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Connecticut’s Biennium Budget Provides $14 Million For Climate Smart Agriculture

Working Lands Alliance – a project of the American Farmland Trust Statement on the Passage of Connecticut’s Adjustments for the 2023 Biennium Budget  

CT State Capitol by CT Insider

Working Lands Alliance commends the Connecticut State Legislature and Gov. Ned Lamont for the passage of House Bill 5506 – An Act Adjusting the State Budget for the Biennium Ending June 30, 2023, Concerning Provisions Related to Revenue, School Construction, and Other Items to Implement the State Budget and Authorizing and Adjusting Bonds of the State. The legislation provides up to $14 million in crucial funding that is needed to support climate-smart agriculture practices for farmers in CT.   

At a key moment when climate change is impacting farmers’ ability to grow and promote local food security, the legislature and Governor Lamont have recognized that our producers play a crucial role in mitigating threats from climate change. The final budget that was signed into law by Governor Lamont updates the CT Farmland Restoration Grant Program including changing its name to the CT Farmland Restoration and Climate Resiliency Program and authorizing the CT Department of Agriculture (CT DoAg) to give out grants that help producers implement climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service.  

Investing in climate-smart agriculture will allow the CT DoAg. to support farmers in maintaining agricultural productivity, improving water quality, supporting healthy soil practices, and managing stormwater. A few of the practices this key legislation supports include: increasing cover crop adoption, reducing tillage, furthering crop rotations, reducing nutrient applications, increasing composting, and helping farmers to build resilience against a changing and more extreme climate. This legislation update will also pay for increased capacity for technical assistance by paying service providers to develop resiliency plans for producers across the State.   

 “We all have a role to play in addressing climate change”, said Working Lands Alliance Co-Chairs, Kip Kolesinskas and Jim Smith, “CT’s farms and farmers want to assist in reducing emissions, capturing carbon, and building climate resiliency.  The cost of these practices and assistance is a barrier to adoption. This funding will make the difference.” 

“Farmers care for their land and are continually seeking to improve their stewardship. With these funds, Connecticut will be able to support its farmers in that stewardship,” said AFT’s New England Director, Nathan L’Etoile.“We are deeply appreciative of the strong coalition of farmers, conservation organizations, and others, led by the Working Lands Alliance, that advanced this effort.” 

Working Lands Alliance – a project of American Farmland Trust (AFT) is dedicated to supporting farmers to adopt climate-smart practices. According to AFT’s 2020 Farms Under Threat: A New England Perspective, “23,000 acres of Connecticut farmland were converted to urban development or low-density residential land use between 2001 and 2016, putting Connecticut in the top three states nationally for the percent of farmland developed or compromised.” As the threat of various types of sprawl development increases, protecting our best soil impacts food security for Connecticut residents. Assisting farmers in implementing climate-resilient practices protects the health of our ecosystems as well as reduces their risk and ensures future economic farm viability. The passage of this legislation is in alignment with the Governor’s Council on Climate Change Phase 1 Report released in January 2021.  

“With this bipartisan budget for fiscal year 2023, we are making historic investments in agriculture to provide producers the support necessary to implement climate-smart agriculture practices,” said Governor Ned Lamont. “Agriculture has been a priority for our administration from the inclusion of an AG/Soils working group on the Governor’s Council onClimate Change, to executive order declaring agriculture essential during the pandemic, and now these programs. I want to thank Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt and the GC3 AG/Soils working group and acknowledge the collaboration between the agency, members of the General Assembly, and partner organizations to help Connecticut meet our climate change goals.” 

“Farmers by their nature are innovators and have been investing in technologies and practices for decades to improve yields and ensure the land they work is sustainable for future generations. I applaud the work of our partners and legislators to make this funding available to enable Connecticut’s agricultural producers to make larger investments in climate-smart agriculture practices, including restoration of farmland and improvements in soil health. These efforts will ensure that Connecticut’s farmers continue to play a significant role in mitigating climate change while providing residents of the state access to a diverse, abundant food supply.” said Commissioner of the CT Department of Agriculture Bryan Hurlburt  

“We spend a lot of time here in Connecticut supporting the defense industry and the biotech sector and financial services, and that’s all very good and necessary, but we also need to realize that climate change is upon us, and Connecticut’s farmers not only play an important role in our state economy, but they can also play an important role in reducing the pace of climate change. And that’s what this investment of $7 million in climate-smart farming practices is intended to do,” said state Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague), who as Senate Chair of the legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee “Farmers are pretty smart businessmen and women. They know what they’re doing, and how their industry is changing. And now the State of Connecticut is giving them the financial support to make those changes in order to stay profitable and to help our planet.”  

“Farmers implementing safe practices that will help fight climate change will improve farm productivity around our state,” said state Senator Moore (D-Bridgeport), who is the Senate Chair of the legislature’s Bonding Sub-Committee “It is so important farmers have the resources they need that help to promote a safe environment that contributes to fighting the negative impacts climate change has on our crops.”  

“Since it was founded several years ago, Connecticut’s Farmland Restoration Program has helped about 350 state farmers restore about 3,000 acres of farmland. But we know that we can and should do more, and that’s what this new investment of $7 million in the state budget will help accomplish,” said state Senator Christine Cohen (D-Guilford), who is Senate Chair of the legislature’s Environment Committee “There are dozens of ways farmers can be ‘climate-smart,’ from planting cover crops for pollinators to enhancing field borders, planting herbaceous wind barriers, or adjusting grazing areas in order to protect watersheds, just to name a few. Now farmers can get money in advance to restore farmland in this manner, and outside agencies can assist them in the planning.  And all of this not only helps our farmers and Connecticut’s economy, but it’s good for our environment, too.” 

Representative Joe Gresko (D-Stratford) House Co-Chair of the CT General Assembly Environment Committee said “Honoring the WLA request for climate-smart farming funding to encourage new and young farmers to put down roots in Connecticut was a pleasure.  I look forward to working on other projects together.” 

WLA reached out to our Republican legislative champions, but they declined to comment.  

About the Author
Chelsea Gazillo

New England Policy Manager

cgazillo@farmland.org

860-969-4386

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