The State House on Tuesday approved a bill that equates the sea and land with agricultural land tax breaks after the Senate passed the bill in April. The bill now goes to Governor Ned Lamont’s office.
By a bipartisan vote of 140 to four, the bill moved forward after a short debate. Supporters hailed the measure as a boon to the state’s shellfish industry, which has suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation would add underwater shellfish fishing grounds and some seaside shellfish shipping sites to the list of properties covered by a long-standing state law known as Public Law 490 The law allows farmland, forests, open spaces and maritime heritage land to be valued on the basis of what the property is being used for rather than for its fair market value, resulting in lower property taxes. It is a land preservation tool to allow landowners to retain land that would otherwise be too expensive to keep.
The bill would also rename the Connecticut Seafood Advisory Council to the Connecticut Seafood Development Council and add two members, bringing the total to 13.
Local shellfish farmers support the law, as they can currently only grow shellfish on land. The bill would extend these rights to the water column. The legislation would also extend agricultural tax benefits on riparian properties, previously limited to commercial lobsters, shellfish shippers and licensed aquaculture operators, provided that at least 50% of their adjusted gross income comes from commercial operations. Some city officials are unsure how this would affect cities’ tax bases. During public testimony for the bill, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and the Connecticut Small Town Council opposed the bill, arguing that it places the onus of subsidizing aquaculture on the local communities that harbor agricultural operations.
A list of U.S. Food and Drug Administration certified shellfish shippers shows one to Noank. Other nearby riparian shippers operate from Stonington, Mystic and Niantic.
The bill would come into force on October 1, 2021. It would not affect the large local roster until the following fiscal year, according to the State Legislature’s Office of Tax Analysis.
At the end of February 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic hit Connecticut, local fishermen and experts were celebrating the opening and modernization of several seashell beds along the east coast. They said the industry was in a better position to thrive and the surrounding waters would become healthier as a result.
But as State Representative Patricia Dillon D-New Haven told the House on Tuesday, she and other lawmakers know from meetings with the Connecticut Farm Bureau that when restaurants shut during the pandemic, oyster fishing lost 80% of its activities “because a large part of their activities is linked to restaurants. “
Kristin DeRosia-Banick, an environmental analyst at the state’s Bureau of Aquaculture, said in June 2020 that the wholesale trade which accounts for nearly 100% of the state’s $ 30 million commercial shellfish industry – mainly bulk sales to distributors and restaurants in New York. City, Boston, and across the country – has effectively been “ripped off” from the state’s 45 shellfish farms.
Connecticut shellfish farmers have used creative ways to make up for these losses, including selling direct to customers more than at any time for decades.
In October 2020, stakeholders in the shellfish aquaculture industry learned that they would be eligible for federal government assistance provided to other sectors of the agricultural industry affected by the pandemic after being initially excluded from the benefits of benefits during the first cycle of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Funding Act. In lobbying for change, U.S. Representative Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and the Connecticut delegation cited the Connecticut Sea Grant’s determination that “Connecticut shellfish farming suffered a 93% loss in revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. ”