SEMAP has been deeply concerned about a recent decision made by the USDA that has a profound impact on our most vulnerable population. An incentive program that supports access to fresh local food for SNAP* clients changed contractors with a domino effect that puts Massachusetts’ highly successful Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) at risk, leaving our farmers and farmers markets without a way to process electronic transactions for these incentive programs. For some farmers, it will eliminate their ability to process credit and debit transactions as well.
When a bureaucratic decision has such a devastating local effect it is staggering – especially when the notification comes, for the majority of our local organizations, through a Washington Post article. It exposes the vulnerability of our food system to technological and administrative decisions at the Federal level and shows the need for local resiliency and solutions based close to the heart of our communities.
County Committees help deliver USDA Farm Service Agency farm programs at the local level. Farmers who serve on committees help decide the kind of programs their counties will offer. They work to make FSA agricultural programs serve the needs of local producers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is conducting its annual County Committee election. The nomination period for these elections opens on June 15, 2018 and runs through August 1, 2018. It is crucial that every eligible producer take part in this election because county committees are a direct link between the farm community and the USDA.
The Local Administrative Areas holding elections this year and the towns they are comprised of are as follows:
Local Administrative Area 1: Attleboro, Dighton, Easton, Mansfield, North Attleboro, Norton, Rehoboth, and Seekonk.
Local Administrative Area 4:Bellingham, Dover, Foxboro, Franklin, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Needham, Norfolk, Norwood, Plainville, Walpole, Wellesley, Westwood, and Wrentham.
Since 2009, The Town of Medway has been leasing out a small 7-acre parcel of farmland carved out between Winthrop Street and the Chicken Brook to the Medway Community Farm, a nonprofit enterprise that has much broader goals than simply growing high quality and nutritious vegetables. Over the years, what was originally a very small growing operation has blossomed into a true community resource, providing both food and education for the Medway community. Back in May, I stopped in at Medway Community Farm to see what all the buzz was about (pun intended, they have close to 20 beehives on site).
The Medway Community Farm stand at 50 Winthrop St.
Every year in March, agriculture gets its rightfully deserved recognition at the State House in Boston. Massachusetts Agricultural Day, or more commonly referred to as Ag Day, is an opportunity for our local growers – farmers, fishermen, aquaculturists, Aggie students, Buy Local cooperatives, 4-H, FFA and agricultural enthusiasts to have their voices heard by our State Representatives and Senators.
This year an estimated 200 farmers and more than 35 agricultural organizations attended.
One of the first signs of spring on the legislative calendar is “Ag Day” at the State House. Massachusetts Farms will take center stage on Tuesday, March 27th to celebrate “Ag Day” where farmers come together to focus our legislators’ attention on agriculture. It’s a day to celebrate the hard work by farmers and the diverse products they produce in Massachusetts. Farmers, producers, agricultural associations and commodity groups join together to recognize these contributions of agriculture. There will be an opportunity to sample local products at “A Taste of Massachusetts” and learn more about our local agriculture. Farmers can also meet with their legislators to reinforce the importance of agriculture to the Commonwealth and promote favorable legislation. As the number of smaller farms increase and urban agriculture grows, we need to make legislative changes to reflect the Commonwealth’s increasing farming population.