Oct. 7, 2003 – The Senate Finance Committee approved 13 farmers' leases and three federal grant applications on Tuesday.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg said some of the farmers had been "waiting for decades for their leases to be approved" and that he had made addressing the matter a priority upon taking over as Finance chair at the beginning of this year.
Tuesday marked the fourth lease hearing the committee has held this year. Donastorg said the lack of leases on government-owned agricultural land has inhibited farmers from making significant investments in their businesses and has left them ineligible for federal farm loan and grant programs.
The federal grant applications approved, all from the Planning and Natural Resources Department, are seeking $55,519 for an ambient air monitoring network, $25,955 for technical support related to the ambient air monitoring, and $288,530 for historic preservation.
Sen. Roosevelt David commended the farmers for their industriousness in providing produce as small business entrepreneurs.
Sen. Louis Hill, however, expressed concern about the economic viability to the government of leasing the land at the current rates. He told Agriculture Commissioner Lawrence Lewis that while he supports farmers leasing government land at minimal cost, he thinks the Agriculture Department should consider increasing the fees, which have not changed in 20 years.
Donastorg disagreed, insisting that local governments should follow the lead of regional governments by encouraging more farming and providing more incentives.
The leases, all on St. Thomas, were approved for Mary Alexander (two); Omar Ledee; Hector and Margarita Quetel; Cyril LaPlace; Washington Gumbs; Pierre, John and Carl LaPlace; Maanazo Lamakalo; Alphonso Fahie; Ecedro Rabsatt; Robelto Harrigan; Ronnie Hunt; and Bethany Bradford.
The committee deferred action on one other lease matter before it, an amendment to a commercial lease to Felix Santana d/b/a Subbase Wreck Shop. The senators voted to hold the lease in committee for 30 days because of legal insufficiencies pointed out by the Legislature's legal counsel.
Committee members attending the meeting were Sens. David, Donastorg, Hill, Shawn-Michael Malone and Ronald Russell. Sens. Norman Jn Baptiste and Luther Renee were not present.
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