DOAG: The 2013 Connecticut Department of Agriculture Legislative Agenda

This article appeared in the January 9, 2013 edition of the Ag Report

 

The 2013 Connecticut Department of Agriculture Legislative Agenda

By the Office of Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky

 

The 2013 session of the Connecticut General Assembly convenes Wednesday, January 9, 2013, as per Section II of the Third Article of the Constitution of the State of Connecticut:

 

There shall be a regular session of the General Assembly on the Wednesday following the first Monday of January in the odd-numbered years, and on the Wednesday following the first Monday of February in the even-numbered years, and at such other times as the General Assembly shall judge necessary; but the person administering the Office of Governor may, on special emergencies, convene the General Assembly at any other time . . .

 

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture enthusiastically shares with our Ag Report readers—and the entire agricultural community—our legislative agenda.  Following are the 11 proposals that we will be advocating in this year’s session, which runs through June 5, 2013.

 

1. An Act Concerning AquaculturAL Job Growth
The proposed bill will enable the Department of Agriculture (DoAg) to assist in the strengthening, development, and growth of aquacultural industry jobs by assisting existing small companies in their affordable development.  It also will create conditions conducive to the creation of new small shellfish businesses by allowing any citizen an opportunity to farm and cultivate shellfish on a 25-acre parcel.  In the event the business enterprise fails, the State of Connecticut would assume control of the beds.  Under this proposal, DoAg’s commissioner may direct the agency’s share of funds generated through an assessment placed on utilities impacting shellfish growing areas to either the Shellfish Fund or the Expand and Grow Connecticut Agriculture Account.

 

2. An Act Concerning Cultivation of Seaweed
This bill addresses the authority to license areas within Long Island Sound for seaweed production, and the fee per acre to do so. The bill is written to prevent any seaweed-licensed area from conflicting with any previously established right of fishing.  All seaweed license applicants will fall under Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) sections (§) 22a-359 through 22a-363f under the jurisdiction of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).  Aquaculture licensing and inspection are functions of DoAg.  Fishing gear (anchors, lines, floats, etc.) are permitted by DEEP.  The bill defines aquatic plants and identifies which specific processing standards will be required by DoAg in consultation with the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP).  UCONN Stamford recently announced that after 10 years of field research at the BRASTEC Aquaculture School, it has determined that a seaweed production model can be a profitable aquaculture venture.  Presently one authorized seaweed permittee operates within an established shellfish bed.  He has proposed to complement his existing permits for oysters in cages with permits for the gear necessary to cultivate seaweed.  This legislation is required for DoAg’s Bureau of Aquaculture and DEEP to license and permit gear for seaweed production to assist in growing jobs in this sector of agriculture.

 

 3. AN ACT INCLUDING CONNECTICUT GROWN PROTEIN IN STATE CONTRACT PROCUREMENT LANGUAGE
The proposed bill would add language to the existing state statute to include Connecticut Grown proteins other than milk, cheese, and eggs in the state contract procurement language. Specifically, beef, pork, and lamb would be added.

 

4. AN ACT CONCERNING THE CLARIFICATION OF
CONNECTICUT’S EGG STATUTES
The intent of the proposal is to clearly define the role of state agencies regulating egg production, processing, and distribution. The bill will create a graduated license fee structure for firms registered. This will clarify the exemption for egg producers who sell directly to consumers (CGS §
22-47).

 

5. An Act Concerning the Taking of Eastern
Oysters

The elimination of CGS §
26-234b would remove the current size restriction placed on Connecticut oysters offered for sale and open up new market opportunities, creating demand and job growth.  CGS § 26-234b limits the sale of oysters to those not less than three inches long.  No such equivalent limit exists for the commercial harvest and sale of clams from a shellfish lease.  The restriction prevents Connecticut’s oysters from entering the boutique oyster raw bar market.  Connecticut’s market oysters are harvested from private, leased shellfish beds where the oysters are cultivated and relocated several times. 

 

6. An Act Concerning Changes to the Community Farm Program
This proposal will bring the Community Farms Program into alignment with the main Farmland Preservation Program through various provisions.  These provisions include allowing for the purchase of the owner’s right to build a residence or farm structures, providing a statutory release provision for the easement, and authorizing the requirement of a conservation plan, among others.

 

7. An Act Concerning Technical Changes to the Municipal Purchase of Development Rights
under
CGS § 7-131q(e)
This proposal will bring the municipal purchase of development rights statute into alignment with the joint ownership statutes of DoAg by allowing municipalities to purchase or acquire the owner’s right to construct any residences or farm structures on the agricultural land.

 

8. An Act Concerning Technical Changes to the Municipal Purchase of Development Rights
under
CGS § 22-26cc(e)
The intent of this proposed legislation is to allow municipalities working with the state on the joint purchase of development rights to purchase easements on farms that have part of their land situated in an abutting town.

 

9. An Act Concerning Registration of Growers of Swine and Control of Disease
The proposed bill reinstates the statute that was inadvertently removed when the legislature worked on standardizing the unclassified misdemeanors statutes during the last legislative session. CGS § 22-319 granted power to DoAg’s commissioner to regulate all aspects of growing swine, including examination, quarantine, disinfection, preventive treatment, disposition, transportation, importation, feeding, and sanitation, as well as every other aspect of swine production.  The inadvertent repeal of CGS § 22-319 also effectively repealed the swine disease-control regulations, which are the basis of DoAg’s swine disease-control programs.  These programs have resulted in Connecticut swine producers enjoying Pseudorabies and Brucellosis Free status, allowing for animals to be imported/exported across state lines. With emerging concerns about swine flu (H3N2) incidents, the commissioner asks that these important controls be reinstated.

 

10. An Act Concerning the Resale of Dogs to Military and Law Enforcement Agencies
Under Connecticut law, pet stores selling dogs must obtain them from breeders registered with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  DoAg is having difficulties with dog trainers who import, train, and resell these dogs to law enforcement agencies and the military.  In this instance there is little fear that the dogs are being obtained from “puppy mill” type facilities. The bill essentially exempts from the statute dogs sold by trainers to law enforcement agencies and the military.

 

11. An Act Concerning LocalLY Grown Poultry in Connecticut Food Markets
DoAg currently provides an inspection program for poultry producers of not more than 5,000 turkeys or 20,000 poultry who intend to operate a small poultry slaughter facility exempt from continuous USDA oversight under the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act.  In accordance with Public Act
10-103, producers may supply poultry products to household consumers, restaurants, hotels, and boarding houses.  This proposal would add retail food markets as an “approved food source” under the statute.  Poultry producers must continue to meet the requirements of the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act and any applicable provision of the Code of Federal Regulations, as well as continue to meet USDA FSIS standards for exempt operations.  Among other requirements, producers shall:

 

  • have an approved plan for the disposal of liquid waste;
  • have an approved plan for the disposal of offal;
  • have an approved water supply and test the water supply every six months, or, if operated seasonally, test the water supply no more than 30 days prior to the date processing starts (water testing is not applicable to municipal water supplies);
  • have an approved site bio-security protocol;
  • have a written system of product labeling and record keeping to facilitate product tracking and trace-back to the slaughter/process facility; and
  • successfully complete a safe poultry slaughter course approved by the department. The safe poultry slaughter course shall educate operators of safe food handling, storage and packaging methods, and the risks to human health associated with consuming poultry that is not properly handled, stored and packed. The safe poultry slaughter course shall be designed to assist producers with designing and implementing a HACCP system.

 

These proposals will now be submitted for consideration and follow the path for a proposed bill to become a law.  This path is explained on the Connecticut General Assembly’s website at www.cga.ct.gov/html/bill.pdf.  Additional information about Connecticut legislation in general can be found at www.cga.ct.gov.

 

DoAg will provide periodic updates on legislation pertaining to Connecticut’s agricultural community in the Connecticut Weekly Agricultural Report throughout the 2013 legislative session.  Specific questions about any of the above proposals may be emailed to George.krivda@ct.gov.