Young farmers will bring their livestock to the Boston Common to discuss farm policy with legislators and consumers on June 6, 2018. This annual event, known as Livestock on the Common, is sponsored by Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation’s (MFBF’s) Young Farmer and Rancher (YF&R) committee and allows both legislators and the public to get up-close and personal with farm-raised livestock and farmers to discuss policies that could impact farms.

As the legislative session ends on July 31, the YF&R committee is looking to discuss two bills of importance to the farming community with the legislators. Those include: H.B. 3908, an act relative to the dairy farm tax credit and H.B. 3915, an act to establish estate tax valuation for farms.

“MFBF supports bills that help keep farmers profitable, which both H.B. 3908 and H.B. 3915 focus on,” said MFBF President Mark Amato, who manages a farm in Concord. “For example, H.B. 3915 would calculate the value of farmland for estate tax purposes at its agricultural value. Currently, farmland is assessed at its ‘high and best use’ value, which is typically development. For many who inherit farmland, this means selling off tracks of land to pay this death tax, which makes it harder for these farmers to be profitable.”

H.B. 3908 helps maintain the dairy industry during times of low milk prices. Under Massachusetts law, dairy farmers are allowed a refundable tax credit for periods of time when the cost of production exceed the price of milk paid to farmers. The law currently limits the total amount allocated annually towards the credit to $4 million. Unfortunately, this has been insufficient. This bill would increase the limit.

It has seen positive progress as Representative Pignatelli’s amendment to increase the dairy tax credit to $6 million in the 2019 fiscal year budget was recently adopted by the House of Representatives. This still must pass the Senate but is a step in the right direction.

Both H.B. 2915 and H.B. 3908 would help keep farmers in business, which is why MFBF’s YF&R is looking forward to discussing them with legislators. Additionally, this group will be looking to target consumers with their day on the Boston Common, as farm roadside stands, farmers markets, agritourism and more continue to play a larger role in Massachusetts agriculture.

“This is the sixth year that our committee has sponsored this event,” said MFBF YF&R Chair Heidi Cooper, who farms in Rochdale. “When we first started this event, we primarily wanted to focus on connecting with legislators, however, as this event has evolved over the years, we’ve also seen it grow to include more consumers.

“This year we are putting a larger focus on consumer and are encouraging everyone walking by the Boston Common on June 6 to stop in. We’d love to fill social media with ‘selfies’ of the public and a farm animal. We’d also love to answer any questions consumers may have about farming in the Commonwealth.”

The event will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Boston Common. For more information about Livestock on the Common, including arranging interviews, background information and more, please contact MFBF’s Director of Marketing and Membership at 508-481-4766.