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Genesee County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan

Genesee County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan

APPENDIX C: AGRICULTURAL

APPENDIX C: AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT CASE STUDY SUMMARIES Massachusetts Farm Viability Enhancement Program The Massachusetts Farm Viability Enhancement Program (MFVEP) of the Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture has been in place 5 years. The agriculture leadership in Massachusetts felt that a large number of dairy farms would go out of business following the Federal Court decision dealing with dairy marketing orders. As a result, the MFVEP was established to help farmers maintain their economic viability, diversify into other agricultural opportunities, and to modernize existing operations. Not long after, the Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact was passed to assist the dairy farmers in that region. The Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact is a regional pricing mechanism for fluid milk sold in the six New England states, passed into law by all six participating states and authorized by Congress. The MFVEP has an annual budget of approximately $1 million. Participants must have a minimum of 5 acres in agricultural production in order to be eligible to apply for assistance. It is a competitive process and to date, 251 farms have applied. This represents approximately 4.5% of the 5,574 farms in the state. The program has two phases: in Phase I, a participating farmer will work with a planning team to assess the current farm operation and suggest ways to increase on-farm income and preserve the farm’s environmental resources. Farm viability plans are developed by teams of agricultural, economic and environmental consultants who make recommendations on increasing farm income through such techniques as improved management practices, diversification, direct marketing, value added products and agritourism. In Phase II, funding is made available to the farmer to implement the plan in exchange for an agricultural use covenant on the property. The Department evaluates applications on the following criteria: 1. Numbers of acres of land; 2. Suitability and productivity of the land for agricultural use; 3. Degree of threat to the continuation of agriculture on the land; 4. Degree to which the project would accomplish environmental objectives; and 5. Number of years and type of agricultural experience. These farmer-friendly low cost plans assess a farm’s strengths and provide business planning and marketing information to the farmer in an effort to make the farm more profitable. If the farmer signs an agreement not to develop the land for a five or ten year period, the state pays for the short-term non-development value. The farmer must use the funds to implement the viability recommendations. The MFVEP develops and writes a business plan for the applicant with their input and provides the necessary funding for implementation. The farmer has to accept and Copyright©, 2000: Agricultural & Community Development Services, Inc, Columbia MD 4

APPENDIX C: AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT CASE STUDY SUMMARIES implement the recommendations of the business plan, which includes the protective covenants for the land. To date, there are 105 farms with business plans, 10,000 acres under protective covenants, and an average projected increase in income of $19,000. This year, 2000, an additional 34 farm operations will be participating in the program. Farm and market reports, newspaper articles and a website, www.massgrown.org, are the primary tools used by the MFVEP for educational awareness. The strength and opportunity of agriculture in Massachusetts is its access to a population base of 6 million people. This factor enables the agriculture community to position itself to provide a fresh high quality product to the local consumer. Just as importantly, the farmer preserves open space, which enhances the quality of life for the community. This large population base also presents the challenges of developmental pressures from housing and industry and increasing regulations and environmental concerns. Contact: Kent Lage MFVEP Director (413) 529-0873 Copyright©, 2000: Agricultural & Community Development Services, Inc, Columbia MD 5

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