Feb. 15, 2007 — Sens. Neville James and Terrence Nelson this week showed off newly purchased farming equipment for the Department of Agriculture, noting that "the commitment to agriculture is real."
The pair explained the purchase was made possible by the Sustainable Farming Act of 2006, which was passed in the 26th Legislature. (See "Sustainable Agriculture Bill Passes Committee").
James said that back when he was a freshman senator, he was given authorship of a bill to address agriculture and worked with various stakeholders to perfect the legislation. Nelson, who was then chair of the senate Labor and Agriculture Committee, held a four-day agriculture summit in February 2006, allowing local farmers to weigh in on the legislation. (See
"Legislature Reviews State of Agriculture").
"Significant dollars have yielded tangible results," James said. The bill provided for $1.2 million in equipment to be purchased by the department. The equipment can be loaned out to local farmers to prepare their land for planting.
"As a government, we have to subsidize the farmers," Nelson said, adding the act also helps to encourage future farmers by mandating that agriculture be taught in the public schools, beginning at the kindergarten level.
Agriculture employee Leroy James pointed out the equipment, which included a link belt excavator, a rake, a bailer and two D85 bulldozers. James said the equipment is computer operated and training is needed for operators and repair technicians.
Also included in the bill is a requirement that licensed farmers submit financial reports to the Bureau of Internal Revenue. "Farming is a business," James said, noting that the bureau recently sent out public announcements reminding farmers to comply with the new law.
Nelson said he would like to one day see the agricultural grounds house an "active farmers market," where farmers can deliver their produce for sale.
The senators also commented on the upcoming annual Agricultural and Food Fair scheduled to open on St. Croix Saturday. "According to the Bureau of Economic Research, the fair is the biggest activity in the Virgin Islands," James said.
"We want to make agriculture not just a part of the government, but a part of life," said Nelson.
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