HARTFORD- State Representative Arthur O’Neill (R-69) has put in several proposals this legislative session to preserve farmland in Connecticut.
Rep. O’Neill said “While Connecticut’s budget deficit properly occupies center stage, the issue of farmland preservation should not be forgotten by state law-makers as we look at state planning and development policy in Connecticut.”
“One of the many advantages to farmland preservation is that it permits more locally produced food while keeping the expenses low due to reduced transportation and environmental costs for foods that are imported from distant regions.”
“Another important reason for advocating for additional farmland preservation is not just to maintain a quality of life for our local citizens, but to preserve the environment for everyone in Connecticut” added Rep. O’Neill.
House bill 5203, An Act Authorizing an Agricultural Conservation Easement on the Lands of the Southbury Training School, which would permanently preserve the farmland at the Southbury Training School and allow the state of Connecticut to retain ownership of the property. This bill builds on legislation that Rep. O’Neill first proposed in 1988 and pushed to passage in 1992.
House bill 5204, An Act Concerning the Implementation of Certain Recommendations by the Farmland Preservation Board, is a proposal which would implement the Farmland Preservation Board recommendations to permanently preserve certain state-owned agricultural lands.
Both farmland preservation bills have been referred to the General Assembly’s Environment Committee for possible public hearing this month.
According the Connecticut Department of Agriculture website, a state-wide goal in preserving 130,000 acres, with 85,000 acres of cropland continues to be in effect. As of December 8, 2008, the Farmland Preservation Program has preserved 34,500 acres on the 254 farms constituting approximately 26% of the 130,000 acre goal. More than half of these acres are classified as prime and important farmland soils. This land base will enable Connecticut to produce at least 50% of its fluid milk needs and 70% of its in-season fresh fruits and vegetables. This in-state production will ensure some degree of local availability of fresh farm products. It will also help ensure related jobs and remain an important part of the State’s economy.
“Best of all in this time of very limited funds, neither of these proposals will cost the state anything and may actually save the state money, Rep. O’Neill concluded.