Tuesday, 8 May 2012

RI Agriculture and Seafood Act Passed

Legislation to boost Rhode Island agriculture and seafood industries has been signed into law after passing the General Assembly.
Introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, the Rhode Island Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (2012-S 2611A,2012-H 7701aa) directs the state Department of Environmental Management to establish program to provide small grants and technical assistance to farms and seafood businesses to promote sales of locally grown products.
The bill also creates the Interagency Food and Nutrition Policy Advisory Council, which will help remove regulatory barriers that stand in the way of the local farming and fishing industries’ success.
The legislation is aimed at assisting local farms and fishing operations succeed as small businesses and helping them market their wares locally.
“We tend to think of economic development as growing jobs inside a plant or a building, but Rhode Island’s fishing and farming industries generate over a billion dollars to the outdoor economy,” Ruggiero said. “One of the benefits of this legislation is the state will provide funding for small farmers, farmer training, nutrition programs and ensure a sustainable local food system in our state.”
Assisting local agriculture and fishing businesses could have a substantial affect on not only Rhode Island’s economy, but also on the quality of life and health for the public, say the bill’s backers. Open land, jobs, nutritious and safe foods and educational opportunities for youth are all among the benefits of prosperous local industry.
“More and more, we hear about the importance of buying local, and this bill is aimed at helping to connect the small farmer or fishing boat operator to the consumer. Encouraging the buy-local movement is a big win for Rhode Island, because it means the success of small businesses, more jobs, and better, healthier, more plentiful and available food choices for the public,” Sosnowski said. “Local food gets from farm to table in fresher condition, and more local farms means more green space in our state. Food that travels less also means fewer trucks on the road, and less air pollution. Overall, more people eating more local food means better health for people and for our environment.”
Under the bill, DEM will administer the grants program, which is to be funded through a restricted receipt account with help from any federal, state or local agency, private foundation, or individual who wishes to contribute grant money or gifts to the cause.
Grants of up to $20,000 each are to be given to help start or sustain small farms or fishing operations for projects and programs that help them – and the industry as a whole – become more viable and self-sustaining. DEM must hold a public hearing and issue an annual report on the grant program’s performance.
The legislation enhances the responsibilities of the DEM to help market local seafood and agriculture. The bill directs DEM to develop programs to promote interaction and business relationships between farmers and fishermen and restaurants, grocery stores, institutional cafeterias and other potential institutional purchasers of local agriculture and seafood products, including statewide and regional promotional events.
Additionally, the legislation creates the Interagency Food and Nutrition Policy Advisory Council, made up of leaders of the Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Administration. The council is to develop solutions to regulatory and policy barriers to developing a strong sustainable food economy and healthful nutrition practices.
Narragansett - South Kingstown Patch

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