What is an Agricultural Commission?
Under Massachusetts law, communities can create committees at the town level that serve in the interest of that town. One type of these committees is an Agricultural Commission (AgCom).
- AgComs are committees that are formed by vote of Town Meetings or Town or City Councils.
- Each town or city can decide what the duties and responsibilities of the AgCom will be and specify those duties in the text of the warrant article or council ordinance.
What does an Agricultural Commission do?
- Serves as a local voice advocating for farmers, farm businesses, and farm interests
- Provides visibility for farming and forestry
- Works with other town boards on issues facing the town
- Helps resolve farm related problems or conflicts
- Protects farmland
- Assists with natural resource management
Where to get help organizing an Agricultural Commission?
- As of December 2014, 162 towns have established AgComs, and 141 towns with Right to Farm Bylaws. For information about each AgCom, go to the statewide AgCom website ; click on “About AgComs,” then “MA AgComs,” then on the Mass map click on the town you are looking for.
- Assistance can be obtained from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and the other organizations listed on the left side of this page (American Farmland Trust, CISA, Patriot RC&D, Pilgrim RC&D, Berkshire-Pioneer RC&D, Mass Farm Bureau).
- A Toolkit is available to provide all the tools needed for organizing an AgCom. The toolkit contains sample documents that can be customized and a PowerPoint presentation that you can use when speaking to local groups. The files can be found by clicking on the link. (http://www.massagcom.org/AgComToolkit.php).
For technical assistance, contact:
- Peter Westover, (Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties)
- Cheryl Lekstrom, (Essex, Suffolk, Middlesex, Norfolk and Worcester counties)
Handbook for Town Agricultural Commissions:
This handbook, developed by the Pilgrim Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council through a grant provided by the MDAR, presents successful organizational and planning strategies used by AgComs. Actual examples from existing AgComs are provided and include their purpose, structure and steps they used to plan and implement their work. This 150 page book is a step-by-step reference guide for newly organized agricultural commissions (AgComs).
The AgCom represents the farming community, encourages the pursuit of agriculture, promotes agriculture-based economic opportunities and works to protect and sustain agricultural businesses and farmland. AgComs are a standing committee of town government, created through a vote at Town Meeting appointed by the Board of Selectmen or governing body of the town.
AgComs have been organizing in towns and cities throughout the state. More than 162 AgComs exist today, with more planned for the future.
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