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8/23/2016 Members of RI House Minority Caucus Announce Additional Workshop Impacting Farmers Scheduled by RI DEM
RHODE ISLAND -- Members of the RI House Minority Caucus have announced a second workshop scheduled by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to address the Department’s proposed adoption of the Farmland Acquisition Rules and Regulations”.  The workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, September 7, 2016 at 5:30 p.m. at the Corless Auditorium at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, located at 215 South Ferry Road in Narragansett.

Last week, members of the RI House Minority Caucus called upon Governor Gina M. Raimondo to require RI DEM Director Janet L. Coit to reschedule a meeting which would severely impact farmers who would not be able to attend due to their participation in the Washington County Fair.  The RI DEM held the first workshop, but scheduled an additional date to accommodate farmers.  Per request of members of the RI House Minority Caucus, the RI DEM is hosting the workshop in Southern Rhode Island, a much more convenient location for farmers.

According to House Senior Deputy Minority Leader Michael W. Chippendale (R-District 40 Foster, Glocester, Coventry), "Director Coit immediately reached out to me when we first raised our concerns, to assure me the original scheduling was an oversight, and that the Department would not be making any decisions that night and that DEM would be pleased to hold another workshop when all stakeholders could attend.  I think the Director has made every effort to bring transparency to this issue for the benefit of the RI farming community.  Hopefully, this second workshop will provide the answers that the hardworking farmers in RI are looking for."

“In an effort to make sure our state’s farmers have ample opportunity to voice their concerns about what, if anything happens to their land, is of utmost importance to me.  I am pleased the RI DEM has respected the request of members of the RI House Minority Caucus, and farmers across the state, to schedule an additional date so all may be present to engage with staff concerning the Department’s adoption of the Farmland Acquisition Rules and Regulations,” said Representative Sherry Roberts (R-District 29 Coventry, West Greenwich).

Concern among Republicans that the “Farmland Acquisition Rules and Regulations” workshop is an effort to bring the small business farms in Rhode Island under state control and to divert the money to future efforts to advance the administration's RhodeMapRI program led to House Minority Caucus members calling for an additional meeting to be scheduled. 

“I am pleased the RI DEM has worked so graciously with all parties involved, regarding this issue.  It’s important to provide transparency in state government, so everyone involved feels not only part of the process, but know they were offered an opportunity to have their voices heard,” said Rep. Robert Nardolillo (R-District 28 Coventry). 

Representative Justin Price (R-District 39 Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond) echoes the sentiments of House colleagues saying, “The farming industry is critical to the residents of my district in Southern Rhode Island.  In a rural setting, such as District 39, any adjustment to farmland acquisition and regulations is critical information to farmers.  Making information readily available and providing an open, honest dialogue between all parties, is greatly appreciated.”

According to RI DEM Director Janet Coit, “This is an opportunity for the Department to get valuable feedback on draft Rules & Regulations for the Farmland Acquisition Program, an initiative to promote agriculture by ensuring that farmland stays in farming.  We are gathering input, and at an early stage of our regulatory process – that is, we have not even moved forward yet with a draft regulation.” 

Interpreter services for the hearing impaired will be provided if such services are requested at least (3) business days prior to the hearing.  Requests for such services may be made in writing or by calling TTY (711) or (401) 222-5300.

For more information, contact:
Raina C. Smith, House Minority Office
State House Room 106
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2259