March 2021
Young Farmers & Ranchers Happenings
If anyone is interested in hosting a virtual tour of their farm or joining the YF&R committee, please email Heather at 
A Message From MFBF’s YF&R Chair Heather Bonanno-Baker
Happy March! This has been a crazy start to my season, but everything is finally coming together. Last year was a crazy year for all of us, I am sure. Hopefully, we can keep up the retail business that we saw spikes in. 

Christina Saccone (MFBF’s YF&R vice chair) and I have been focusing our attention on revamping our social media presence. We want to get our organization out there with the hopes of attracting new members. This month, YF&R’s social media channels will be focusing on maple. We are currently looking for maple producers to send us photos and facts we can focus on our pages. If anyone is interested, we are also looking for some short videos on maple production. We can also come out and shoot a video if that is easier. Please email me if you are willing to participate.

Last month, I contacted the other state YF&R chairs from New England. We are coming together to work on some projects that will benefit all of our organizations. With this connection, we hope to contribute ideas and hold events together in the future. New England is so small, and most of us do business in multiple states, so it is nice to be building relationships with our neighboring states. 
American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF’s) Young Farmers and Rancher committee in conjunction with their Promotion and Education and Women’s committees is holding their biennial FUSION conference virtually this year. With the event going virtual – anyone can attend, including non-members. It is free to sign up, and I encourage you to log on if you have the time. It is always a great experience and the knowledgeable speakers and sessions help us with our businesses. 

I again want to thank you all for allowing me to serve as your YF&R state chair. Please email me with any maple facts, photos or video, or if you know someone interested in being a part of our group!


Heather Bonanno-Baker 
Register Today For The 2021 Virtual AFBF FUSION Conference
AFBF’s Promotion & Education, Women’s Leadership and Young Farmers & Ranchers committees are planning the first-ever virtual AFBF FUSION Conference, slated for March 11 - 13. This reimagined event, with the theme “Where Agriculture Converges,” will begin the evening of Thursday, March 11, and conclude the evening of Saturday, March 13. Pre-conference events will include state chair training and the opening rounds of the Collegiate Discussion Meet. Click here to register for FREE to attend this fully virtual event.
MFBF Legislative Update 
Massachusetts has a two-year legislative session. The 2019-2020 session ended in early January, with the new 2021-2022 session opening soon thereafter. Below is a list of bills which were signed into law and are of interest to the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) community, as well as a list of new legislation filed in response to resolutions passed at MFBF’s Delegate Session in December 2020. 

2019/2020 Legislation Pertinent to Agriculture which Passed into Law

BOH/Ag Commission – This was a bill filed at MFBF’s request which essentially gives Agricultural Commissions (AC) 45 days to review any Board of Health (BOH) regulation that impacts agriculture before regulation can go into effect. This gives the AC time to review the regulation, collect public input and provide input to the BOH. The new law does not require the BOH to make changes based on AC input However, the bill addresses the lack of transparency and process with the promulgation of BOH regulation that has plagued the farming community for some time. Senator Hinds and Representative Blais filed this legislation. It had originally been filed by Representative Kulik, who has retired. 
21st Century Farm Resiliency Commission – This bill creates a commission to explore policy issues related to ensuring the viability of farms going into the future. MFBF staff and leadership worked with Representative Hogan on this bill. It remains to be seen how effective this committee will be. However, it does draw attention to some key challenges the farming community has been facing and will continue to face, including labor and on-farm energy production. Representative Hogan was the primary sponsor of this bill. 

Housing – The Economic Development bill signed by the governor does contain provisions to lower threshold for voting in several types of zoning changes from 2/3 to a simple majority. This includes Natural Resource Protection Zoning which can sometimes negatively impact values of farm properties. MFBF and others have opposed this as it weakens the voice of landowners at most town meetings. However, this was a priority for the governor and several key legislators. The farming community will have to make it more of a priority to make a larger showing at planning board and town meetings where this is considered.

Rural Growth Fund – The Economic Development bill also contained provisions of a bill MFBF has long supported having to do with rural development and access to capital in rural areas (the latter being the focus of a long-standing MFBF resolution). In short, the new program is based on both USDA’s Rural Business Investment Program and the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Small Business Investment Company. It offers tax credits for rural investment which are rescinded if stated milestones are not met. Investments are channeled through a fund run through the Massachusetts Office of Business Development. It is anticipated to attract $100 million in investments in 24 months and committed to rural Massachusetts for six years.

New Legislation Filed/To Be Filed

Slaughter – MFBF is filing a bill to give Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) the authority to enter into a cooperative agreement with USDA to take on the oversight of select inspected slaughter facilities. The intention is to offer an alternative that could lower the cost and barriers to creating new slaughter facilities. Two bills have been filed SD2473 - An act to promote domestic meat and poultry production by Senator Tarr, and SD1705 - An act relative to in-state meat inspection programs by Senator Gobi.

Constitutional Amendment Regarding Chapter 61a – MFBF and others have previously attempted to reduce the 5-acre threshold for qualifying for 61a. There is a significant dispute among House and Senate counsel (and others) as to whether this is allowed under the state constitution. As such, MFBF has taken the lead and is working with Representative Schmid to change the state constitution. This is a long and difficult process. The bill is HD3316 - An act amending article 99 of the Massachusetts constitution.

Definition of Agritourism – Last session, MFBF legislation created an agritourism task force. This group, which includes a MFBF representative has been meeting for several months. Senator Kennedy has filed SD1325 which defines agritourism as “an agriculturally related educational, entertainment, historical, cultural, or recreational activity, including you-pick operations or farm markets, conducted on a farm that allows or invites members of the general public to observe, participate in, experience, or enjoy that activity.” The definition is being viewed as the first step in addressing several ongoing issues with agritourism, especially a lack of clarity on how agritourism activities fall into local zoning jurisdiction. 

MFBF will also be refiling most of those bills filed last session which did not pass. It typically takes several sessions for a bill to pass into law. Whether a refile, or a new bill, the single most important factor influencing the passage of a bill is how many people advocate for it, and how well they do it. MFBF has a long history of successfully passing bills which support agriculture and fighting back those which would harm it. Our success is based largely on members speaking up and offering their voices at legislative breakfasts, Ag Day and/or directly to legislators. Keep an eye out for email alerts and articles. The success of agriculture in the Commonwealth relies on the voice of farmers.
Neonicotinoid Vote By MA Pesticide Board Subcommittee
The Massachusetts Pesticide Board Subcommittee voted on March 1 to restrict the use of neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics) for uses other than agricultural or structural pest control. While this may sound like a loss, it was really a win. The subcommittee vote was the result of a multi-year effort by the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) and partners to ensure that, consistent with standing policy, pesticide regulation remains science-based and in the hands of the subcommittee. 

Many concerns have arisen about the impacts of neonics on bees and other pollinating insects. This led to legislation on Beacon Hill, which would have put rather draconian restrictions on neonics, absent any scientific justification for doing so. The legislation, which was driven largely by anti-pesticide advocates and amateur beekeepers, in various iterations would have:

  • Restricted all outdoor uses of neonics;
  • Required that neonicotinoid treated seeds be limited to certified applicators;
  • Prohibited the application of neonicotinoids on state property;
  • Required that applicators applying neonicotinoids on private property inform the owner that these products would be applied and obtain a written acknowledgment that they allowed the application;
  • Required that all nursery plants sold, that had been treated with neonicotinoids, be labeled as such.

The science is far from decisive on whether neonics pose any significant risk to pollinator insects. Massachusetts has seen a half-dozen, relatively small bee kills in the last decade related to pesticides. Neonicotinoids were not found to be responsible for any of them. In fact, most were the result of classes of pesticides which are the likely alternative to neonics should they be restricted or taken away. The legislation was not based on any thorough or knowledgeable review of science, but emotion and activist pressure.

From the beginning of the controversy, MFBF supported a scientific review on the potential impacts of neonics on pollinating insects, and any restrictions supported by science. In fact, MFBF staff and leadership were successful in ensuring the subcommittee was given funding to conduct such a review.
However, MFBF remained adamant that the review and any subsequent changes to the registration of neonics be through the Pesticide Board Subcommittee. This group was created by the legislature through law with the responsibility for ensuring that pesticides used in the Commonwealth do not pose an “unreasonable adverse impact on man or the environment.” The subcommittee has a well-established process for conducting a review of pesticides of concern, and based on the results of the review, deciding on its registration status. That is exactly what they did earlier this month.

Pesticides are an emotional topic and there is no shortage organizations who have made it their mission to put any barriers they can to their use. Conversely, they remain an important and necessary tool for farmers and many others. The only rational means to balance to these competing interests is to ensure that pesticide regulation is based on science. While it is the legislature’s job to design the process for doing so – and they did that by creating the Pesticide Board Subcommittee. 

To use a drug analogy - Congress created the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to oversee drug safety. If a concern arises with the side effects of heart medication – FDA acts through the authority and processes created by Congress. Congress does not regulate drugs. The same relationship should exist between the Massachusetts legislature and the Pesticide Board Subcommittee when concerns arise with pesticides. 
Please note legislation has been filed which would implement all the proposed restrictions of previous neonic legislation. SD 207 – An act protecting pollinators from harmful products was filed by Senator Eldridge, and HD 1267 has been filed by Representative Dykema. The deadline for filing legislation was before the subcommittee decision, so hopefully these bills will be withdrawn by the sponsor or killed in committee. However, the need to advocate for science-based pesticide regulation continues. 
Deadline to Purchase Federal Crop Insurance/NAP Coverage - March 15
Recent growing seasons have seen hail, drought, excess moisture and freeze occur across Massachusetts. If you’re concerned with extreme weather events and the impact they can have of your farm, you should consider purchasing some level of coverage on your insurable crops. The deadline to purchase coverage for spring-seeded crops and the Whole Farm Revenue Program is March 15, 2021.

Individual Crop Policies:
Growers can purchase Federal Crop Insurance on corn (silage/grain), fresh market sweet corn, potatoes, soybeans and cigar binder tobacco. Availability to purchase coverage on potatoes is limited to Franklin and Hampshire Counties; for soybeans to Hampden, Hampshire & Worcester Counties; and for cigar binder tobacco to Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire Counties. These are yield-based policies and are based on a producer’s historical crop yields.

Whole Farm Revenue Program:
WFRP provides growers with revenue protection from weather related or market losses rather than yield
based policies and are based on a five-year revenue history (in some instances as long as a producer has 3 years of records they may purchase a WFRP policy) 

Individual crop policies and the WFRP policy are sold through private Federal Crop Insurance Agents. Use the following link to contact an agent:

Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP):
NAP is available on all annual crops not insured by Federal Crop Insurance. NAP offers Catastrophic (CAT) Coverage which ensures 50 percent of your actual production history of the crop and any losses are paid out at 55 percent of the approved market price for the crop. “Buy-Up” coverage is also available under NAP. Producers can cover between 50 - 65 percent of their actual production history and losses are paid out at 100 percent of the approved market price for the crop. Under CAT, producers pay an administrative fee and for “Buy-Up” coverage, producers pay an administrative fee and a premium based upon the coverage level selected. Beginning, historically underserved, and limited resource famers receive a waiver of the NAP administrative fee and receive a 50 percent reduction on the “Buy- Up” premium. Check with your local USDA - Farm Service Agency (FSA) Office, which administers NAP for more details. March 15, 2021 is the deadline to purchase NAP coverage for all 2020 Spring-seeded crops.

This is material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2018-70027-28588. UMass Extension works in partnership with the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Northeast Extension Risk Management Education Center to educate Massachusetts producers about Federal Crop Insurance and USDA Disaster Assistance Programs.

For more information, please contact UMass Risk Management Specialists Paul Russell at or Tom Smiarowski at
Baker-Polito Administration Announces Plans for Continued Reopening
The Baker-Polito Administration announced that Massachusetts would advance to Step 1 of Phase IV on Monday, March 22. 

Gathering Changes and Phase IV Start
Provided public health metrics continue to improve, effective on March 22, all communities in Massachusetts will move into Step 1 of Phase IV of the state’s reopening plan. This will open a range of previously closed business sectors under tight capacity restrictions that are expected to be adjusted over time if favorable trends in the public health data continue. Effective on the planned advancement to Step 1 of Phase IV, the following industries will be permitted to operate at a strict 12% capacity limit after submitting a plan to the Department of Public Health (DPH), including indoor and outdoor stadiums; arenas; and ballparks.

Also effective on March 22, gathering limits for event venues and in public settings will increase to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors. Outdoor gatherings at private residences and in private backyards will remain at a maximum of 25 people, with indoor house gatherings remaining at 10 people.

Additionally, dance floors will be permitted at weddings and other events only, and overnight summer camps will be allowed to operate this coming summer. Exhibition and convention halls may also begin to operate, following gatherings limits and event protocols. Other Phase IV sectors must continue to remain closed. 
40 Under 40 - Fruit and Vegetable
The Fruit + Vegetable 40 Under 40 Awards honor 40 outstanding individuals making their marks in the industry.

These 40 young professionals represent the best in the industry. The Fruit + Vegetable 40 Under 40 Class of 2020 will be honored at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO, and recognized in the October 2020 issues of Fruit Growers News and Vegetable Growers News.

Watch now the Class of 2021 LIVE during the virtual Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO on Tuesday, Dec. 8. 

Thank you to the sponsors who support the 40 Under 40 recognition program: Corteva Agriscience, Stokes Seeds, FMC Corporation, BioWorks, and AgBiome Innovations.

Nominations Open for the Class of 2021. Deadline is March 18, 2021.
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

The application deadline date is July 15, 2021. Applications can be emailed to 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 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.
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