On January 10th, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and Commissioner of Agriculture Steven Reviczky joined a meeting of the Working Lands Alliance (WLA) steering committee. In the 50-minute discussion with committee members, the governor reiterated his commitment to farmland protection and talked about the potential for the newly-enacted Farmland Restoration Program to bring abandoned farmland back into production and help grow the agricultural economy. The governor also shared with WLA members his hopes for the reinvigorated Governor’s Council on Agricultural Development, which met for the first time on January 5th.
In an interview after the January meeting, WLA Chairman Terry Jones spoke excitedly about the future of Connecticut agriculture. “It is gratifying to see Governor Malloy and the legislature not only attentive to farmland protection but also to ways of utilizing the productivity of these lands,” he said. “The Governor’s Council for Agricultural Development will help the farm community create innovative technologies for expanded production and greater opportunities for marketing. We are really filling the toolbox with the tools we need.”
Thirty-six conservation groups, farm organizations, local governments and others across the Northeast have joined together requesting that Congress and the Obama administration take quick action to address the crisis facing dairy farmers. Dairy farmers in the Northeast and around the country are facing severe and prolonged low milk prices—prices that are well below the farmers’ costs of production. This sustained price slump has caused the loss of some dairy farms already and threatens the future of thousands more in the Northeast.
On July 13th, Rep. DeLauro met with the Working Lands Alliance (WLA) Steering Committee and partner organizations at the Shelton farm of WLA Chair Terry Jones. At the meeting the Steering Committee thanked the Congresswoman for her strong support of federal conservation, food and nutrition programs and leadership in increasing funding for the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) in both the 2008 Farm Bill and the House version of the FY 2010 Agriculture Appropriations bill. Noting that USDA officials testified that FRPP is the most cost-effective of the federal conservation programs, Rep. DeLauro expressed a willingness to work with farmland protection advocates and USDA officials to address concerns about program implementation.
For the next two years, Connecticut will provide $10 million to dairy farmers who are struggling with milk prices that do not cover their costs of production. This needed relief was provided through the state’s Community Investment Act (CIA), which funds state investments in farmland and open space protection, historic preservation and affordable housing. However, now the state’s Farmland Preservation Program will depend almost exclusively on bond funds. Negotiations over the FY 2010-2011 bond package continue, and the Working Lands Alliance is urging the Governor and legislators to provide an additional $12.5 million in bond authority to maintain the state’s current commitment to farmland protection.
On July 6 Governor Rell signed into law a bill requiring a comprehensive review of state-ownedfarmland. Bill 1082, championed by Working Lands Alliance, requires the state FarmlandPreservation Advisory Board to review agricultural lands owned by the state and consider options for permanent preservation of each parcel. Nearly a dozen parcels owned by the state consisting ofalmost 1200 acres will likely be subject for review. Hopefully the recommendations of the Advisory Board will be consideredduring legislative session in 2010.
Bill 5267: “Prohibiting Use of Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) Funds to Convert Prime Farmland to Non-Agricultural Use” was considered in several committees, but was not acted on by either the full House or Senate. This budget-neutral bill would have prohibited the use of STEAP funding for projects that convert prime farmland unless a town mitigates the loss of that farmland or can demonstrate a commitment to farmland preservation through other town actions.
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