From Legislative Press and Public Information Bureau http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/News
|Sen. Sue Sosnowski & Rep. Teresa Tanzi at a|
Charlestown event last fall
Introduced by Sen. V.
Sosnowski and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, the Rhode Island Local
Agriculture and Seafood Act (2012-S
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 House version of the new law was also co-sponsored by local Representatives Donna Walsh and Teresa Tanzi.
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
fishing and farming industries generate over a billion dollars to the outdoor
economy,” said Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown,
“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
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,” said Senator Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham). “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.