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Friday, June 15, 2012

Making it easier to farm

Assembly approves bills to streamline regulations for agricultural farming

STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today passed legislation to improve Rhode Island’s ranking as the most regulated state for land use. The bills, which will be sent to the governor’s office to be signed, protects current agricultural businesses and increases future farming in coastal communities in the state.

Sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, New Shoreham, South Kingstown) and Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and co-sponsored by Donna Walsh, the legislation is part of the Senate’s comprehensive package of legislation intended to “Make it Easy to do Business in Rhode Island.” Both bills will be transmitted to the governor.

The legislation (2012-S 2548A, 2012-H 7961) eliminates the requirement for Coastal Resource Management Council (CRMC) approval and gives the Department of Environmental Management exclusive jurisdiction over plant agriculture businesses, including farming on wetlands. 

The only exception would be for farming activities within 200 feet of the coastal physiographic feature, in which case DEM would exercise jurisdiction in consultation with CRMC.

Senator Sosnowski, who runs a farm in South Kingstown, said she knows the plight of the agricultural business owner when it comes to regulations.

“This legislation is going to make it easier for Rhode Island farmers to focus on running their businesses without having to go through two boards or agencies,” said Senator Sosnowski, who serves as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture. “What I’m most excited about is the opportunity for economic growth in our coastal communities.”

Rep. Teresa Tanzi said this bill will pave the way for farmers to thrive in Rhode Island.

“We have a unique landscape in Rhode Island because we have so much coastline. No one wants to see that asset become a burden on our small farms,” she said. “This is going to streamline the process for our coastal farmers and encourage the agricultural productivity that is so essential to this state.”