July 2021
Young Farmers & Ranchers Happenings
If anyone is interested in hosting a tour of their farm or joining the YF&R committee, please email Heather at 
Make Plans To Attend Our Sept. 25 Social At Hollis Hills Farm!
Live Music!
Good Food!
Great Company!

Time: 6 - 9 p.m.
Location: 240 Marshall Rd, Fitchburg, MA 01420

Registered attendees will receive a voucher for $8 worth of food/drink!

Register to Attend Online: https://mfbf.net/mfbf-yfr-social-event/

Baker Signs COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Law
On May 28, 2021, Governor Baker signed legislation establishing a COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick
Leave program in the Commonwealth. Effective immediately, all Massachusetts employers must grant up to 40 hours of emergency paid leave for full time employees, and prorated emergency paid leave for part time employees, for certain COVID-19 related purposes.

Employers are eligible for reimbursement for the cost of providing the required paid leave through a new $75 million state fund created by the law, unless the employer is otherwise eligible for reimbursement from the federal COVID-19 emergency sick leave tax credit program established under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Employers must make the required leave available through Sept. 30, 2021, or until the state fund is exhausted.

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development has issued preliminary employer guidance to facilitate implementation of the new law. The guidance provides important details pertaining to eligible reasons for taking leave, calculating leave amounts, written leave requests, and the law’s non-retaliation provisions. Additional guidance will be issued in the coming weeks, and is expected to include model employee notification and written request for leave forms, as well as information on how employers may apply for reimbursement from the state. In the interim, employers may use this preliminary guidance document to provide required employee notification, and should adopt a written request for leave policy that follows the process outlined in the Employees Request for Leave section of the guidance.

Solvency Fund Legislation Prompts Two Month Extension of First Quarter UI Payment Due Date
State officials have again extended the due date for first quarter unemployment
insurance payments from Massachusetts employers. Originally extended by the Department of Unemployment Assistance to June 1, the deadline for employer payments has again been pushed out another two months to Monday, Aug. 2. Aug. 2 is also the due date for second quarter employment and wage detail filings and contributions.

The delay comes as the legislature and Baker administration work to pass legislation designed to address the unexpected solvency assessment increases recently experienced by employers
in their Q1 bills. Currently on the Governor’s desk awaiting approval, the legislation proposes shifting pandemic-related unemployment claims, currently charged to the solvency fund, into a new COVID fund which will be amortized over a 20-year period through bonding. The move is designed to provide employers with short-term relief from the solvency assessment spikes, however the burden
of paying off the program’s $7 billion deficit over the 20-year period will remain squarely on the shoulders of the Commonwealth’s employers.

Apply For MFBF’s Gregory Finn Scholarship
The Gregory Finn Scholarship was established in loving memory of a good friend to agriculture, Gregory L. Finn. Finn was Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation’s (MFBF’s) Information & Public Relations Director, a religious and devoted family man, who died of a heart attack in 1983 at the age of 55.

Though not a farmer himself, Finn possessed a unique ability to bridge the gap between agriculture and suburbia. He was a natural at interpreting and conveying the problems facing farmers in a way that non- agricultural communities could understand. Finn was aware that a whole generation had grown up without exposure to perhaps the single most vital industry in the Commonwealth....Agriculture. This scholarship is awarded in Finn’s memory to foster an understanding and perhaps help to close the gap between the farm community and suburban Massachusetts.

Applicants must be a child or legal dependent of a MFBF regular member in good standing. Applicants must be at least in their junior year of college when the scholarship is awarded. Applicants must be majoring in communications, journalism, music or an agriculturally related field. Application must be submitted to “The Greg Finn Scholarship Fund” by Aug. 31. Application must be accompanied by a sealed official copy of the applicant’s college transcript; and a 250 word statement on why the applicant has chosen this particular field of study and projected career goals. To request an application please contact MFBF at info@mfbf.net or 508-481-4766.

Have A Chonky Barn Cat? Enter Them In MFBF’s Barn Cat Photo Contest 
Do you have a barn mouser who has a larger than life purr-sonality? Here is your opportunity to enter them in the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) inaugural barn cat photo contest! 

The contest is sponsored by The Pet Food Institute and prizes will be awarded for best dressed, best mouser, best cat napper, sassiest, most chonk and best overall feline. Be sure to submit your photos here before the Aug. 31 deadline! 

“This contest is meant to bring awareness to the farm cat population in the Commonwealth,” said MFBF President Mark Amato. “They support our farmers through rodent control and their aloof companionship. They have also become an iconic tradition for farms across the country with most farms supporting a small population of barn cats.”

A panel of MFBF members will serve as judges to determine winners in each category. There is room on the online submission for three photos, please be sure to submit a photo where the barn is shown in a “working” capacity or barn setting. This contest is meant to honor barn cats, not house companions.  

For farmers who are looking to adopt barn cats, here is a list of links to shelters with a barn cat adoption program: 

Special Announcement: New Partner & Member Benefit
MFBF Brings a Roofless Solar Option to Members with Clearway

It’s been a remote year. Remote work, remote sports. Now, there’s remote solar! You see, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation members can now go solar, no roof required by subscribing to an offsite solar farm. The MFBF has partnered with Clearway Community Solar to further our collective mission of supporting renewable power in the Commonwealth. When you join a Clearway Community Solar Farm, you can support locally-produced solar energy for the Massachusetts power grid, and receive a savings guarantee on energy costs. Through our special partnership with Clearway, there is no sign up cost, no cancellation fee, and for every MFBF member that joins, Clearway will donate $150 to the MFBF to support our programming. It’s a great new way for our members to help reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and support a greater contribution of renewable power to our local grid. And while you’re helping the planet, you’ll save along the way. 

To learn about supporting renewable power and Clearway’s savings guarantee, please visit www.clearwaysolarfarm.com/MFBF. Use promo code: MFBF and enroll online in just 5 minutes. Or, call 1.866.520.0748 to speak to an energy consultant. No home audits are required and there is no rooftop installation. 

Terms & conditions apply. Please see the Clearway Customer Agreement for details.
MFBF Launches Scholarship Program For Non-Traditional Members
The Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) is now accepting applications for its first-ever, non-traditional membership scholarship, which is available by clicking here. The intent of this scholarship program is to receive input into the organization’s policy development program from commercial farmers who are not traditionally members. Examples of non-traditional members include urban farmers, new entry farmers, immigrant farmers and more. 

“Farm Bureau membership has always been open to everyone, however, one of the biggest barriers to joining can be approaching a group of people where you know no one,” said MFBF President Mark Amato. “By creating this scholarship program and in turn a cohort program for the recipients, we hope to break down those walls and introduce non-traditional members to our current members in an environment where the new people are comfortable. In turn, we hope to see the scholarship recipients bring in other, non-traditional members to provide input on our policy process and expand our membership.” 

Scholarship recipients will receive a scholarship membership into the organization (valued at $225) for one year and will be expected to complete an orientation webinar, a mid-year survey, and participate in one county-level policy event. 

“The feedback that we get during the Farm Bureau policy development process can have national impact,” Amato said. “We need all types of farmers involved in this process and value all input. I’m looking forward to seeing this scholarship bring new ideas to the table.”

The deadline to apply is July 31, 2021, and applications will be reviewed by a committee of MFBF board of directors. This scholarship was made possible through a grant from American Farm Bureau Federation. 
APR Program Accepting Applications
The Massachusetts Department of Agriculture (MDAR) is currently accepting applications for the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program. The Program purchases the non-agricultural value of the farmland in exchange for a permanent deed restriction which prevents uses and activities that may impact the present or future agricultural use and viability of the property.
 
Through purchases of Agricultural Preservation Restrictions, the APR Program preserves and protects agricultural land, including designated farmland soils, which are a finite natural resource, from being built upon for non- agricultural purposes or used for any activity detrimental to agriculture. It is a voluntary program which offers a non-development alternative to farmers and other owners of "prime" and "state important" agricultural land who are faced with a decision regarding future use and disposition of their farms. To date, the program has protected over 930 farm properties across the Commonwealth.
 
Applications will be considered for funding through the APR Program and the federal USDA Agricultural Lands Easement (ALE) Program. The program accepts applications on a rolling basis. In order to be considered a priority for the next funding cycle submit an application no later than June 30, 2021 deadline.
 
Applications must be received by 4:00 P.M. on June 30, 2021. Applications may be mailed, hand-delivered or sent electronically. Those sent by fax will NOT be accepted, and postmarks will NOT be considered.
 
To learn more about the APR program and for program eligibility go online to APR Program Details:
 
If you are interested in applying to the APR program, please go to Additional Resources section online, and:
 
  1. Review the Application Instructions.
  2. Review and download the APR Application.
  3. Contact the APR Program if you have any questions or to discuss the next steps in the application process.
 
Ashley Davies - Eastern Massachusetts - 617-645-6772 - Ashley.Davies@mass.gov
 
Ron Hall – Hampshire County - 413-726-2002 - Ronald.Hall@mass.gov
 
Barbara Hopson - Berkshire and Hampden Counties - 413-726-2003 - Barbara.Hopson@mass.gov
 
Michele Padula – Worcester and Franklin Counties - 617-626-1758 - Michele.Padula@mass.gov
SBA Working Capital Loans Available in Massachusetts Following Secretary of Agriculture Disaster Declaration for Drought Beginning Sept. 22
The U.S. Small Business Administration announced that Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and private nonprofit organizations as a result of drought that began on Sept. 22, 2020.
 
The loans are available in the following counties: Barnstable, Berkshire, Bristol, Dukes, Hampden, Hampshire, Plymouth, Worcesterin Massachusetts.
 
Under this declaration, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is available to eligible farm-related and nonfarm-related entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster. Except for aquaculture enterprises, SBA cannot provide disaster loans to agricultural producers, farmers and ranchers. Nurseries are eligible to apply for economic injury disaster loans for losses caused by drought conditions. 
 
The loan amount can be up to $2 million with interest rates of 3 percent for small businesses and 2.75 percent for private nonprofit organizations of all sizes, with terms up to 30 years. The SBA determines eligibility based on the size of the applicant, type of activity and its financial resources. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition. These working capital loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred. The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits.
 
Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at DisasterLoan.sba.gov and should apply under SBA declaration # 16724, not for the COVID-19 incident.
 
2022 Farm Bureau® Ag Innovation Challenge Application Open
The American Farm Bureau Federation, in partnership with Farm Credit, has opened online applications for the 2022 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge. This national business competition showcases U.S. startup companies that are providing solutions to challenges faced by America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities. Farm Bureau will award $165,000 in startup funds provided by sponsors Farm Credit, Bayer Crop Science, Farm Bureau Bank, Farm Bureau Financial Services, FMC Corporation and John Deere.

Launched in 2015 as the first national competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs, the Challenge continues to identify the next ag entrepreneurs to watch and supports innovation essential to Farm Bureau member businesses and communities. 

For this eighth year of the competition, Farm Bureau is seeking entrepreneurs who are addressing either traditional or new/emerging challenges. The 2021 Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year, Riley Clubb with Harvust, addressed traditional challenges by developing a software platform that helps farmers successfully hire, train and communicate with employees. The competition is also open to entrepreneurs tackling new challenges that surfaced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Farm Bureau members across the country continue to grapple with a number of challenges associated with the pandemic,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Now, more than ever, we need creative solutions from entrepreneurs to help our farmers, ranchers and rural communities thrive.”

For example, 2021 Ag Innovation semi-finalist Butter Meat Co. is a beef supply chain startup based in Western New York that is working to improve the value proposition of retired dairy cows as beef for farmers and consumers. Owners of the business are building a dairy beef brand that increases the farm gate value and offers customers flavorful beef produced eco-consciously. Another Ag Innovation semi-finalist, AgriHoodBaltimore, launched the Urban Farmer Training Resource Institute with a focus on developing the next generation of urban farmers. 

Farm Bureau and Farm Credit will select 10 startup companies to compete as semi-finalists at the AFBF Convention in January 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. The 10 semi-finalist teams will be announced on ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Oct. 5 and awarded $10,000 each. These 10 teams will compete to advance to the final round where four teams will receive an additional $5,000 each and compete live on stage in front of Farm Bureau members, investors and industry representatives. The final four teams will compete to win:

  • Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge Winner, for a total of $50,000 
  • Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge Runner-up, for a total of $20,000 
  • People’s Choice Team selected by public vote, for an additional $5,000 (all 10 semi-finalist teams compete for this honor) 

The top 10 semi-finalist teams will participate in pitch training and mentorship from Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management faculty prior to competing at AFBF’s Convention. In addition, the top 10 semi-finalist teams will have the opportunity to network with industry leaders and venture capital representatives from the Agriculture Department’s Rural Business Investment Companies.

Applications must be received by Aug. 20. Learn more: https://www.fb.org/land/ag-innovation-challenge-2022.
New England Leopold Conservation Award Seeks Nominees
Know a farmer or forestland owner who goes above and beyond in their care and management of natural resources? Nominate them for the 2021 New England Leopold Conservation Award®.

Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 22 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In New England the $10,000 award is presented with, New England Forestry Foundation and Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmlands & Communities.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes landowners who inspire others with their dedication to soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat on private, working land. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.

Nominations may be submitted on behalf of a landowner in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Landowners may also nominate themselves. The application can be found at www.sandcountyfoundation.org/ApplyLCA.

The application deadline date is July 15, 2021. Applications can be emailed to award@sandcountyfoundation.org. If mailed, applications must be postmarked by July 15, and mailed to:

Leopold Conservation Award
c/o New England Forestry Foundation
P.O. Box 1346
Littleton, MA 01460

Applications will be reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and forestry conservation leaders.

“As a national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of farmers, ranchers and forestland owners,” said John Piotti, AFT President and CEO. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”

“Recipients of this award are real life examples of conservation-minded agriculture,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer. “These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy.”

The New England Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, New England Forestry Foundation; Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmlands & Communities; Sand County Foundation, David and Ann Ingram, Farm Credit East, Yale School of the Environment and Whole Foods Market.

The first recipient of the award was Bill Hull of Hull Forest Products in Pomfret Center, Connecticut. Linda Rinta and the Rinta Family Farm of West Wareham, Massachusetts received the award in 2020.

Farm Bureau University
What is Farm Bureau University?
“Online Learning for Farm Bureau”

Learning is no longer confined to four walls and formalized training. Farm Bureau University allows Farm Bureau members to learn through interactive experiences online when and where they want. Farm Bureau members can log onto FB University from a desktop computer in their office or on an iPad in the field.

Currently available to Farm Bureau members:
  • Board Essentials – Online training for county board members to develop skills and acquire knowledge as a Farm Bureau leader.
  • FB Builder – An evaluation tool for your county Farm Bureau to assess on eight building blocks of organizational health.
  • Pillars of Agricultural Literacy – A tool to guide you, or a group, through the Pillars of Agricultural Literacy in order to create a purposeful plan to educate consumers about agriculture.

What’s new on Farm Bureau University?
Farm Bureau Board Essentials, the newest online learning program, offers resources and training to county board members to improve governance, planning, policy development and advocacy, and membership.

Whether you’ve been on the board for three weeks or 30 years, Farm Bureau Board Essentials sharpens your skillset and understanding as a board member.

How to register for Farm Bureau University
Any member can register for free at university.fb.org. New users need to register for an account and type in the correct code. The member code is “statefb” replacing state with the two-letter postal abbreviation. For example a New York Farm Bureau member’s code is “nyfb.”

Click here to register today.
Are you looking for industry events?
Check out MDAR's Agriculture Industry Calendar!
Follow Us On Social Media!