Thursday, June 30, 2011

Good News for Connecticut Agriculture

The state legislature has passed a number of farm-friendly laws.  New legislation will benefit Connecticut dairy farmers, those who prefer to buy local, agricultural students.  The Connecticut Farm Bureau Association worked with Connecticut legislators to create laws that will maintain or strengthen agriculture’s role in Connecticut’s economy (agriculture contributes $3.5 billion and 20,000 jobs to the state economy) while also preserving open spaces and making local foods more accessible to Connecticut residents.  Dannel Malloy has acknowledged that he sees Connecticut agriculture as an industry which will show significant growth in the future, especially with the number of Connecticut’s “buy local” campaigns.  The Department of Agriculture also continued the Farm Reinvestment Program to support Connecticut agriculture.  Through this program framers can apply for grants to expand production facilities, diversity crops and improvements to equipment or land.  The goal of the grant program is for the investments to benefit tax payers for years to come.  This is an important concept for our state and others to continue to value: investing in local, sustainable farming is the key to food security, nutrition and economic prosperity in our state; we can’t cut that investment in our future out of our budget.  

According to the Connecticut Farmer’s Bureau Association the legislature agreed to a number of positive aspects for CT Ag:

-  The maintenance of vital funding for the state's nineteen regional Agriscience & Technology programs (formally Vo-Ag) which will ensure the education of tomorrow's farmers.

 · The funding of the state's Community Investment Act which helps preserve farmland and secures the permanent funding for Connecticut's dairy farmers that helps them maintain viability in case of low wholesale milk prices.

 · A change in the law to allow food vendors at farmers' markets to use one universal health department license for all towns, instead of requiring individual licenses for individual towns.
This will allow more variety at farmers' markets and give farmers access to additional revenue streams.

 · Creation of an Agricultural Council for the state's Executive Branch, giving Connecticut's Governor a way to receive direct input from those in the agricultural community on how to grow our state's $3.5 billion agricultural sector.

 · The creation of a state-run timber harvesting account that will pay for hiring of additional state foresters to oversee responsible timber harvesting on state forest lands.

 · Permitting almost 14,000 acres of private Connecticut forest land under the 10 mil program to be taxed at the PA 490 rate instead of a substantially higher rate. This change will have a significant positive impact on the protection of forest land.

 · The passage of language that allows state dairy farms to create and fund a Connecticut Milk Promotion Board to educate state residents about the importance of dairy products and their impact on our state's economy.

 · New language that encourages towns to form Agricultural Commissions in order to highlight issues facing local farms and requiring municipalities to consider agriculture when amending their plans of conservation and development

 · The defeat of proposals that would have severely restricted farming near state wetlands and prevented many farmers from having access to adequate supplies of water.

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