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AFT’s Statement on the Passage of Massachusetts’s $4 Billion COVID-19 Relief Spending Package  

 American Farmland Trust commends the Massachusetts State Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker for the passage of this week’s $4 billion COVID-19 relief spending package. This once-in-a-generation funding opportunity will invest $100 million dollars in environmental infrastructure projects that will aid the commonwealth’s efforts in adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. The legislature and Governor Baker have recognized that farmers and the lands they steward play a crucial role in mitigating threats from climate change.  

By providing funding to promote soil health practices that improve water quality and mitigate climate change, Massachusetts is supporting a more regenerative farming system – increasing cover crop adoption, reducing tillage, furthering crop rotations, reducing nutrient applications, and helping farmers to build resilience against a changing and a more extreme climate.  

“Soil stewards provide a form of ecosystem service which is so critical to addressing the climate crisis, ” said Massachusetts’ Northeast Organic Farming Association, Policy Director, Marty Dagoberto. “We are elated to see the legislature recognizing healthy soils as environmental infrastructure.”  

“Farmers care for their land and are continually seeking to improve their stewardship,” said AFT’s New England Director, Nathan L’Etoile.  He continued “with these funds the administration will have an opportunity to support that stewardship and increase the pace of adoption of regenerative practices across the state”.   

AFT is dedicated to supporting farmers to adopt climate-smart practices. In Massachusetts AFT administers the Massachusetts Coordinated Soil Health Program – serving farmers with an initial focus on produce and dairy farmers, both organic and conventional, in each county of the Commonwealth encouraging the implementation of cover crops, no-till, nutrient management, and other soil health management practices.  The threat to agriculture is increased by excess development. According to AFT’s Farms Under Threat: A New England Perspective, “between 2001 and 2016, approximately 105,500 acres were either lost or threatened by development. Of the acres that were impacted, 35 percent (37,300) of farmland acres were lost to other uses, such as parking lots and buildings (“urban & highly developed,” UHD) while 65 percent (68,200) of farmland acres were severely impacted by encroaching development and may already be lost, or are likely to be irreversibly lost in the near future (to “low-density residential development,” or LDR).” As these threats increase, climate-resilient practices will help farmers protect their land and their future operational resilience and economic viability.   

Senator Rebecca L.  Rausch (D- Needham) Senate Chair for the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture 

We simply cannot advance environmental justice and meaningful climate action without agricultural land being a part of the solution. This ARPA funding will be critical to developing Massachusetts’ environmental infrastructure and supporting our Commonwealth’s farmers, which affirms our commitment to protecting our water supply, safeguarding public health, and working toward a sustainable future for all. 

Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) Senate Co-Chair of the MA Food Systems Caucus  

I’m delighted that the legislature allocated American Rescue Plan Act funds for environmental infrastructure, and I was glad to work with American Farmland Trust to ensure some of those funds would go towards soil health. The science is clear that we must act now to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, and this funding will ensure our soils are working for us for years to come.  

Representative Patricia Duffy (D-Holyoke) MA Food Systems Caucus member  

As a representative of a district with serious food insecurity, I am gratified by the forward-thinking investment in Healthy Soils practices and investments.  The pandemic has underscored the value of local, sustainable farming and this funding will certainly support the growing relationship between my city and our surrounding agricultural community.  

Senator Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow), Senate Co-Chair MA Food Systems Caucus 

I am heartened to see the inclusion of critical funding in our ARPA spending bill signed into law that will benefit our local farmers and food systems.  This funding will help farmers and landowners implement healthy soil practices as a means to fight climate change and continue to feed families across the Commonwealth 

Representative Hannah Kane  (R-Shrewsbury), House Co-Chair for the MA Food Systems Caucus  

Healthy soils are essential to a resilient food system. The Caucus was pleased to support this investment, which will help sustain Massachusetts farms’ role in feeding our residents and stewarding our natural resources. 

 

About the Author
Chelsea Gazillo

New England Policy Manager

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