With 2015 now in the books, our attention turns fully to preparing for the 2016 legislative session (a short session this year because it is an even numbered year). The session begins on February 3rd and adjourns on May 4th, which means the session comes and goes in a blink of an eye!
WLA recently approved its policy agenda for 2016, which can be viewed in full here.
Our priorities are focused on three areas:
- Increase pace of statewide farmland protection efforts and maximize state and federal investment in farmland preservation programs.
- Advocate for funding and staff resources needed for the Department of Agriculture to provide critical programs and support to Connecticut farmers and farm businesses
- Identify means to expand farmland access and affordability and educate lawmakers about agricultural viability issues.
First and foremost, our focus will be on defending the Community Investment Act, bond funding for our farmland preservation programs, and agency funding for the Department of Agriculture, all of which may face cuts as the state addresses projected budget deficits for FY17 and beyond.
WLA will also advocate for creative strategies, robust partnerships, and streamlined approaches that will help accelerate the pace of farmland protection in Connecticut. These efforts are aimed at building on the momentum from a strong year in 2015 for our Farmland Preservation Program!
Finally, WLA will continue efforts to identify means to expand farmland access and affordability. This includes exploring tax incentives, beginning farmer loan programs, and other policy tools that can help ‘next generation’ farmers secure access to land. WLA will also advocate for adjustments to the Department of Agriculture’s FarmLink and Farmland Restoration Program statutes; the goal is to improve these programs and ensure that we have boots on the ground supporting our new and beginning and established farmers who are seeking land.