News

 September 07, 2021

Call to Action: H.860 & S.502 - An Act Promoting Equity in Agriculture

 

My name is Norris Guscott and I’m the new Equity Policy Network Manager at the MA Food System Collaborative! In this role, I am working to build, engage, and empower a network of BIPOC farmers, food equity leaders, and the organizations that represent and support them so we are able to effectively advocate together for public policy that supports equitable access to land, jobs, education, and other resources needed for BIPOC farmers to be sustainable in their businesses and for the food system to be truly equitable for everyone.

Today, I am asking you to contact your local legislators and ask them to cosponsor the bill S.502/H.860, ‘An Act promoting equity in agriculture,’ and to spread the message about it within your networks!

This is urgent! Inequities in agriculture and food access impact BIPOC communities throughout Massachusetts! BIPOC Communities suffer food-related disease at 2x-3x normal rate. BIPOC farmers make up less than 3% of farmers in the state, resulting in lost jobs, lower food security, and reduced local economic activity. Throughout history laws like heirs property laws and the California Alien Land Law show that crafting of legislation hasn’t always been ‘in the spirit of equity.’ There is too much at stake for our communities if we continue waiting to act.

The network crafted ‘An Act promoting equity in agriculture’ to begin to address some of the root issues associated with agriculture and food equity by examining the work of the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture (MDAR) and the opportunities that the agency has to address some of these inequities. The bill would create a process that will begin to address some root areas of inequity in agriculture and the food system across the state while utilizing data to guide its endeavors by recommending:

  • Policy that supports racially equitable investments, policies, and practices;
  • Data collection, benchmark development, targeted outreach and grantmaking to promote equitable access;
  • Ways that existing programs and resources can be more equitably accessed; and
  • Ways that existing laws and regulations can better address inequities.

The process would engage and be driven by BIPOC farmers and organizations that support them.

This is a call to action! We are asking all BIPOC farmers, food equity leaders, and the organizations and allies that support and represent them to take the following actions:

  • Call or email your local legislators and urge them to cosponsor S.502/H.860! Tell them why it’s important to you and your community. Find your legislators here.
  • Share information about this bill within your networks! Forward this email, use social media, and include information in your newsletters.
  • Draft a letter of support for S.502/H.860 and send to the Chairs of the committee considering this bill, urging them to pass the bill.
  • Appear for testimony when a hearing is scheduled - policymakers need to hear from us directly!
  • Keep in touch with MA Food System Collaborative and our Equity Policy initiatives! There will be more bills and programming coming down the pipeline and we want everyone to know about it! The more we know, the more we grow! If you are interested in being added to our email list, please let me know at norris@mafoodsystem.org.

If you’re unsure about how to contact legislators or what to say, or if you just want to talk through the best way to have an impact, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

I look forward to meeting, speaking, and organizing with BIPOC farmers, food equity leaders, organizations, and allies that this work will undoubtedly lead me to! We are clear-eyed about our future endeavors and what is at stake, and confident that collectively as one movement and network, we will bring about the required changes to the agriculture and the food systems in Massachusetts that will truly reflect equity.

Please forward this to your networks!

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Update on Ag Legislation