Farmers and fishermen rely on state and federal grant programs to help them adapt to climate change and other pressures, and to take advantage of new opportunities and concepts to remain viable. The Collaborative has investigated the spending of many of the grant programs administered by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) to help determine if resources are adequately targeting where need is greatest.
The Collaborative joined many other stakeholder groups in providing recommendations for the Rural and Working Lands and Climate Change and Resiliency groups that led to the recently released Rural Policy Plan (RPP). There are many important parallels with the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan (MLFAP), and a number of specific recommendations that are similar or nearly identical.
On September 27 the Joint Committee on Public Health held a “Food Is Public Health Oversight Hearing” in Greenfield. Speakers included advocates and practitioners from across the Commonwealth, all speaking to the need for programs and investments in healthy eating as critical to protecting public health. A written summary and video of the full hearing is available here.
The Collaborative continues to work with our Ag Network and other groups and organizations on climate change and its impact on farmers and fishermen. We were fortunate to be able to participate in the recent workgroup on climate change and resiliency organized to provide input and recommendations to the Rural Policy Advisory Commission’s draft Rural Policy Plan.
Two bills that modify chapter 61A that would provide short term tax relief to farmers when repairing or constructing a broad array of structures and buildings on farmland are being considered by the Joint Committee on Revenue.
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) has proposed composting regulations that, if adopted as written, would be detrimental to the sustainability of farms that rely on their composting operations for revenue or soil building/fertility as well as adaptation to climate change. Details about the proposed changes are here.
Lack of access to affordable land is routinely cited by aspiring and established farmers alike as a primary challenge to entry and expansion. Since the 1940’s farmland has been steadily converted to other uses and regrown into New England forest, creating a patchwork of separate small parcels of farmland and former farmland. Many of these parcels are less than five acres, and so cannot benefit from Chapter 61A tax reduction as currently written. At the same time, economic and social forces have generated significantly more small and urban farming operations, many taking place on parcels under five acres, and many struggling with economic viability. Thousands of people, many of them immigrants and low-income, tend parcels that are less than one acre.