Pending food system legislation

The Massachusetts legislature is considering many bills in the 2019-20 session that relate to the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan. This list includes bills that most closely align with goals and recommendations from the Plan. We encourage committees to consider these bills, and look forward to working with legislators to further shape these and other bills that move the Commonwealth toward a more sustainable and equitable food system.

Download a printable copy of legislative priorities here.

An Act relative to an agricultural healthy incentives programS2426, Senator Anne Gobi; H4232, Representative Paul Mark
The Healthy Incentives Program doubles SNAP recipients’ purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers, improving health outcomes for vulnerable communities and increasing sales for local farms. This bill will establish the framework for the program's long-term sustainability. See the Collaborative's testimony here.

Food Access, Security and Health 3.1.1: Leverage and maximize the FINI grant award to increase use of SNAP and complementary benefit programs at farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and for community supported agriculture (CSA) programs. Identify, support, and implement methods to sustain FINI-related healthy food purchasing incentive initiatives.

An Act relative to Agricultural Commission input on board of health regulations, S2446, Senator Adam Hinds; H4266, Representative Natalie Blais
Many municipal boards of health have no expertise around farming, but are tasked with making decisions that can impact the viability of local farms. This bill will require that municipal boards of health give local agricultural commissions an opportunity to weigh in on new or changing regulations related to agriculture, so that farmers’ perspectives and needs can be taken into account. See the Collaborative's testimony here.

Farming 2.3.1: Develop a system of checks and balances to support appropriate engagement of municipal boards of health and conservation commissions in agricultural issues and reduce unwarranted or unjustified regulations.

An Act encouraging the donation of food to persons in need, S869, Senator Jo Comerford; H1475, Representative Hannah Kane
Would provide civil liability protection for persons who donate food directly to consumers, as well as for food establishments that donate food whose labeled date has passed and a tax deduction to Massachusetts farmers in the amount of the fair market value of the donated food, with a $2,000 annual cap per farmer. See the Collaborative's testimony here. See an organizational sign on letter here

Farming 3.1.6: Implement a tax credit for farmers who donate their surplus crops.

An Act regarding a farmland protection and viability action plan, S482, Senator Anne Gobi

Legislation to develop a statewide Farmland Action Plan to compile data on land use trends, and use that data to guide state investments and policies related to farmland access, protection, and use. See the Collaborative's testimony here.

Land 2.1.1: Establish a legislatively-appointed task force to develop a state Farmland Action Plan, and provide necessary funding for its development.

An Act to promote urban agriculture and horticulture, S1691, Senator Edward Kennedy; H2551, Representative Elizabeth Malia
Would allow cities with populations over 50,000 to adopt an optional property tax break for land used for urban agriculture, to help overcome the high price of urban land and promote the health, economic, and environmental benefits of growing food in cities. See the Collaborative's testimony here

Land 3.18.1: Support state and municipal tax incentives to encourage short- and long- term use of urban land and buildings for food production, such as for the installation of green roofs that include food production and the transformation of vacant lots into community gardens.

An Act regarding breakfast after the bell, S267, Senator Sal DiDomenico; H591, Representative Aaron Vega
Would require that all schools where 60% or more of the students qualify for free and reduced meals serve breakfast after the bell, in the classroom. See the Collaborative's testimony here.

Food Access, Security and Health 4.3.3: Support more schools and school districts in implementing programming that serves breakfast in the classroom. Support increased awareness of Massachusetts DESE guidance to school districts that breakfast is counted as “time on learning.”

An Act improving public health through a common application for core food, health and safety-net programs, S678, Senator Sal DiDomenico; H1173, Representative Jay Livingstone
Would create a common application for Mass Health and SNAP benefits (as well as other DTA administered benefits), improving efficiency and increasing food security for over 570,000 people who are on MassHealth and qualify for SNAP. See the Collaborative's testimony here.

Food Access, Security and Health 2.2.2: Explore use of a common application portal for other federal and state benefit programs including the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); Income Eligible Child Care; housing assistance benefits; and Cash Assistance benefits to ensure families seeking these benefits are offered simultaneous applications for SNAP and health care programs. Encourage inter-agency referrals under existing programs as an interim measure until a new and improved system is in place.

An Act establishing farm to school grants to promote healthy eating and strengthen the agricultural economy, S301, Senator Eric Lesser; H556, Representative Smitty Pignatelli

Would establish a grant program to support infrastructure and training to enable schools to do more scratch cooking using local foods. See the Collaborative's testimony here.

Food Access, Security and Health 4.2.4: Increase the number of schools that have full service kitchens, and provide additional training for food service staff.            

An Act relative to the Massachusetts Food Policy Council, H2784, Representative Paul Schmid

Would add a seat to the MA Food Policy Council for the Department of Fish and Game. See the Collaborative's testimony here

Implementation 1.3.2: Create additional seats on the MFPC to ensure representation of a broad range of public and private food system stakeholders.

An Act to Promote Student Nutrition, S256, Senator Creem; H585, Representative Vargas

Would address “meal shaming,” the practice by which children are publicly denied their school meals because their lunch account is in arrears.

Food Access, Security and Health 4: Healthy food education and choices for all children and adolescents will be expanded.

An Act to promote healthy soils and agricultural innovation within the Commonwealth, S438, Senator Comerford; H873, Representative Paul Schmid

Would establish a healthy soils program, which shall seek to optimize climate benefits while supporting the economic viability of agriculture in the commonwealth by providing incentives, including, but not limited to, loans, grants, research, technical assistance, educational material and outreach to farmers whose management practices will contribute to healthy soils and agricultural innovation and result in net long-term on-farm greenhouse gas benefits.

Inputs 2: Soil health will be improved.

An Act to exempt from taxation structures and buildings essential to the operation of agricultural and horticultural lands, S1786, Senator Tarr

Land 1.1.1: Enact legislation that provides a tax credit for agricultural buildings, exempting new or reconstructed agricultural buildings essential to a farm operation from local property taxes for a period of 10 years, provided the building remains in agricultural use.

An Act relative to the preservation of agricultural lands, S1793, Senator Tran
An Act supporting farming on non-contiguous land, S1613, Senator Comerford

Would allow some non-contiguous agricultural lands under the same farm ownership be aggregated to benefit from Chapter 61A tax valuation. See the Collaborative's testimony here.

Land 3.11.1: Enact legislation to expand Chapter 61A eligibility to parcels smaller than 5 acres. Consider requiring an increase in the value of production threshold on smaller parcels to ensure that those parcels are being actively used for commercial agriculture.

An Act establishing a community college campus hunger pilot program, S757, Senator Lovely; H1233, Representative Joan Meschino

Would establish a fund to support programs on community college campuses to address food insecurity among students via means including, but not limited to, meal cards, meal plans, meal vouchers, and other campus-designed projects to address community college student food insecurity.

Food Access, Security and Health 1: Everyone will be able to afford more healthy and local foods.

An Act relative to expanding access to healthy food choices in vending machines on state property, S1290, Senator Jason Lewis, HD3951, Representative Natalie Blais

Would limit food and beverages sold by vending machines located in government buildings or on government property to those that comply with nutritional standards established by the commissioner of public health.

The Collaborative has also submitted testimony on the following bills and regulations this session: