The Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. NOFA/Mass welcomes everyone who cares about food, where it comes from and how it’s grown

Growing Organically Since 1982

Legislative Priorities

2019-2020 State Legislative Priorities

View/Print a PDF version of our legislative priorities, here.

Last Updated on 9/01/20

Legislators take the lead from their constituents when deciding which bills to to support. Thanks to vocal advocates for an organic future (like you), several of our priority proposed state laws started the session with great momentum. 


Full list of NOFA/Mass priority bills (click to go to that section)


NOFA/Mass also endorses the legislative priorities of the Mass. Food System Collaborative

You can view a spreadsheet of all the legislators and who supported which bills, here.


What’s next for these bills? 

Update (8/27/20):  In these "novel" times (COVID-19), the State Legislature has extended its "formal session" beyond the July 31st 2020 deadline. While this technically means that all of our current bills are still "alive," it appears that this "overtime" is dedicated solely to bills directly related to COVID-19, the budget, and conference committee reports. Fortunately, one of our priority bills, the Healthy Soils Bill, was attached as an amendment to the economic development bill related to the pandemic and is currently in conference committee! While we encourage our members to contact their legislators about whatever issues/bills are most important to them (it couldn't hurt to keep our issues on their mind as we head into next session!), we are focusing on the Healthy Soils Bill right now.


Please take action today and often! 

Keeping these issues on the top of the minds of legislative staffers will help move the bill in the process, so please call today.

 Ready to make a phone call or two?  You'll see how easy it is to take a direct role in the democratic process.

  1. Call your own legislators' offices (you have 1 Rep. and 1 Senator) and introduce yourself as a constituent (you'll be speaking with an aide).
  2. Politely request that they push for passage of any of the priority bills listed below which are important to you.
  3. Pick one or two (OK maybe three) bills to talk about at a time and most importantly - let them know why this is important to you! Personal stories carry the greatest weight.

It doesn't have to take more than 30 seconds (and really does send a strong message - they rarely hear from constituents).


  • Basic format of a quick call: "My name is ______ and as your constituent, I hope that you push for  __________ (official bill name and bill number) to pass this session. This is important to me because _________. Thank you!"
  • Please tell us how your call(s) went
We'd love hear about it... Did you have a nice chat? Did they express support? Send your reports and any questions to our Policy Director at


If your Senator or Representative is one of those named below as a "lead sponsor" (lucky you!), please join us in expressing our heartfelt gratitude to them for their leadership (and tell your local friends and neighbors)! Several of these bills were filed at the request of NOFA/Mass. We are fortunate to have these allies in the legislature.


Thank you again for taking action, and for passing this message along to your networks. Stay tuned to the NOFA/Mass email list for important updates and time-senstive action alerts!
NOFA/Mass Priority Bills (details)




Promote Healthy Soils Practices

Bill number(s): S.2404 (formerly S.438/H.873)

Bill title: “An Act promoting healthy soils for reducing greenhouse gases and the effects of climate change in the commonwealth”

Lead Sponsors: Sen. Jo Comerford and Rep. Paul Schmid III, now with Brian M.
, John Barrett, III, Natalie M. Blais (S.2404)

76 cosponsors (as of 4/01/20)

Status (updated 08/27/20): On November 12th, 2019 the bill was "reported favorably" by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA), after receiving a public hearing before that committee in May 2019 and reported to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, where it has sat since then...

On July 29th, 2020, with the support of our Healthy Soils Coalition, our champion in the Senate, Senator Jo Comerford, was successful in advocating for the text of the Healthy Soils Billl to be included in a piece of "must pass" legislation in the Senate, "H.4887 - An Act enabling partnerships for growth," aka "The Economic Development Bill." Unfortunately, the amendment was not included in the House version of the bill.

As of September 1st, 2020 the bill is still in "conference committee," a small group of legislators from both chambers are reconciling the two versions. We have submitted a letter to the committee on behalf of 37 coalition partners and are asking our members to contact their own Representative to ask for their support to "adopt the Senate's Healthy Soils Bill Amendment to the Economic Development Bill."

Click here to take action within seconds - send a quick email to your State Rep to support Healthy Soils 

If your legislator is one of the members of the conference committee listed here, please reach out to their office personally, as a constituent, and make the ask! The members of the committee include: Senator Eric Lesser, Senator Michael Rodrigues, Senator Patrick O’Connor, Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Representative Aaron Michlewitz, and Representative Donald Wong



Current levels of atmospheric carbon are so dangerously high that we can not choose between reducing emissions and sequestering carbon. We must do both. Agriculture is the only sector that has the ability to transform from a net emitter of CO2 (producing almost 10% of U.S. emissions) to a net reducer of CO2. 

If the world’s agricultural land were managed so that it were to gain soil carbon rather than lose it, an annual increase of only 0.4% soil organic carbon would effectively offset 20–35% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Farms employing Healthy Soils Practices are seeing soil carbon levels increase from a baseline of 1-2% up to 5-8% over ten or more years, which add up to 25 to 60 tons of carbon per acre.

Numerous farming and land management practices have been demonstrated to increase soil health and soil carbon, yet these are still not widely implemented. With state incentives and support, farmers and land managers can adopt these practices, helping to slow climate change, improve water quality and quantity, become more resilient to extreme weather – and become more profitable.

Healthy Soil Practices include:

    • No-till or reduced till
    • Cover crops and diversified crop rotations
    • Planned grazing
    • Integrated crop-livestock systems
    • Efficient fertilizer use
    • Applying compost and manure
    • Using more perennial crops and silvopasture systems
    • Soil remineralization, microbial inoculation and biochar
    • Agroforestry


What does the Healthy Soils Bill do?

This Healthy Soils Bill (S.2404) creates a Healthy Soils Program within the Commission for Conservation of Soil, Water and Related Resources, which will bolster the use of healthy soils practices by private and public land owners and land managers on lands utilized for commercial farming, suburban and urban lawns, yards and gardens, public and private forests, parks and other open or green spaces, and non-paved outdoor areas. The Healthy Soils Program would provide assistance such as grants, technical assistance or education on the benefts and implementation of healthy soils best practices. The bill also adds an expert on healthy soils practices to the Mass. Food Policy Council.

The full text of the original bill can be viewed here:

A fact sheet on the original bill with more talking points, here:

At a time when the federal action on climate change is faltering, states must lead and Massachusetts should build on its long history of climate leadership and join with the six other states which have passed Healthy Soils and Soil Carbon Sequestration legislation. The State government must help us better adapt to the shocks of worsening climate destabilization as well as help mitigate further impacts, while improving crop quality and quantity and farmer bottom lines.


Endorsing organizations:

We are grateful to this growing coalition of climate activists, water protectors and agricultural advocates which continues to grow in support of the Healthy Soils Bill: 350 Lowell nodeAmerican Farmland TrustBerkshire GrownBiodiversity for a Liveable ClimateBionutrient Food AssociationBoston Catholic Climate MovementCentral Mass GrownCommunity Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)Climate Action Business AssociationCooper Shop FarmConservation Law FoundationEarthjusticeElders Climate Action Massachusetts​, Endever Agriculture Group, LLC, ​Environmental League of Massachusetts, Find the Good and Braise It, Franklin County CDCGrow Food Northampton, HealthLink, Island Grown Initiative, Lexington Community Farm Coalition, Long Life FarmMass Assoc. of Conservation DistrictsMass. AudubonMass. Food System CollaborativeMassachusetts Forest AllianceMassachusetts Rivers Alliance, Metropolitan Area Planning CouncilMothers Out FrontMystic River Watershed AssociationNew England Farmers UnionNew England Small Farm Institute, Ocean River Institute, Pioneer Valley Biochar Initiative (PVBI), Regeneration MassachusettsShared Harvest CSASierra Club MassachusettsSoil4Climate, South Meadow Farm & Research Center, Sustainable Business NetworkThe Trustees​, The Carrot Project, The Garden Artist, The Nature ConservancyWestern Mass. Climate Action NowWright-Locke Farm

Organizations may endorse the Healthy Soils Bill by filling out this form. 


Click here to go to our "click and send" action page to email legislators within seconds.



(click here to return to the list of priority bills)



Protect Pollinators from Neonics

Bill number(s):  H.763

Bill title: "An Act to protect Massachusetts pollinators"

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Carolyn Dykema and Attorney General Maura Healey 

154 cosponsors (out of 200 total!)

Status (updated 09/01/20): This bill is still "alive" and currently in the before the House Committee on Ways and Means, where it has been since November 2019. After it was swiftly "reported favorably"out of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA), it has been stuck in Ways and Means since... At the hearing on Nov. 12th we were excited to see our pollinator champions Rep. Carolyn Dykema and Attorney General Maura Healy testify together in support of the bill they cosponsored. (More on the hearing, here.) There is still a good chance that legislators will move this bill before the (extended) formal session ends in late 2020 (exact date TBD!).

Note: House Ways and Means is where the last version of this bill died in the previous legislative session and is often a major bottleneck in the process. Legislators need to hear from their constituents to help push it through!



Pollinators (which include honeybees and other pollinating insects and animals) are responsible for one in every three bites of food we eat. In Massachusetts, many of our most important crops require insect pollinators, including cranberries, blueberries, and apples. These and many other crops are threatened by the precipitous drop in pollinators, and an increasing number of studies point to a class of pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, as a primary culprit.

Proposed legislation, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Dykema, would place commonsense restrictions on neonics and promote pollinator habitats in the state.

What does this bill (H.763) do?

  • Creates a definition of neonicotinoid.
  • Restricts sale of neonicotinoid pesticide products (except for neonic-treated
    nursery plants) to certified commercial applicators, private applicators, or licensed
    applicators only.
  • Limits use of neonicotinoid pesticides to certified commercial applicators, private
    applicators, or licensed applicators. Requires pesticide applicators to obtain authorization
    to apply neonics on a client’s property prior to use.
  • Directs the Department of Agriculture to include pollinator protection in the
    licensing and evaluation materials for applicators.
  • Incorporates neonic limits into existing pesticide penalty framework.
  • Directs MassDOT to consider the opportunities for installation of native forage on
    department-owned property in the place of turf grass.

See a fact sheet explaining the bill, here.

Click here to go to our "click and send" action page to email legislators within seconds asking them to push for a vote on this bill.

 (click here to return to the list of priority bills)








Protect School Children from Pesticides

Bill number(s):  H.791

Bill title: “An Act relative to improving pesticide protections for Massachusetts schoolchildren”

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Carmine Gentile

42 Cosponsors

Status (09/01/20): The Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA) after receiving a public hearing on November 12, 2019, advanced the bill out of committee on February 13, 2020. The bill is still before the committee on House Steering, Policy and Scheduling.



  • Since 2001, schools and day care centers have been required to develop Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plans and submit them to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR).

  • Many IPM plans now in effect permit the outdoor use pesticides that are hazardous to children’s developing bodies and organ systems.

  • Although the law currently forbids cosmetic pesticide use, toxic pesticides such as glyphosate are eligible to be used on outdoor landscapes “to maintain quality appearance” or under the guise of protecting student “safety.”

What does this bill do?

H791 updates the outdated list of pesticide products eligible for use on the outdoor grounds of schools, child care centers and school age child care programs within the state of Massachusetts (See Chapter 132B, Section 6G of General Laws). This list of eligible products, created in 2001, no longer reflects the current state of science around the harm pesticides pose to children. The proposed update would allow only pesticides considered minimum risk by EPA, or certified organic. H791 will stop the outdoor use of toxic pesticides like glyphosate and 2,4-D, currently permitted in IPM programs “to maintain quality appearance” or under the guise of student “safety,” and provide uniform understanding for parents and school employees that toxic pesticides will not be used where children are learning.

H791 does not address the current list of products eligible for use in the indoor school environment (Chapter 132B, Section 6F), which remains mostly in line with scientific data on pesticide hazards.

In the event of a human health emergency, school officials or child care operators may still file for a pesticide waiver under Chapter 132B ,Section 6H.

Read the full text of the bill, here.


Take action within seconds using this action page (and please share!) 


(click here to return to the list of priority bills)



Lift the ban on hemp-derived CBD products and whole flower 

Bill number(s): H.4528 (formerly H.4001)

Bill title: "An Act relative to hemp and hemp products in the commonwealth"

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Mark Cusack

28 cosponsors (as of 4/01/19)

Status (updated 4/01/20): This emergency bill was filed in June 2019 after the Baker Administration released a policy statement prohibiting the sale of "consumibles" containing hemp-derived CBD (cannabadiol) and the sale of whole flower. It was referred to the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy and received a public hearing on October 22nd. That commitee reported the bill favoably (passed it) on 3/9/20 and gave it a new bill number (H.4528). It is now awaiting action in House Committee on Ways and Means.



This 2019 growing season about 100 small farmers in Massachusetts were granted licenses to grow hemp. Almost all of them are growing a crop to be processed for hemp-derived cannabinoids (ie. “CBD”). On June 12th, after farmers had already invested in and planted their crop, they learned from a policy statement that Governor Baker’s administration is prohibiting the sale of foods and other “consumables” containing “CBD” as well as banning the sale of whole flower. These are both desirable and high-valued artisanal products which help small farms to compete with a large commodity market. Massachusetts farms are small farms. Without an artisanal market, they will struggle to compete long-term against large scale agricultural states.

People were consuming hemp for thousands of years before it was banned for a few decades.

The Commonwealth today continues to defy the federal government on “marijuana,” but for some reason the administration is cracking down on its non-psychoactive cousin (now a federally legal crop), threatening a growing local agricultural economy.  

Please contact your state legislators and ask for a “legislative solution to Governor Baker’s hemp product ban.” We need them to pass Rep. Cusack’s hemp bill (H.4528) or similar legislation ASAP. Our allies at the Northeast Sustainable Hemp Association have set up this action page to help you send a message to legisalators within seconds. 


(click here to return to the list of priority bills)






The Safe Communities Act

Bill Number(s): S.1401/ H.3573

Bill Title: "An Act to protect the civil rights and safety of all Massachusetts residents"

Lead Sponsors: Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Reps. Ruth Balser and Liz Miranda

Status (Updated 9/01/20): The House version of the bill was reported favorably to the House Ways and Means Committee on 7/16/20. The Senate verion was reported favorably to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on 7/20/20. 

This bill would limit state and local participation in federal immigration matters in order to provide farm
owners with greater confidence in the stability of their workforce, protect basic due process rights and
diminish the fear felt by many farmworkers and their families.


For more info on this bill, please visit the MIRA coalition website.

(click here to return to the list of priority bills)



The Work and Family Mobility Act

Bill Number(s): S.2061/H.3012

Bill Title: "An Act relative to work and family mobility"

Lead Sponsors: Sen. Brendan Crighton, Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Christine Barber

Status (updated 9/01/20): In April 21, 2020 this bill was redrafted as S.2461 and reported favorably to Senate Ways and Means Committee. More details and action alerts at

Also of importance to many of our state’s farmworkers, this bill would make standard driver’s licenses
available to all qualified state residents, regardless of immigration status. Twelve REAL ID-compliant
states, including Connecticut and Vermont, already issue licenses to all qualified residents.

(click here to return to the list of priority bills)



Allow hemp on 61A (agricultural) land

Bill Number(s): S.1129/H.3535

Bill Title: "An Act relative to the growth of hemp"

Lead Sponsor(s): Senator Adam Hinds and Rep. Smitty Pignatelli

Status (updated 9/01/20): Referred to Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy. The bills received a public hearing in May 2019 and the house version of the bill (H.3535) was PASSED UNANIMOUSLY by the House on 6/19/19. The Senate version is now still sitting in the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy and must move through the Senate process before going through the house. We have until the end of the session (now extended past July 31, 2020, final deadline TBD) to push it through the rest of the process!

Background: A major challenge for would-be hemp farmers is that hemp cultivation is currently not eligible for the agricultural tax rate. Because of this:

  • Hemp farmers would have to pay the far higher taxes on the land than they would for any other crops

  • If their land is already in "chapter 61A" (decreased taxes for agricultural use), they could have to take it out of that status, which gives local towns the right to purchase the land if the town wants it.

  • Because hemp is not covered by 61A it also can not be grown on APR (agricultural preservation restriction) land. APR uses the chapter 61A definitions of agriculture/horticulture. Hemp farmers have even been told that they can not transport their hemp crop over APR land!

This bill would update Chapter 61A to include hemp in the definition of horticulture, giving hemp farmers the benefits afforded by Chapter 61A. 

Contact your State Senator and ask them to "pass S.1129, Sen. Hinds' hemp APR bill," and/or click here to send a quick email within seconds. 


 (click here to return to the list of priority bills)




Restrict Glyphosate use on Public Lands

Bill number(s): S.499

Bill title: “An Act relative to the use of glyphosate on public lands.”

Lead Sponsor: Sen. Jason Lewis

Status (9/01/20): On 3/16/2020 the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA) advanced the bill out of committee! It is now still before the Senate Ways and Means Committee. We have until the end of the session (now extended past July 31, 2020, final deadline TBD) to push it through the rest of the process!



Bill Summary

This bill would end the application of any glyphosate-based herbicide on any public lands owned or maintained by the Commonwealth without a special permit (and only if/when the “the situation poses an immediate threat to human health and the environment” and “there is no viable alternative to the use of the proposed glyphosate herbicide.")  It would also outlaw the use of “any pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its label.”

Read the full text of the bill, here

(click here to return to the list of priority bills)





Glyphosate Ban

Bill number: H.4413 (formerly H.792)

Bill title: "An Act governing the use of pesticides containing the herbicide substance Glyphosate in the commonwealth"

Lead Sponsor: Representative Carmine Gentile

Status (9/01/20): On February 13, 2020 the bill was "reported favorably" by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA) and referred to the committee on House Ways and Means. We have until the end of the session (now extended past July 31, 2020, final deadline TBD) to push it through the rest of the process!


Bill Summary

H.4413 takes all glyphosate-containing herbicides (including Monsanto's Roundup) off hardware store shelves and ends consumer use of this toxic biocide!


Read the full text of the bill, here.

(click here to return to the list of priority bills)




Raw Milk Delivery

Bill number: S.2483

Bill title: "An Act Regarding Raw Milk"

Lead Sponsor: Senator Anne Gobi

Status (9/01/20): On January 30th, 2020 the bill was "reported favorably" by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA) and referred to the committee on Senate Ways and Means. We have until the end of the session (now extended past July 31, 2020, final deadline TBD) to push it through the rest of the process!

raw milk

NOFA/Mass believes that raw milk, when handled correctly, is a safe and highly nutritious food. Currently, raw milk is only allowed to be sold from a certified raw milk producer’s property. We support bill S.2483, filed by Sen. Anne Gobi, which would allow for the delivery of raw milk directly to customers as long as the milk has been sold prior to delivery. 

Right now, there are very few raw milk dairies in the densely-populated eastern part of the state. Customers who want raw milk from this area often have to drive for an hour or more to a raw milk dairy. By opening up the market through delivery, the raw milk market would serve more customers and increase the economic vitality of small dairies.

If you want to support the legalization of raw milk delivery, Find Your Legislators (both Rep. and Senator) and encourage them to support Raw Milk Delivery, S.2483. 





Bills which have been "Sent to study" (effectively dead for the remainder of the 2019-20 session)


Local Option on Pesticides

Bill number(s):  S.447/H.776

Bill title: “An Act empowering towns and cities to protect residents and the environment from harmful pesticides”

Lead Sponsors: Sen. Julian Cyr and Rep. Dylan Fernandes

56 combined cosponsors (as of 2/15/19)

Status (02/20/20): DEAD. Unfortunately this bill was "sent to study," meaning that it will have to be filed again at the beginning of the 2021-22 legislative session. Given that over 25% of the legislature signed as cosponsors and public support continues to grow, we will surely revisit this bill with our legislative allies at the end of the year when it's time to draft for next session!


Background: Under the 1978 Mass. Pesticide Control Act, local town/city governments don’t have the right to ban harmful pesticides. Click here for more background on state pesticide preemption.

While local governments once had the ability to restrict the use of pesticides on all land within their jurisdictions, pressure from the chemical industry led many states to pass legislation that prohibits municipalities from adopting local pesticide ordinances affecting the use of pesticides on private property that are more restrictive than state policy. 

State preemption laws effectively deny local residents and decision makers their democratic right to better protection when a community decides that minimum standards set by state and federal law are insufficient. Given this restriction, local jurisdictions nationwide have passed ordinances that restrict pesticide use on the towns public property, or school districts have limited pesticides on its land. 

The following Massachusetts communities have passed local ordinances restricting the use of pesticides on municipal property: Andover, Ashland, Chatham, Eastham, Falmouth, Marblehead, Newburyport, Orleans, Reading, Sandwich, Townsend, Warwick, Wellesly, Wellfleet, Westford. 

While residents across the Commonwealth are organizing to reduce or eliminate pesticides and promote organic landcare practices, local democracy is stymied by this outdated law. With the challenges facing aggressive action on pesticides at the state and federal level, the Mass.state legislature should, at the very least, restore the rights of local governments to restrict pesticide use and enable them to protect their residents and ecosystems from toxic pesticides by passing S.447/H.776 this legislative session.

What does this bill do?

This bill would return power to local municipalities to protect their families, food and water from pesticide exposure. With the approval of a municipality's Board of Health, a city or town government would be able to “restrict or prohibit the use and application or disposal of pesticides within the city or town that are more stringent than the standards and restrictions [adopted by the state].”

Read the full text of the bill, here.

(click here to return to the list of priority bills)





Cannabis farming is farming!

Bill number(s):  H.3519

Bill title: “An Act clarifying the definition of agriculture”

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier

Status (updated 2/20/20): DEAD. The Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy did not advance the bill, but rather "sent it to study," meaning that we will have to work with legislative allies to have the bill refiled for the 2021-22 legislative session...


There is a lot of confusion among the public, municipalities and even legislators as to whether the cultivation cannabis (marijuana and hemp) is considered agriculture. While the 2017 law to legalize adult-use of cannabis includes a provision “to promote and encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by farmers,” there has been an unfortunate trend of local zoning boards excluding farmers from this opportunity under the false assumption that cannabis cultivation is not considered agriculture.

What does this bill do?

This simple legislative fix would clarify the definition of agriculture to include "hemp and marihuana." H.3519 is very simple, and is copied below:

  • The first paragraph of MGL 128 Section 1a shall be amended to include the phrase “the growing and cultivation of both hemp and marihuana,” after the phrase “floricultural or horticultural commodities”

(click here to return to the list of priority bills)



Allow organic pest control on Cannabis

Bill number(s):  H.3532

Bill title: “An Act Relative to Organic Farming Tools"

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Paul Mark

Status (updated 2/20/20): DEAD. The Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy did not advance the bill, but rather "sent it to study," meaning that we will have to work with legislative allies to have the bill refiled for the 2021-22 legislative session...



This organic pest control provision is written to bring Massachusetts regulators into line with practices in earlier legalization states that have allowed a short list of biological and botanical control strategies to be used on cannabis (hemp and marijuana). Colorado, California and Oregon allow application of organic pest control products when they have broad EPA label instructions, are permissible on food and tobacco, and have no federal (food) tolerance level requirements.

What does this bill do?

"The department [of agriculture] and the Pesticide Control Board shall authorize the application on hemp and marijuana of biological and botanical pesticide products that are considered appropriate for organic farming, provided that the EPA allows application of the product’s active and inert ingredients on food and tobacco crops and has not established a federal tolerance limit.  In implementing this provision, the Department of Agricultural Resources shall consider the pesticide regulations and guidance of other cannabis and hemp legalization states, including Colorado, California and Oregon, shall avoid inclusion of genetically modified products, and shall develop guidance or regulations implementing this provision."

 (click here to return to the list of priority bills)



Hemp Cross-Pollination Prevention Research

Bill number(s):  H.3545

Bill title: “An Act Establishment of a Cannabis and Hemp Cultivation Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst”

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Susannah M. Whipps

Status (updated 2/20/20): DEAD. The Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy did not advance the bill, but rather "sent it to study," meaning that we will have to work with legislative allies to have the bill refiled for the 2021-22 legislative session...



If mixed gender industrial hemp proliferates in the state, it could radically limit where marijuana crops can be grown outdoors. Most immediately, it could become a problem facing home growers of marijuana, whose plants will be seeded and essentially spoiled by nearby industrial hemp operations.

What would this bill do?

"The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, shall establish a Cannabis and Hemp Cultivation Research Center.The center shall provide technical support, practical solutions and public advocacy on behalf the burgeoning hemp and marijuana industries in surmounting technical challenges as well as regulatory impediments to hemp operations.

"A. The Center shall facilitate public outreach and dialogue forums in Eastern and Western Massachusetts regarding emerging issues for cultivators of cannabis and hemp, including, but not limited to, strategies for preventing cross-pollination conflicts between outdoor grown industrial hemp and marijuana crops, assessment of regionally appropriate cultivars, and alternative mechanisms for confirming that THC levels in hemp cultivation are compliant with federal and state requirements.

"B. The Center shall establish an advisory committee of hemp and cannabis farmers to aid in the assessment of the emerging issues.  

"C. Within one year of its establishment, the Center shall issue a report, based on review of field experience in the Commonwealth, as well as policy developments in other states, identifying challenges, practical solutions and public policy recommendations to promote sustainable cultivation."(click here to return to the list of priority bills)




Ongoing issues 


Regulating For Food Sovereignty

The red tape of burdensome regulations is the bane of many farmers' existence. Small-scale producers, in particular, are disproportionately impacted by unnecessary food safety regulations and agencies that do not understand the nature of agriculture. We strongly believe that customers should be allowed to buy any wholesome product they choose. We are fighting for:

Agricultural Plumbing Code

There is currently no plumbing code specific to agriculture. For many dairy and cheese producers that has meant egregiously expensive plumbing systems without any food safety benefits. That's why we H.309,  "An Act relative to updating the plumbing code," in order to accommodate agricultural uses which would establish a commission to create an agriculture section within the plumbing code. (Read the testimony of the Mass. Food System Collaborative, here.)

Reducing On-Farm Food Waste

As much as 40% of all food waste happens at the farm. We need to do a better job of incentivizing our farmers to donate their surplus food, whether it's still in the field, after market, or in their cooler. NOFA/Mass supports H.2630 - "An Act to provide a tax deduction for charitable donations of food by farmers," (2019) a bill that would create a state tax credit that will provide a financial incentive for any produce donated to a food pantry, shelter, or other suitable establishment.

Fair Farm Taxes

Organic and ecological farmers face a diversity of challenges in our current political and economic landscape; unfair taxes shouldn’t be an additional burden. We believe that by advocating for tax reforms, we’ll be able to keep more farmers on the land and prevent farmland from being unnecessarily developed. Here are the tax reforms that NOFA/Mass is currently advocating for in Massachusetts:

Including Non-Contiguous Parcels under Chapter 61a

To receive the benefit of being taxed at the lower agricultural tax rate under MGL Ch. 61a, parcels must be a minimum of 5 acres in size. S.1613, "An Act supporting farming on non-contiguous land" (2019), would make small plot farming more financially viable, by allowing owners of non-contiguous parcels to pay the ag tax rate on land they farm, so long as in total the parcels add up to at least 5 acres and no parcel used to meet the minimum is more than ½ mile from another parcel under the same use and ownership. 


Tell Us Your Policy Priorities

Our Policy team is here to represent you, the farmers, gardeners, and organic advocates of Massachusetts. If there is an issue that you want our policy team to investigate or advocate for, please contact our Policy Director, Marty Dagoberto,



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