Christine Stuart photo

Several state lawmakers joined activists Wednesday at a press conference to promote Connecticut’s farming industry and the need for the Community Investment Act to remain in the state budget.

Rep. Bryan Hurlburt, D-Tolland, said the state benefits from Community Investment Act funding. The funding comes from a $30 deed fee, which then goes toward the protection of farm land, open space, and historic preservation.

In her budget address this year, Gov. M. Jodi Rell proposed taking $12 million in each fiscal year of her two-year budget proposal to help address the state deficit.

Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, said during tough times a funding source like this is what the state needs.

“Connecticut’s response to a downturn is to raid these funds,” Maynard said. “This is not a tax. It is not a way to plug the deficit.”

He said the fund is designed to give back to the community. The fund gains its revenue through state fees paid by the public not through tax revenue.

Twenty six dollars of the fee goes towards land protection, farm viability, historic preservation and affordable housing while the other $4 remains with the town, Maynard said.

Over 300 projects in 130 towns across the state have benefited from the fund’s total investments of $40 million.

Towns such as Guilford, Milford and Thompson have used grants to help farmland preservation while towns like Branford and Waterbury used grants to promote farmers’ markets and locally grown foods.

Hurlburt said the fund works and it’s necessary for towns to have it. He urged activists to talk to lawmakers about keeping the funding in the budget.

Rep. Diane Urban, D-North Stonington, said the state also needs to concentrate on results based accountability. The analysis will let the state know what is working for people and what is not, Urban said.

Rell’s office said Wednesday that while the funds from the Community Investment Act need to be redirected at this time to the general fund, the governor has proposed bonding $5 million to purchase the development rights to an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 acres of farmland in fiscal year 2010.