Preserving farms

Connecticut has the distinction of providing the second-oldest farm-preservation program in the country, preserving the development rights of its first farm in 1979 during the administration of Gov. Ella T. Grasso, a Democrat.

Under the leadership of Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, the state has invested more than $53 million for farmland preservation and the Community Investment Act, which provides grants for municipal open space preservation and assistance for Connecticut dairy farms. The investment in farmland preservation during the Rell administration was more than that of any previous governor.

The incoming administration of Gov.-elect Dan Malloy should continue this bipartisan effort.

Connecticut farms are integral to its heritage. While the economic slowdown has stalled the suburban sprawl and commercial development that replaced many farms in the state, that development pressure will return, and the state needs to manage that growth while preserving its farms.

It is not a case of economic growth versus farming. Farms are part of the economy. Agriculture is a $3.5 billion industry in Connecticut.

Of late, the importance of farm preservation has moved beyond an aesthetic desire to protect bucolic Connecticut. Growing and buying local has the advantage of recycling money within the local economy. It is environmentally friendly because it eliminates the large-scale energy use from transporting food great distances. Local farms often provide buyers an organic alternative and the confidence that they know where their food is coming from.

Since the governor took office in July 2004 the administration has preserved 74 farms totaling nearly 8,000 acres. Under the program the state purchases a farm's development rights, placing a permanent restriction on the use and preventing development for non-agricultural purposes. The farms stay under private ownership and pay local property taxes.

In total, the state has preserved 270 farms with about 26,000 total acres. Gov. Malloy should build on that record.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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