Mass. Farmers and Legislators Scramble Eggs and Bills

3/30/2013 7:00 AM
By Guy Steucek Massachusetts Correspondent

CONCORD, Mass. — Wilson Farms of Lexington contributed the eggs and approximately 10 legislators representing Middlesex County contributed the sausage (pork or legislative process) for the Legislative Breakfast sponsored by the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation at the historic Colonial Inn.

All legislators acknowledged the value of agriculture within their district and were grateful for the labors of farmers.

“I don’t know the first thing about your job at all, but I sure appreciate what you do for the community,” said state Rep. Jay Kauffman, D-Lexington.

State Rep. Kate Hogan, D-Stow, thanked Massachusetts Farm Bureau representative Brad Mitchell “for all the help with legislation for farmers and the larger farming issue.”

Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, has made agriculture a primary interest in her legislative efforts. Her labors have focused on everything from piggeries to tax credits for small unincorporated farmers.

“It was a pleasure to work with the Farm Bureau and it is great today to meet the people who produce the wonderful farm products,” Dykema said.

State Sen. Eileen Donoghue, D-Lowell, told Farm Bureau members that although they had little time to come to the State House in Boston, their input was needed on legislation that affects agriculture.

State Rep. Sheila Harrington, R-Groton, said the business end of agriculture was important to the local economies.

“We have a great theme of farming around Concord and have great local production thanks to the rebuilding to the Verrill Farm,” said state Rep. Cory Atkins, D-Concord. “Thank you for all your hard work and thanks from the bottom of our hearts and from the bottom of our tummies.”

An aide to senate minority leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, said Tarr “still lives on the family farm and I think he gets 28 hours of work done in a 24-hour day because of his farmer’s ethic.”

Mitchell reminded those in attendance that Massachusetts Agriculture Day at the State House is April 2, and that it is important for members to be involved in the legislative process.

Animal rights legislation has been a primary concern for the Farm Bureau for the past several years, Mitchell said.

“Legislation promoted by the Humane Society of the United States on issues which do not pertain to farming in Massachusetts is a major problem,” he said. “By banning farming practices that don’t exist here, HSUS is hoping to gain a foothold in Massachusetts so that banning agricultural practices elsewhere will be easier.”

Often such legislation is introduced by legislators with no farms in their districts, Mitchell said. Some legislation would allow any individual to sue a farmer for humane reasons.

“If a cow is giving birth in the field, many naïve citizens would want the cow moved to a veterinary facility,” he said.

Too much traffic at a farm on a weekend can be a good thing, but not if the farmer has to pay local police to direct traffic. The Farm Bureau is working on legislation that will permit farms to direct traffic when necessary, Mitchell said.

Also on the Farm Bureau’s to-do list, Mitchell said, is legislation that would give unincorporated farms the same 3 percent tax credit for infrastructure that incorporated farms receive.

“The No. 1 concern for three years in a row is the availability of animal processing facilities,” Mitchell said.

The Farm Bureau, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Public Health are in the process of working on the development of a state-of-the-art facility. A local slaughter and processing facility would help satisfy the demand for local meats, he said.

In order to enlist the support of the nonfarmer population, the 99 percent, the Massachusetts Farm Bureau has instituted a new membership: Friends of Local Farmers. The membership fee is $20. The effort is designed to foster the relationship between consumers and local farmers.

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