By Bob Katzen
The House 152-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would allow farmers with agricultural deed restrictions on their land to grow hemp. It would also qualify hemp farmers for the property tax breaks currently given to growers of other crops.
The state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program, according to its website, “helps to preserve and protect agricultural land to keep valuable farmland soil from being built on by development companies for non-agricultural purposes that could be detrimental to the environment.”
The program pays farmland owners the difference between their farm’s fair market value and the lower agricultural use value in exchange for a permanent deed restriction which forbids the property from being used for anything that will have a negative impact on its agricultural viability.
The growing of hemp was legalized along with marijuana in 2016, but farmers that want to grow the industrial-use cannabis plant still can’t cultivate the crop if their land falls under the APR.
“Allowing hemp to be grown on APR deed-restricted land is an opportunity for Massachusetts farmers to expand the $550 million agricultural industry which will benefit the entire commonwealth,” said Rep. Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox), the sponsor of the proposal. “We are currently importing hemp for various manufacturing products such as clothing, food, paper, and textiles, and tapping into these industries right here in the commonwealth will generate jobs and bring our farmers closer to economic security and success.”