DOAG: 2008 Legislative Session Summary

2008 Legislative Session Summary


The 2008 legislative session adjourned, as scheduled, on May 7th. In addition a special session was held on June 11th.   In this session, legislators approved legislation on ethics reform and an extension of the real estate conveyance tax. For the first time since 1993, when the State of Connecticut changed from an annual budget to a biennial budget, no changes were made to the current budget. For the purposes of review, the following is a summary of the budget and bond public acts that are currently in force:
 
Public Act 07-1 – An Act Concerning the State Budget for the Biennium Ending June 30th, 2009 – The biennial budget for the Department of Agriculture for the period beginning July 1st, 2007 and ending June 30th, 2009 remained essentially the same as the budget the Governor proposed in February with the exception of the following changes: increase in the form of additional dollars in ’07-’08 and ’08-’09 of $400,000 each fiscal year for the Senior Farmers’ Market coupon program, these monies are in addition to the existing  $110,000 for each fiscal year; in ’07-’08 and ’08-’09, an increase of $47,500 for the Connecticut Seafood Council; in ’07-’08 and ’08-’09, an increase of $25,000 for the Food Council; in ’07-’08 and ’08-’09, an increase of $47,500 for the Connecticut Wine Council; and in Section 21, for fiscal year ending June 30th, 2007, $4 million for assistance to dairy farmers. There is additional money for invasive species control for the Department of Environmental Protection totaling $1 million and, in the Department of Education’s budget, an increase of $650 in the state’s contribution per high school student attending vocational agriculture school (from existing $700 per student to $1,350). (Effective upon passage).
 
Public Act 07-7 - An Act Authorizing and Adjusting Bonds of the State for Capital Improvements and for Transportation Infrastructure Improvements and Concerning the Connecticut State University Infrastructure Act – Sections 13 and 32 authorize for the Department of Agriculture for fiscal years ’08 and ’09 as follows, for farmland preservation $5 million for ’08 and $5 million for ’09;  for the Farm Reinvestment Program $500,000 for ’08 and $500,000 for ’09; grants-in-aid to farmers for environmental compliance $2 million for ’08 and $2.5 million for ’09; and for Biofuel Crops Program grants-in-aid to farmers, agricultural nonprofit organizations and agricultural cooperatives for the cultivation and production of crops used to generate biofuels ’08 $2 million and for ’09 $2.5 million.  Totals for the fiscal year of ’08-’09 are $8.5 million and fiscal year ’09-’10, $10 million. (Section 13, effective upon passage; Section 32, July 1, 2008)
 
 
The following Public and Special Acts, passed in the 2008 legislative session, are pertinent to the agricultural community or to subject matter under the purview of the Department of Agriculture (DOAG). For the specific language for each Act you may use the Connecticut General Assembly website as a resource at http://www.cga.ct.gov or call Melanie Attwater-Young, Legislative Liaison, Department of Agriculture at (860) 713-2509 for assistance.
 
Public Act 08-13 – An Act Concerning Minor Revisions to Department of Agriculture Statutes – The Act makes changes to the dollar amount on farmers’ market WIC coupons to reflect currently issued denominations, modifies requirements for the position of the State Veterinarian, modifies language that describes potential applicants for the Agricultural Viability Grants, clarifies farm products for the purposes of advertising as Connecticut-Grown and makes a technical correction by repealing a statute concerning commercial and customer formula feeds. (Effective upon passage)
 
Public Act 08-27 - An Act Concerning Livestock Dealers - Current law requires only persons engaged in business of the sale of cattle or swine to hold a license.  The Act expands the license requirement to include persons who are involved in the keeping, feeding, growing, raising or breeding of livestock for the purposes of domestic or commercial use. Livestock, under the Act, now includes all hoofed animals (horses, goats, sheep, pigs and cattle) and “camelids”, such as llamas and alpacas.
 
The Act exempts the following activities from the livestock dealer license requirement: 1) livestock producers who are permanently dispersing their livestock and going out of business; 2) sale of animals raised on and sold from premises; 3) the purchase of breeding stock for the improvement of a livestock producers own herd or flock; 4) any farmer who buys or receives livestock held for grazing and feeding which are sold or disposed of within a 60 day or less period (feeder-type animals); 5) businesses specifically in the business of trucking animals; 6) butchers, packers or processors who are receiving animal for slaughter; and 7) any person who does not buy, receive, sell, exchange, solicit or negotiate the sale, resale, exchange or shipment of livestock in the aggregate of more than ten head in any one license year. The Act will improve the Department’s ability to prevent, control and contain outbreaks of infectious diseases in all livestock species. More specifically, it will enhance the Department’s ability comply with USDA requirements for interstate movement of goats and sheep for the control of scrapie disease. The Department currently requires goats and sheep to have an official i.d. ear tag in order to monitor their movement and any changes in ownership.
 
The Act also allows for testing for infectious livestock disease to be conducted, at no cost to the livestock dealer, and authorizes the Commissioner to issue quarantine orders. (Effective upon passage)
 
Public Act 08-150 – An Act Concerning the Department of Motor Vehicles – Makes various changes to the motor vehicle statutes. Section 26 of the Act defines a “special mobile agriculture vehicle” as one that has an operator and carries “agriculture support materials”. Section 27 enables the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles to issue an annual registration for such vehicles, spells out the restrictions under which such a vehicle may operate, and establishes an annual fee for such registration. Typically these vehicles are those that spread fertilizer and spray pesticides on crops on a contract basis. (Effective upon passage)
 
Public Act 08–164 - An Act Concerning Assistance to Dairy Farmers – Requires the Commissioners of Agriculture and Economic and Community Development, in consultation with the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, to report by January 1, 2009 to the legislature on actions that may result in lower agricultural fuel, electricity and other costs of production. It also requires the group to report on actions and recommendations that may be taken to increase Connecticut dairy industry revenues. The Act also establishes a “Connecticut Milk Promotion Board” which shall be within the Department of Agriculture. It requires the Commissioner of Agriculture, not later than October 1, 2008, to work with the USDA and any other appropriate government agencies to secure certification of the Connecticut Milk Promotion Board. The Board shall develop, coordinate and implement promotional, research and other programs designed to promote Connecticut dairy farms and milk consumption and such Board shall annually report to the legislature. (Effective upon passage)
 
Public Act 08-170 - An Act Concerning Various Education Grants and Changes to the Statutes Concerning Magnet Schools, Vocational Agriculture Centers and the Certification of Bilingual Education Teachers – Makes various changes to education grants and magnet school statutes. Section 7 changes the name of “regional vocational agriculture schools” to “regional agriculture science and technology schools”. The law further requires that school districts offer enrollment in more than one regional agriculture science and technology school. (Effective July 1, 2008)
 
Public Act 08-172 - An Act Concerning the Allocation of State Forest Timber Sales, Third-Party Certification for Connecticut State Forests and a Sustainable Forests Management Plan – This Act authorizes, within available resources, the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, in consultation with others, to study sustainable harvesting of forests in the state and report said study to the Environment Committee by July 1, 2009. The study must be used as a basis for developing a sustainable forest-harvesting plan for the state. The plan must take into account carbon credit opportunities, the potential for maintaining a sustainable supply of biomass fuels, and the region’s agricultural and silvicultural capability for achieving such sustainable supply. There was no new funding allocated for this study. (Effective upon passage)
 
Public Act 08-174 – An Act Concerning the Face of Connecticut Steering Committee and the Preservation of Farmland, A Municipal Grant Program for Development Projects, Loans for Brownfield Purchasers and Tax Exemptions for Open Space Land Held by or For Certain Corporations  - This Act establishes a “Face of Connecticut” account, which is separate and non-lapsing within the General Fund. Any monies deposited into this account shall be expended by the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as directed by the “Face of CT” steering committee. Such monies shall be used for acquisition, restoration or stewardship of properties that serve at least two of the four following objectives: conservation of open space, renovation and enhancement of urban parks, preservation of active agricultural land or restoration or reuse of historic structure. One billion dollars was initially attached to this bill as it moved through the legislature, but this funding was removed in the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.
 
This law also creates a “Face of Connecticut” steering committee and spells out the makeup of said committee. The committee is housed with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for administrative purposes only. The Commissioner’s of DEP, Agriculture and the Department of Community and Economic Development, and the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management will serve on this committee with the position of chair being rotated every two years. The committee will meet quarterly and all committee appointments must be completed by September 1, 2008.
 
Sections 3 and 4 of the Act are specific to the Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation Program. It requires that the Commissioner of Agriculture change the regulations governing the Farmland Preservation Program by providing that the state’s contribution in preserving farmland cannot exceed $20,000 per acre. It also enables the Commissioner of Agriculture to establish a “community farms” program which would consist of farms that do not meet the current criteria standards of the Farmland Preservation Program. Should the Commissioner set up such a program, the law requires that criteria be established. It sets forth minimum considerations that the Commissioner and the Farmland Preservation Advisory Board must contemplate when assessing a farm for inclusion in such program.
 
The Act also makes changes to the existing generic brownfield remediation and development program under the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) by dividing the program into separate grant and loan programs, and narrowing the range of nonprofit organizations eligible for funds. The Act also reestablishes the Brownfields Task Force which must report to the legislature by January 1, 2009 on how to clean up contaminated property.
 
And finally, the law exempts from local property taxes any real property owned by or held in trust for, a corporation organized exclusively for scientific, educational, literary, historical or charitable purpose. It specifies that a nonprofit organization that owns land to preserve as open space is using the land for a charitable purpose and thus exempting the land from property taxes. (Effective upon passage: Sections 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 9; Effective July 1, 2008: Sections 5 and 7.)
 
Public Act 08-184 – An Act Concerning Revisions to Statutes Pertaining to the Department of Public Health – Under current law, food service establishments can request and obtain fresh produce at a farmer's market. Section 9 of this Act allows food service establishments to purchase Connecticut-grown farm products at a farmer's markets, instead of just fresh produce. These products must be produced and sold in accordance with applicable state regulations. "Farm products" means any fresh fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, nuts, shell eggs, honey or other bee products, maple syrup or maple sugar, flowers, nursery stock and other horticultural commodities, livestock food products, including meat, milk, cheese and other dairy products, food products of "aquaculture", as defined in subsection (q) of section 1-1 of the general statutes, including fish, oysters, clams, mussels and other molluscan shellfish taken from the waters of the state or tidal wetlands, products from any tree, vine or plant and their flowers, or any of the products listed in this subdivision that have been processed by the participating farmer, including, but not limited to, baked goods made with farm products. (Effective upon passage)

Public Act 08-187 – An Act Concerning Farm Wineries – Current law allows a farm winery to produce crops on the farm winery or on property adjacent to and under the farm winery permittee’s ownership and control. This Act changes the requirement to allow for production of wine crops on any property in the state that is under the ownership or control, or is leased, by the permittee or the farm winery’s owner. It also requires that a farm winery consist of a minimum of five acres in aggregate, if a portion of such five acres is leased, to be eligible for a farm winery permit. (Effective upon passage)
 
 
 
Last edit 6/30/08