The State Bond Commission approved $5,000,000 in funding this week for the Connecticut Department of Agriculture's new Farmland Restoration Program.
More than 250 farms are expected to be eligible for the program.
Authorized by Public Act 11-1, this voluntary program "provides matching grants of up to $20,000 for restoration activities that increase the state's farmland resource base for agriculture, with an emphasis on prime and important farmland soils and on human and livestock food production," according to a press release issued by Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky.
"Connecticut's agricultural sector is a critical component of the state's history and our economy, and we are committed to supporting efforts to preserve, protect and restore our farms," said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in the release. "Over the past year we have worked hard to strengthen our economy, adding more than 9,000 jobs in the state in the last 13 months. Investing in our farms and dairies and expanding their potential is part of Connecticut's economic recovery, and highlights our respect for our agricultural heritage."
A conservation plan or Farmland Restoration Program plan is required for participation in the new program. Conservation plans are prepared by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), while Farmland Restoration Program plans are prepared with assistance from the North Central Conservation District (NCCD) or other approved entities, the release said.
"Interested, eligible farmers should first submit an application to the Connecticut Department of Agriculture," said Reviczky in the release. "We will evaluate the proposals and notify applicants of acceptance or rejection. In the case of acceptance, we will then ask the applicants to contact the NRCS or NCCD for help preparing the appropriate conservation or restoration plan needed." Approved funded applicants will have one year to complete the plan treatments.
The Department of Agriculture will give priority to projects targeting production of fruits and vegetables. The agency will consider livestock, livestock feed, and support production second, with tertiary consideration given to other uses based on land use and acreage to be restored for agricultural production.
Farmers can use the grants for a variety of restoration treatments, including:
- clearing and removal of trees, stumps, stones, and brush to create or restore agricultural use;
- installation of resource protection barriers to protect crop fields on restoration areas;
- restoration of shellfish beds or aquaculture ponds;
- removal of invasive plants and hedgerow management for reclamation of overgrown fields, pastures, and meadows.
"This program is another component of our long-range plan to grow sustainable agriculture here in Connecticut," said Reviczky. "These grants will help reestablish the productive use of our state's prime and important agricultural lands while providing farmers an opportunity to enhance their businesses through increased production. That, in turn, will add jobs and contribute to the state's economic growth."
More information about the Farmland Restoration Program, including a program overview, application form, and checklist, is available on the Connecticut Department of Agriculture's website, www.CTGrown.gov (click on "Programs and Services"), or by calling 860-713-2511.