For the last few years, the news has been positive for the agricultural industry here in Connecticut. The number of farmers markets across the state is on the rise. Our friends and neighbors are committed to buying our products.
The legislature and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy reestablished the Governor’s Council for Agricultural Development—aimed at growing the industry. And, a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that for the first time in decades the number of farms is on the rise in Connecticut.
But that trend could be reversed if a piece of legislation before the General Assembly this session becomes law.
Lawmakers have added an amendment to a pesticide bill that would ban the use and sale of some grasses, even grasses that have been genetically engineered to be more environmentally friendly or need less water. The amendment calls for an outright ban on a product that isn’t even on the market yet.
But, because this amendment was added late in the legislative process, we don’t really know what the justifications are for this drastic step. Without a public hearing on this amendment, the experts and those whose livelihoods would be impacted never had the opportunity to share their views and the science that shows that these products are safe.
Nor do we know how far this ban would go—what about plants developed using genetically modified techniques that have other beneficial characteristics like drought tolerance, require less pesticide use, or that need less mowing? Would the ban include the sale and use of GMO feed corn seed in Connecticut? After all, corn is a grass. That would wipe out our dairy industry that has been using these products safely for many years.
We are incredibly disappointed that on an issue with such wide ranging ramifications for the agricultural and landscape industry we might not have an open and transparent process to hear from constituents and experts that will be directly impacted. We urge the Connecticut General Assembly to reconsider this measure.
Henry N. Talmage is the executive director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association.