Meet the Legislator: Massachusetts Senator Anne Gobi
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Senator Anne Gobi lives in Spencer, Massachusetts, where she was born and raised. After graduating from Worcester State College, she studied law at Massachusetts School of Law at night while teaching high school during the day. After passing the bar, she went into private practice.
As a member of the Spencer Democratic Town Committee since 1998, Senator Gobi was asked to run for an open seat in 2001. We asked her if she was anxious about the campaign. “I had never run for anything before this. The representative in the district before me was a Republican. Raising money was the hardest part. I had a primary in my first election, and I had to raise over $50,000 for the campaign, which was hard. But I won.” She served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives for 14 years, working on multiple committees including the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, of which she was co-chair.
We asked her why she chose to serve on the Agriculture Committee. “In Massachusetts, we have a wish list for committee assignments. When I was first elected, I was assigned to committees. But since I grew up active in 4-H and live in a rural district, I wanted to serve on the Agriculture Committee, which I did. It took me a while to be named chair, but I was, and eventually served two terms as chair.” Gobi was elected as a state senator in 2014, and she is currently in her second term as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
We asked if she likes being a senator. “I like it, even though there is a lot of work. Over 300 bills come to my committee during the biennium, and I make sure that the committee works hard on each one.”
When we asked what the biggest issue was facing agriculture in Massachusetts today, Anne did not hesitate. “Farm viability. Massachusetts has 7,000 farms, but most of them are very small. Last year’s drought affected them badly. We have to find a way to make farming sustainable for our farmers.”
Another problem with agriculture in the state is the number of outdated laws, particularly the agricultural preservation statutes. The way they were written when people went into them 30 years ago is not the way things are now. It is a challenge updating laws so that farms can have viability and diversify on their farm so they can survive. Young farmers need the help most.
Senator Gobi said that Massachusetts is losing an alarming number of dairy farms. “We’re down to about 160, roughly. There were thousands at one time. Within the last 10 years we have lost another 25.”
She is optimistic with some new trends in agriculture. “Farm breweries are cropping up. There is a Barre dairy farm that is milking cows and selling beer as well. One woman who works there said ‘15 cents for a pint of milk, $7 for a pint of beer.’”
According to Senator Gobi, the biggest non-agriculture issue that the Massachusetts Senate faced this year is revenue shortfall. Uncertainty on the federal level and the effect that will have is a huge worry. Health care is almost 51 percent of the budget. The state is facing a $870 million deficit. Currently the state has no tax on online sales; there should be a way to capture this revenue that has been lost due to the closing of brick and mortar stores in favor of online sales. Also Massachusetts is home to a large number of financial institutions and service industries that pay no taxes.
Senator Gobi said the thing she likes most about being in the legislature is that it is never boring. There is a different issue every day. “You never know when the phone rings or when you open an email what is going to be there.” She likes to keep active, and the legislature helps to provide change and challenge. What she dislikes most is her long commute to the statehouse, which takes a lot of valuable time out of day.
She says she has enjoyed working and being invited to CSG-ERC meetings and seminars. She especially likes that she is able to go online and get information on what is happening in other states and in Washington. This resource is tremendously helpful to her and her staff.
Come and meet Senator Anne Gobi and other dedicated legislators interested in Agricultural and Rural Affairs policy this summer at the 2017 CSG-ERC Annual Meeting in Uncasville, Connecticut (at the Mohegan Sun) from August 13 through 16.