Massachusetts Food System Collaborative
Massachusetts Food System Collaborative

February 1, 2017

Cosponsors sought for food system legislation

Members of the MA State Legislature have introduced more than 5,000 bills for the 2017-18 session, many of them related to the Commonwealth’s food system. A number of these bills would take action toward the goals of the MA Local Food Action Plan.

Legislators are being asked to co-sponsor bills right now. This is an opportunity for citizens to reach out to their senators and representatives, let them know about bills that are important to them and their communities, and ask for their support. Below are some bills that directly relate to the Collaborative’s priorities.

Please contact your senators and representatives by Friday, February 3, and ask them to co-sponsor any of the bills below that are important to you or your organization. To find your legislators, visit: Call or email them, and tell them:

  • your name and town, so they understand that you’re their constituent;
  • the name of the bill and the name of the legislator introducing it; and
  • a little bit about what the bill’s enactment would mean for you or your community.

Many of the bills below include links to the full text of the legislation – where there is no link, the language has not yet been posted.

Note that getting co-sponsors for these bills is just a first step – throughout the two-year legislative session there will be hearings, opportunities to advocate for language that strengthens the bills, and votes. But now is a great opportunity to make legislators aware of the bills and issues that you care about, and to build support for key pieces of legislation so that they are more likely to make their way through the legislative process this session.

Food Production

An Act Relative to Agricultural Commission Input on Board of Health Regulations
Representative Stephen Kulik
Would require municipal boards of health to seek input from their local agricultural commission before implementing changes to existing regulations or new regulations that impact farms or farmers markets.

An Act promoting agriculture in the Commonwealth
Senator Anne M. Gobi
Representative Paul Schmid
Also known as the “Ag Omnibus bill,” this bill contains provisions that would, among other things: allow non-contiguous land to be considered for the 5-acre minimum for enrollment in Chapter 61A; allow raw milk dairies to deliver milk to customers; allow for land held by the Department of Conservation and Recreation to be used for community gardens and farmers markets; and establish a committee to develop a farmland protection and viability plan.

An Act relative to updating the plumbing code in order to accommodate agricultural uses
Representative Leonard Mirra
Would create a committee to make recommendations on possible changes to the State Plumbing Code, with the intent of creating provisions for agricultural projects, to alleviate the burden of the commercial plumbing code that farms must currently follow. 

An Act to establish estate tax valuation for farms
Representative Kate Hogan
Senator Kathleen O'Connor Ives
Would exempt farmland from the Massachusetts estate tax as long as it remains in agriculture for at least 10 years, in order to keep more land in farming by reducing the likelihood of heirs needing to remove agricultural land from production in order to sell it to pay the tax burden.

An Act to Promote Urban Agriculture and Horticulture
Senator Linda Dorcena Forry
Representative Elizabeth A. Malia
Would allow cities with population over 50,000 to adopt an optional property tax break for land used for urban agriculture, as a way of promoting the health, economic, and environmental benefits of growing crops in cities.

Food Access

An Act Relative to an Agricultural Healthy Incentives Program
Representative Paul Mark
Would lay the groundwork for the long-term sustainability of the Healthy Incentives program, which matches, dollar-for-dollar, SNAP households’ purchases of fresh, healthy, local foods.

An Act improving public health through a common application for core food, health and safety-net programs
Senator Sal N. DiDomenico
Would streamline the application process to multiple supportive programs, as a way of ensuring that families that receive benefits from one program are better able to take advantage of all of the benefits they are entitled to.

School Food

An Act Relative to Healthy Eating in School Cafeterias
Representative Jennifer E. Benson
Would establish pilot programs to support schools in upgrading their kitchens to do more scratch cooking and give mini-grants for farm to school programming, and set parameters for a Farm to School Interagency Task Force that would bring together stakeholders to strategize ways to support and spread farm to school programs across the Commonwealth.

An Act to Promote Breakfast in the Classroom
Senator Sal DiDominico
Representative Aaron Vega
Would require that all public K-12 schools that are required to serve breakfast (where at least 60% or more students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program) offer all students a school breakfast after the bell.

Food Waste

An Act encouraging the donation of food to persons in need
Senator Eileen M. Donoghue
Would relieve individual and business food donors from liability for injury arising out of the condition of donated food, and allow farms to claim a tax deduction for the value of donated crops.

An Act decreasing food waste by standardizing the date labeling of food
Senator Eileen M. Donoghue
Would establish standard language for food date labels, reducing confusion and the often unnecessary disposal of food that is still safe to eat.

An Act relative to direct food donations
Senator Ryan C. Fattman
Would relieve individual and business food donors from liability for injury arising out of the condition of donated food, often cited as a barrier to donations and resulting in wasted food.

An Act authorizing school districts to donate excess food to local voluntary assistance programs
Senator Barbara A. L'Italien
Would direct the state board of elementary and secondary education to develop voluntary guidelines for school districts to encourage and facilitate donation of excess food from school cafeterias to groups that distribute food to underserved communities.


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Massachusetts Food System Collaborative