SECTION 1. Section 6C of chapter 20 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 3, the figure “17” and inserting in its place thereof the following figure:- 18.
SECTION 2. Said section 6C of said chapter 20, as so appearing, is further amended by inserting in line 16, after the word “designee”, the following words:- ; 1 of whom shall be an expert in healthy soils practices as defined in section 7A of chapter 128, appointed by the secretary of energy and environmental affairs.
SECTION 3. Said section 6C of said chapter 20, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by inserting after the word “foods”, in line 35, the following words:- ; especially those produced using healthy soils practices as defined in section 7A of chapter 128.
SECTION 4. Said section 6C of said chapter 20, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by inserting after the word “resources”, in line 42, the following words:- particularly through practices which promote healthy soils as defined in section 7A of chapter 128.
SECTION 5. Section 20 of chapter 21 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after subsection 14 the following subsection:-
(15) Subject to the availability of funds, to oversee the advancement of policies and practices related to a healthy soils program, which shall seek to optimize climate benefits while supporting the economic viability of agriculture in the commonwealth by providing incentives, including, but not limited to, loans, grants, research, technical assistance, educational material and outreach to farmers whose management practices will contribute to healthy soils and agricultural innovation and result in net long-term on-farm greenhouse gas benefits.
The commission shall manage the program in consultation with the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, USDA’s National Resources Conservation Services, Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, UMass Extension, and any other party which may be designated by the Governor, established pursuant to section 2CCCCC of chapter 29. The program shall develop an outreach program to identify and foster new, innovative ideas and approaches adding value to the commonwealth’s agricultural economy.
SECTION 6. Chapter 29 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after section 2BBBBB the following section:-
Section 2CCCCC. (a) There shall be established and set upon the books of the commonwealth a separate fund to be known as the Massachusetts Healthy Soils Program Fund. The fund shall be administered by the executive office of energy and the environment. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, there shall be credited to the fund (1) any revenue subject to appropriation from the Gaming Economic Development Fund, established pursuant to section 2DDDD of chapter 29, (2) any revenue subject to appropriations or other money authorized by the general court and specifically designated to be credited to the fund and (3) any gifts, grants, private contributions, investment income earned by the fund’s assets, and any other sources of funds so designated. No expenditure from the fund shall cause the fund to be in deficiency at the close of the fiscal year. Money in the fund at the end of the fiscal year shall not revert to the General Fund and shall be available for expenditure in the subsequent year and shall not be subject to section 5C of chapter 29.
(b) Funds shall be expended to enhance the education, training, employment, income, productivity and retention of those working or aspiring to implement healthy soils practices, and in providing incentives for healthy soils practices in the commonwealth. The Commission for Conservation of Soil, Water and Related Resources, shall establish, develop and implement the Massachusetts Healthy Soils Program in furtherance of this purpose. Amounts credited to the fund shall be used to further the purposes of the Massachusetts Healthy Soils Program, without further appropriation, for the costs associated with administering and implementing the program and may also be used to provide grants or loans on a competitive basis to public, private and charitable entities to finance projects in furtherance of the Massachusetts Healthy Soils Program. Expenditures from the fund for this purpose shall complement and not replace existing local, state, private or federal funding for related training and educational programs, and shall be subject to the approval of the State Commission for Conservation of Soil, Water & Related Resources, and in consultation with the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, USDA’s National Resources Conservation Services, Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter and UMass Extension.
SECTION 7. Section 7A of chapter 128, as so appearing is hereby amended by inserting after the definition of “garden” the following:-
“Greenhouse gas benefits,” greenhouse gas emissions source reduction or carbon sequestration.
“Healthy soils,” soils that enhance their continuing capacity to function as a biological system, increase soil organic matter, improve soil structure and water- and nutrient-holding capacity, and result in net long-term greenhouse gas benefits.
“Healthy soils practices,” agricultural practices developed in consultation with the commission for conservation of soil, water and related resources established by section 19 of chapter 21 which improve the health of soils, including, but not limited to, those that increase the depth of topsoil horizons; increase water infiltration rates; increase organic carbon content; increase bulk density; increase biological activity; increase biological and microbiological diversity; and reduce bare ground, and as achieved through practices such as conservation tillage or no-till, cover-cropping, planned grazing, integrated crop-livestock systems, efficient chemicals use, and other methodologies.
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