January 21, 2011
QUESTIONS FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER NOMINEE
By: Kristen L. Miller, Legislative Analyst II
Janet L. Kaminski-Leduc, Senior Legislative Attorney
COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE (CGS §§ 22-4 AND 22-6)
● Encourages and promotes the development of agriculture
● Investigates practical methods of husbandry
● Publishes (1) information and statistics about agriculture and animal industries and interests and (2) bulletins in cooperation with the University of Connecticut
1. Farmland preservation has been a goal of the department. How would you characterize the current state of farmland preservation within Connecticut? What ideas do you have to further farmland preservation?
2. High front end cost of land, machinery, and agricultural equipment make it difficult for young farmers to enter the field. What can the department do to encourage a new generation of farmers to carry on the state's agricultural traditions and increase agriculture's contribution to the economy?
3. Are Connecticut dairy farmers viable and competitive with those in other regions? What can the department do to help farmers keep their businesses viable?
4. In 2009, the legislature created a grant program for dairy farmers. Through the program, the Department of Agriculture provides quarterly grants to dairy farmers using funds raised through a temporary increase, from $30 to $40, in the fee people pay when filing documents with town clerks. This recording fee increase is set to expire on July 1, 2011. Do you believe that the legislature should extend this grant program and its current funding mechanism? If so, for how long?
5. The University of Connecticut Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics recently published a study finding that the agricultural industry impacts the state's economy by as much as $3.5 billion each year and providing about 20,000 jobs. The study also found that the agricultural industry has non-traditional impacts such as “social benefits” and “eco-system services.” What are some of these social benefits and eco-system services and how do they impact our state?
6. What can the department do to assist farmers interested in crops that could be used for bio-fuels? Is there a benefit to the state in supporting bio-fuel initiatives?
7. What types of policies would support and increase the state's agri-tourism business?
8. What are some of the issues facing the aquaculture industry in Connecticut?
9. Have worries about food security such as avian flu, “mad cow disease,” and tainted produce, negatively impacted Connecticut agriculture? If so, what has the department done to assure the public that the safety measures it takes will protect public health? Could the department do more?
10. On January 4, 2011, President Obama signed into law the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. How will this act affect agricultural business within the state?
11. How can the department promote community supported agriculture and local food initiatives?