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142 Action Items Found
Train Agriculture and Conservation Commissions on actions farmers may take under current law to manage on and off-farm beaver activity to avoid property damage. If needed, consider changes to state law to allow farmers recourse in the event of off-farm beaver activity that is damaging a farm’s crops or farmland.
Advocate for federal crop insurance products that would cover the loss of fruit trees and other perennial crops in the event of vandalism, flooding, wildlife, or other damage not covered by existing crop insurance policies.
Increase technical assistance to farmers around crop and livestock-specific climate change adaptation strategies. Include climate change adaptation strategies as eligible practices under USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
Establish a legislatively-appointed task force to develop a state Farmland Action Plan, and provide necessary funding for its development. Members of the task force should include representatives of state agencies, farm and conservation organizations, University of Massachusetts, and other academic institutions with expertise in agricultural land data analysis, modeling, and mapping, regional planning agencies, and USDA-NRCS.
Create dedicated APR funding specifically for projects not eligible for NRCS’ Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) program.
Task the ALPC with reviewing current APR program policies related to housing, farm infrastructure, the 5% impervious surface limit, and limits on renewable energy production if sited away from productive agricultural lands, and recommending changes as appropriate.
Provide more public education on best management practices for urban gardening in locations with known or suspected soil contamination. Provide funding for soil testing.
Develop guidance for farmers and municipal officials around solar development and the types of arrays and installation techniques that minimize the long-term impact on agricultural resources.
Re-establish the state Wetlands Protection Act oversight/advisory committee. Task the Committee with analyzing how farmland across the Commonwealth has been impacted by state and federal wetlands laws and regulations, and the potential impacts of restoring prior farmland to active agricultural use. Task the Committee with developing recommendations related to restoration of prior farmlands to active agricultural use and the need and advisability of statutory or regulatory changes related to the Act’s agricultural provisions, including the 5-year production window to qualify for the agricultural exemption.
Update the state Farming in Wetlands guide (last updated in 1996), and include new examples of situations involving the Wetlands Protection Act agricultural exemption. Provide training to farmers and Agriculture Commissions on the guide and the agricultural exemption. Require Conservation Commission members to take a training course on the agriculture exemption.
Pursue a program that would allow towns to obtain better insurance rates if Conservation Commission members attend trainings, similar to local Planning Board training discounts.
Enact a farmland restoration program similar to Connecticut’s Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Restoration Program, which cost shares with farmers on land management and conservation practices aimed at bringing former farmland back into food production. Consider including in the program projects that would also benefit pollinators and other rare species that thrive on agricultural land.
Focus analysis on Gateway Cities to assess the potential for those cities to support both short- and long- term urban agriculture on vacant and underutilized land. Work with city planners to inventory these municipalities’ surplus land and prioritize based upon criteria developed in the action plan as called for in Recommendation 2.1. Consider using Health Impact Assessments to evaluate soil remediation on urban land.
Advocate for dedicated funding conduct soil testing, and import or remediate soil on prioritized land in Gateway Cities and other cities. Consider using the MEPA process to secure clean soil from development projects that could replace contaminated soils in urban locations.
Research production methods for rooftop crops, including minimizing environmental contamination.
Provide education and technical assistance to builders, developers, and municipal building authorities on green roof installation and maintenance, edible landscaping, and other alternative methods for growing food in an urban environment, including living walls, vertical greenhouses, hydroponics, and aquaponics.
Educate farmers, including beginning and urban farmers about state and federal conservation programs.
Expand and improve technical assistance to farmers and farmland owners to assist with conservation planning and accessing state and federal conservation programs. Advocate for increased state and federal funding for this purpose.
Expend all existing bond authorization for MDAR’s Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program (AEEP) by 2018, and increase funding for AEP in future bond bills.
Develop recommendations on how the federal Conservation Stewardship Program could be improved to better incentivize conservation practices on farmland in Massachusetts.