MASSACHUSETTS FARM BUREAU FEDERATION PRIORITIES FOR THE  2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

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Science-Based Pesticide Regulation

  • There are a several bills filed which would ban certain pesticides, restrict their use, and allow municipal regulations of pesticide use on private property.
  • Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) policy supports science-based pesticide regulation through the Massachusetts Pesticide Board and Subcommittee established in Massachusetts General Law (MGL) Chapter 132B. This includes conducting scientific reviews of pesticides for which concerns arise.
  • MFBF strongly opposes any ban or restriction of a pesticide by the legislature or extending regulatory authority to municipalities. Pesticide regulations should be science-based and left to the Pesticide Board and Subcommittee.
  • We support providing the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture (MDAR) and other public members of the Subcommittee with adequate funding to conduct such reviews.

FARM BUREAU SUPPORTS THE FOLLOWING BILLS:

SB 528 – An Act encouraging the use of renewable energy on agricultural land.  Sponsor – Senator Rodrigues.

  • Recent changes to MGL Chapter 61A allow farms to produce up to 125 percent of the farms energy needs while still allowing the land to be subject to provisions of this chapter.
  • This bill would ensure that on-farm energy production which falls under this provision retains the same protection under state zoning law (MGL 40a Section 3) as other agricultural activities.
  • The bill also clarifies that “dual use” – where a given parcel of land is used simultaneously for agricultural production and to produce energy – is eligible for inclusion in Chapter 61A.

SB527 – An Act to modernize certain provisions of the agricultural preservation restriction program.  Sponsor – Senator Rodrigues

  • Under existing law, special permits are required to be issued by MDAR to allow non/quasi-agricultural activities on farms under an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR).
  • Special permits are increasingly important as farms attempt to diversify their income and marketing efforts through value added processing and events such as charity races, weddings, etc.
  • Presently the law limits the duration of special permits to 5 years. In some cases, 5 years is insufficient such as with long-term marketing strategies or infrastructure improvements that involve loans with terms greater than 5 years.
  • This bill would give MDAR the flexibility to approve special permits for a period greater than 5 years.

HB 868 – An Act establishing a commission on livestock shelter requirements.  Sponsor – Representative Schmid

  • Recent legislation attempted to create a “one-size-fits-all” requirement for livestock. Shelter needs for livestock vary with the species, age and condition of the animal. A simplistic shelter requirement will serve neither animals nor their owners well.
  • This bill would create a commission of humane, veterinary and farming representatives charged with creating guidance on livestock shelter needs to direct farmers and regulators in ensuring proper shelter for livestock.

SB 1268/HB 1856 – An Act relative to Agricultural Commission input on board of health regulations.  Sponsors – Senator Hinds/Representative 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 considered.
  • This bill has broad support in both the public health and agricultural communities.