As a local food supporter, I think it’s a good idea to have some general knowledge about what’s going on at the state level when it comes to agriculture. I figure part of knowing where your food comes from is also knowing what issues face my farmers.
Well, in early 2012 the Governor’s Council for Agricultural Development embarked on the creation of a holistic, strategic plan for Connecticut agriculture, Grow Connecticut Farms. This month that council released a report released summarizing it’s first year of work on a strategic plan for the state’s $3.5 billion agricultural industry and made seven recommendations to further develop, diversify, and promote agriculture in the state.
Here’s a brief run-down on the council’s recommendations, with a few facts I found interesting.
#1 Study infrastructure gaps and opportunities for the aggregation, light processing, and distribution of Connecticut Grown products.
The councils sees tapping into institutional food service operations like hospitals, colleges and universities, public and private schools, and state facilities as a big opportunity to increase sales of Connecticut Grown farm products.
#2 Develop and invest in a comprehensive marketing strategy for Connecticut agriculture.
#3 Create an agriculture-friendly energy policy that includes agricultural net metering for power production and transmission, and qualification of agricultural anaerobic digestion projects for zero-emissions renewable energy credits (ZRECs).
The council reports that while consumer demand for Connecticut Grown products is high year round, Connecticut’s natural growing season is short, which limits supply. And while Connecticut already has the infrastructure that could potentially produce much more food year round through controlled-environment cultivation, the state’s high energy costs are prohibitive. These high energy costs limit the opportunity to compete with other states and countries whose farmers pay less for energy and currently supply much of our fresh, greenhouse-grown produce during the off-season.
#4. Strengthen the state Department of Agriculture and improve coordination among all agencies regulating agricultural businesses.
#5. Perform a comprehensive review of agricultural labor issues and develop initiatives that provide an adequate workforce for Connecticut farm businesses.
#6. Increase weight limits on truck loads to be consistent with surrounding states.
#7. Establish a bridge between the state departments of Agriculture and Education through a dedicated agricultural education coordinator, and develop ways to integrate agriculture into Connecticut’s K-12 curriculum.
The council is organizing 12 working groups to begin addressing the recommendations and to establish additional priorities that surface in the process.
If you’re interested in getting mores, you can download the entire report here.