May 27, 2022
The Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its draft budget on May 10. More than 1,100 amendments were filed over the next few days, and debate led to the final passage of the chamber’s proposed FY23 budget on May 26. Numerous local food system priorities were proposed, and many were included in the final version.
Of the Collaborative’s five priorities, four were included in the final draft.
The request for an additional $300,000 for MDAR staffing was included in the Ways and Means base budget. This funding will provide essential resources to the department as its responsibilities increase.
An amendment that would provide $620,570 for four new staff positions at UMass Extension, along with the replacement of outdated soil testing equipment, passed unanimously on the first day of debate. Senator Jo Comerford’s speech about the amendment is available here.
Senator Joan Lovely’s amendment for $250,000 for a new grant program that would support local food policy councils was also included in the final budget.
And Senator Anne Gobi introduced a no-cost amendment that aligned the language in the HIP budget line with the language in the House budget that calls for the program to operate year-round. This item passed as well.
Other local food system amendments that passed include an increase to the proposed amount of funding for Buy Locals, and numerous earmarks for local food pantries and other food security organizations.
These wins are due to countless hours of advocacy from individuals and organizations. While there were many worthy amendments that did not pass, there has been a significant increase in the number of food-related amendments filed and debated in recent years. This growing attention to these issues is thanks to advocates’ work in educating legislators about the importance of these investments in an equitable, sustainable, and resilient local food system.
Though an amendment that would have provided $30,000,000 in funding for the Food Security Infrastructure Grant (FSIG) program was ultimately not included in the budget, amendment sponsor Senator Becca Rausch spoke to her colleagues about finding other sources of funding for the program, including possibly through an upcoming economic development bond bill. Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr also spoke from the floor about the program, echoing Senator Rausch’s support for the program and urging the chamber to find a way to fund the program “in a robust way.”
The Senate and House will next convene a conference committee to reconcile differences between the two chambers’ budgets. Governor Baker will then have 10 days to review the final legislative budget proposal. The state’s new fiscal year begins on July 1.
The table below reflects local food system priorities in the FY23 budget, and compares the funding levels proposed by both chambers. The Collaborative encourages stakeholders to continue to advocate for the levels indicated in green throughout the conference process, as well as to the governor. And be sure to thank your senators and representatives for their support for these items!