DOAG: Farmland Restoration Program Now Accepting Applications For 2013

This article appeared in the December 19, 2012 edition of the Ag Report
 
 

Farmland Restoration Program Now Accepting Applications For 2013

By Joseph Dippel, Acting Director, Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Preservation

 

Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky recently visited eastern Connecticut for a first-hand look at farms participating in Governor Malloy’s new Farmland Restoration Program (FLRP). 

 

Authorized under Governor Malloy’s 2011 jobs bill, the program encourages the reclamation of fallow farmland into productive cropland.  Funding in the amount of $5,000,000 was approved by the Bond Commission for the new program in January.

 

During the tour, Commissioner Reviczky pointed out, “Not only does the program promote agriculture in the state, but it supports jobs and a growing demand for local food.” 

 

The benefits of the FLRP are many.  As agriculture in Connecticut continues to grow, there is a need to push back the brush and forests that have taken over fields and pasture that were once productive farmlands. 

 

This program is designed to assist farmers and landowners in reclaiming their agricultural lands. 

 

Municipal and land trust lands with agricultural leases of five years or more on farmland brought back into sustainable agricultural production are also eligible to apply. 

The following is a list of eligible practices:

·        Reclamation of grown-over pastures, meadows, and cropland, including the removal of invasive plants and hedge row management;

·        Clearing and removal of trees, stumps, stones, invasives, and brush to create or restore agricultural use;

·        Installation of fencing to keep livestock in reclaimed pasture areas and/or out of riparian areas;

·        Restoration of water runoff and drainage of crop fields to improve cropland areas and restore water runoff patterns and water conservation;

·        Installation of wildlife management fencing to protect crop fields on FLRP area(s);

·        Renovation of farm ponds, including farm pond management/irrigation and irrigation wells incidental to the restored cropland areas; 

·        Restoration of shellfish beds or aquaculture ponds.

 

Under FLRP, farmers are eligible for matching grants of up to $20,000 per project, on a 50% cost-sharing basis, to implement a number of different restoration and conservation practices. 

 

A conservation plan or farmland restoration plan developed in consultation with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service and Connecticut Conservation District specialists is required.  The plan will identify restoration project areas to be restored and the costs associated with the farmland restoration. 

Priority of program applications is as follows: 

1. Human food production, including fruit production, will be given the highest priority. 

2. Livestock, livestock feed, and livestock support production will be considered second.

3. Other agricultural uses may be considered based on land use, food production, and acreage to be restored.

 

Examples of projects approved include the Killingworth Cranberries Farm bog, located in Killingworth, shown at the bottom left of Page 3.  The project restores 4.5 acres of a cranberry bog, originally established in 1911.  The berries will be harvested for fresh sales.  

 

The project required extensive grading, irrigation, drainage, and replanting to restore to modern standards, and leverages over $100,000 in farmer funds.

 

The Beltane Dairy in Lebanon, shown below, is one of the first farms to be approved in the new Community Farms Program.  The FLRP activities will clear, stump, and remove stones to create additional needed hay and pasture land.  The land supports a dairy goat herd and cheese-making operation, and the project restores about 10 acres of prime farmland soils.

 

The Jones Family Farms FLRP project in Shelton, below, restores approximately 12 acres.  It consists of land clearing, stump and stone removal, irrigation, and drainage improvements, and leverages an additional $25,000 of project costs.

APPLICATIONS ARE NOW BEING ACCEPTED

 

More than 50 applications have been received to date, proposing to restore an average of 14 acres per farm.  Interested farmers are encouraged to apply now for 2013 projects. 

 

For more information about how to apply or to receive an application, visit the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s website, www.ct.gov/doag or www.CTGrown.gov, and click on “Programs, Services, and Grants,” then “Farmland Preservation Program.” 

 

For additional information or to discuss project eligibility, call 860-713-2511 or email Director Joseph Dippel at joseph.dippel@ ct.gov or Lance Shannon at lance.shannon@ct.gov.