Section 28. (a) For the purposes of this section and section 29, the following words and phrases shall have the following meanings:--
''Agriculture'', farming in all of its branches and the cultivation and tillage of the soil, dairying, the production, cultivation, growing and harvesting of any agricultural, aquacultural, floricultural or horticultural commodities, the growing and harvesting of forest products upon forest land, the raising of livestock including horses, the keeping of horses as a commercial enterprise, the keeping and raising of poultry, swine, cattle and other domesticated animals used for food purposes, bees, fur-bearing animals, and any forestry or lumbering operations, performed by a farmer.
''Eligible borrower'', any farmer who is a resident of the commonwealth and is at least 18 years of age. A borrower who is otherwise eligible shall not be eligible if such borrower is party to a pending legal or administrative action, including a contested case proceeding, related to an alleged violation involving animal feeding or care as regulated by the department of agricultural resources, whether the pending action is brought by the department or the attorney general.
''Eligible project'', a project on a farm that will improve the economic viability of Massachusetts farms, retain or create private sector jobs, improve Massachusetts farm productivity and competitiveness, expand farm facilities as part of a modernization plan, support environmental projects on farms or expand and support markets and infrastructure to strengthen the farming industry.
''Farm'', a body of land devoted to agriculture.
''Farmer'', a person engaged in agriculture as herein defined, or on a farm, as an incident to or in conjunction with, such agricultural operations, including preparations for market, delivery to storage, or to market, or to carriers for transportation to market.
(b) There shall be a linked loan program established by the department for the purposes of making linked loans to eligible borrowers. The commissioner shall administer the program and may, in consultation with the secretary of administration and finance, promulgate rules and regulations governing loan applications and the use of program funds for eligible borrowers. In implementing the program, the commissioner shall utilize linked investments with farm credit institutions or linked deposits with other approved commercial bank agricultural lenders. The commissioner shall enter into agreements and place investments with approved lenders to carry out the purposes of the program. The term of the linked investment and linked loan shall be for a period of not more than 4 years. The commissioner shall have the discretion to determine the amount of the loan available to an eligible borrower but no linked loan shall exceed $500,000. The total amount available for the linked loan program shall not exceed $25,000,000 over the life of the program. The commissioner shall disseminate information regarding the linked loan program to eligible borrowers.