November 4, 2021
The federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) committed $5.3 billion to the state of Massachusetts for recovery and rebuilding efforts following the COVID-19 pandemic. As state lawmakers have begun discussing how to best spend those funds, the Collaborative has been working with our allies to advocate that resources be dedicated to the local food system. With the Buy Locals and NOFA/Mass we submitted a letter to legislators and the governor in late September, prioritizing renewing the Food Security Infrastructure Grant (FSIG) program, as well as committing funding to farmworker housing, education, and farmland access.
In late October the MA House passed their version of a spending bill, using both ARPA and state surplus funds. This bill included $78 million for the FSIG program with $22 million of that committed through earmarks, largely to local emergency food system organizations.
The Senate released their draft version of the bill on November 3. This bill includes $60 million in food system infrastructure funds. It also explicitly mentions farm and food system workers in establishing a COVID-19 Essential Employee Premium Pay Program to provide direct financial support to essential workers, and commits $8 million to the cranberry and fishing industries.
The Collaborative is working with senators to file amendments to make the bill more favorable to the local food system. This includes adding language to ensure that farms, through MDAR, are represented in the investments in land conservation programs to combat climate change. We are also working to ensure that the funds dedicated to the FSIG program are equitably distributed throughout food supply chain enterprises.
The Senate will debate their version of the bill on Wednesday, November 10, after which both chambers will reconcile the differences between the two bills and send the final version to Governor Baker for his signature. Watch the Collaborative’s social media over the next few weeks for updates on these important bills, and for information on how you can advocate for needed changes.