plan, such as:
To see the Collaborative’s full testimony on this bill, click here.
At the same time, the Baker administration has released its capital spending plan for fiscal year 2019, based on funds authorized by the 2014 bond bill. That plan includes:
The full spending plan is available here.
Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program
As reported in our last newsletter, concerns about how land protected through the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program may be transferred, and to whom, led to the introduction this session of legislation (S.2175) which would address these concerns, but also make a significant change to the definition of an APR. This raised a new set of concerns among some APR Program advocates, and the Collaborative joined them in several meetings with legislators to discuss ways that APR legislation might best address program challenges and improve transparency and administration, which maintaining the program's commitment to farmland affordability.
A much-modified version of the bill was included in the Senate's recently-passed budget. As House and Senate conferees meet to reconcile the differences between their respective budgets, the Collaborative continues to work with allied organizations to advocate for language that will improve transparency and communications between the Department of Agricultural Resources and buyers and sellers of APR properties, and provide for greater stakeholder input into APR Program regulations and policies.