Winter is anything but our quiet season here at SEMAP. From our annual appeal in November right through to Farm to Tapas in the summer we have lively time planning and implementing our various initiatives and events. On Saturday we had a very successful workshop on growing hemp, and just a few short weeks away is the 12th Annual Ag & Food Conference coming up on February 24th, 2019. We have also been taking some time to look into legislative issues. With the new session just beginning, please reach out to your representatives if you see a bill that you support. If you are not certain who your legislators are, this tool will tell you. With many bills filed on similar subjects, it’s always helpful to name the specific bill number when contacting your legislators. Here is a list of the bills we think you should be aware of:
An Act encouraging the donation of food to persons in need.
SD91, Senator Kennedy; SD934, Senator Comerford; HD554, Representative 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 credit to Massachusetts farmers in the amount of the fair market value of the donated food, with a $2,000 annual cap per farmer.
An Act relative to an agricultural healthy incentives program.
HD1083, SD1106, Sponsored by Representative Mark & Senator Gobi
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.
An Act establishing farm to school grants to promote healthy eating and strengthen the agricultural economy.
HD3129, SD1086, Sponsored
Would establish a grant program to support infrastructure and training to enable schools to do more scratch cooking using local foods.
An Act regarding
SD1138, Sponsored by Senator Gobi
An Act to promote urban agriculture and horticulture.
HD3921, SD759, Sponsored
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.
An Act establishing a special commission to ensure the resiliency of family farms in the 21st century.
Creates a study commission to look at the needs of agriculture in the Commonwealth in order to be viable and successful
An Act establishing a commission on livestock shelter requirements.
Recent legislation attempted to create a “one-size-fits-all” requirement for livestock. Shelter needs for livestock vary with the species, age
An Act establishing farmer-cideries and authorizing the sale of farmer-cidery products at farmers’ markets.
HD712, Sponsored by Representative Hogan.
Creates a “Farm Cidery” license akin to Farm Winery and Farm Brewery licenses. To qualify as a Farm Cidery, licensees would need to use a percentage of apples grown in the Commonwealth. Allows cider from a Farm Cidery to be sold at agricultural events such as farmers markets.
An Act relative to the growth of hemp.
Clarifies that hemp is an agricultural crop and covered under Chapter 61a and can be grown on farms with an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR).
An Act establishing the Massachusetts rural jobs act.
SD1591, HD3159, Sponsored
This bill creates access to capital by small businesses in rural areas. Capital is provided by investors who get a tax credit for mentoring and investing in rural small businesses. Investors and taxpayers cannot claim the credits for two years until after the funding is fully invested, and tax credits are capped at 15 percent each year.
An Act to further the protection of agricultural land.
HD 1619, Sponsored
Provides tax benefits on farm inputs (such as feed and hay) to commercial horse farms which are currently available to other commercial farms. Horse farms represent a considerable area of open space in the Commonwealth. By making such farms more financially viable, we can help prevent
An Act relative to shellfish aquaculture licenses.
HD 1109, Sponsored
Allows farmers who lease shellfish beds to sell, bequeath or otherwise transfer leases with the approval of the municipality
An Act relative to agricultural commission input on board of health regulations.
HD3144, SD1601, Sponsored by Representative Blais & Senator Hinds
Requires municipal Boards of Health to solicit input from municipal Agricultural Commissions (in towns in which they have been created) prior to promulgating regulations which would impact farms.
An Act relevant to the regulation of farm rides.
Limits regulatory oversight on farm rides which travel less than 10 miles per hour, with passengers less than 5 feet from the ground. Provides limited liability protection for operators of such rides as well as notification to the public of the limited liability.
An Act relative to application deadlines for agricultural, horticultural, or recreational land.
Changes the deadline for filing under Chapter 61, 61a and 61b to December 1st from October 1st, so the deadline is not in the middle of harvest season when farmers are most busy.
An Act relative to updating the plumbing code in order to accommodate agricultural uses.
Unlike the building code, the plumbing code does not contain provisions for agricultural buildings or uses. Many of the requirements are inappropriate for farms. The bill would create a committee to review the code and make recommendations for change.
An Act to support on-farm machinery maintenance.
Current law exempts farm machinery and parts from sale tax. However, many farmers do their own maintenance. As machinery becomes more high-tech, it is increasingly requiring
An Act relative to exemptions from taxation of structures and buildings essential to the operation of agricultural and horticultural lands.
SD 621, Sponsored
With the increasing prevalence of direct-to-consumer sales, agritourism and value-added processing on farms, buildings are becoming as important to the operation of farms as the land. However, like the land, the seasonal aspect of farm building use often does not adequately support the property tax. Unlike
An Act to enhance agricultural operations.
Allows farmers to use ATVs on roads just as they can tractors and other vehicles. ATVs are increasingly used on farms. Requires the farmer to file annually with the Chief of Police a listing of farm properties and the roads which will be used in agricultural activities. ATVs will only be allowed on these roads.
An Act encouraging the use of renewable energy on agricultural land.
Clarifies that on-farm energy production facilities, where 80 percent of the energy generated is used by the farm are subject to zoning protection under the provisions of MGL 40a Section 3. Clarifies that this includes dual-use facilities, where a given plot of land is used for both agricultural and energy production.
An Act relative to pup trailers.
A pup trailer is a relatively small trailer measuring less than 30 feet in length. Current law limits pup trailers for farm use to 10,000 pounds with an “irreducible” load – a load which cannot be broken into smaller pieces. Trailers often weigh close to 10,000 pounds. The irreducible load requirement limits the utility and efficiency of pup trailer use. The bill would allow individuals with a vehicle registered with a Massachusetts farm plate in accordance with Chapter 90, Section 5 to haul up to 99,000 pounds as a combination of truck and trailer when
An Act relative to horse riding instructor’s licenses.
Massachusetts is the only state in the country which requires a license for horse riding instructors. The exam is given sporadically and, in
An Act to modernize certain provisions of the agricultural preservation restriction program.
Special Permits are issued by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) to owners of farms with Agricultural Preservation Restrictions (APRs) who request to have
An Act to promote healthy soils and agricultural innovation within the Commonwealth.
HD 3065, Sponsored
This bill establishes a Healthy Soils Fund within the State Commission for Soil, Water and Related Resources. The fund will be used to support loans and grants for research, education and technical assistance relative to soil health. The focus of the fund will be carbon sequestration, economic viability
An Act to provide a tax deduction for charitable donations of food by farmers.
Many farmers donate portions of their crop to food pantries, shelters