Connecticut recently passed a jobs bill to jump-start the economy that has been stagnant for more than 20 years. Small farming, which has been a bright light in this dismal economy, will also get much needed support.
In October, the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed jobs bill legislation during a special session. The bill will borrow $626 million for a range of initiatives, including tax credits for new hires and job training. It also changes the state’s $250 business entity tax: businesses can now pay every two years, instead of each year.
The state has had no gain in employment during the past 22 years, according to a recent The New York Times’ article. “At a time of political warfare in Washington and elsewhere and gridlock over President Obama’s jobs bill, members of both [Connecticut] parties took a rare collective victory lap after the passage of the legislation,” the Times article said.
“My sense of being with the Governor is that he understands the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy,” said Bill Duesing, Executive Director of Connecticut’s National Organic Farmers Association.
The state plans to help farmers with matching funds to renovate farmland, Duesing said. “This will increase the value of farmland and make the land more useable.”
For instance, an old hay field might be turned into land that is used for vegetable production, Duesing added. The state would help offset the cost of getting the land into working condition, such as assisting with the cost of adding nutrients.
Another important aspect that Duesing points out is that the Commission of Economic and Community Development is behind building a viable farm industry, he said. “This is important.”
What’s this mean?
The net income of Connecticut farmers, based on 4,900 farms, declined from $85 million in 2009 to $66 million in 2010, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). “We’ve had some challenging years, including the blight on tomatoes and I suspect that some farmers are retiring too, given the aging population.”
But uncertain economic times, a glut of young people and mid-career professionals without jobs, and the desire to return to the land, is attracting more people to farming. A recent article in The New York Times, highlights some of the creative ways people are making a living off the land, or in this case, sheep. One enterprising person goes around with a sheep and offers to have his sheep cut grass for $1 a day.
Now where can you find a deal such as that. Whether it’s a threat to the landscapers, it remains to be seen. But so far, this person can’t keep up with the demands for his innovative service. It’s a win-win for everyone, he said, including the sheep.
Earlier in the year, Governor Malloy and the General Assembly authorized $10 million per year in new funding for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, according to the Working Land Alliance. “This funding will go toward the state’s Farmland Preservation Program, which has been able to dramatically increase the protection of state farmland.” The $10 million will allow the program to protect 2,000 acres per year and continue working toward the statewide goal of 130,000 acres (over 37,000 acres have been protected).
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