During my recent visit to Hartford, I toured the historic Billings Forge Farmers Market, which featured an assortment of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, baking foods, cheeses, meats and numerous other healthy foods. Located in a food desert, the market positively compliments the “Bodegas” by providing WIC eligible food products.
I also had the opportunity to tour the Connecticut Regional Terminal Market which operates 24/7 year round with over 600 employees. The market supplies the New England region with fresh fruits and vegetables, value-added products and specialty items such as wine grapes.
As part of the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) commitment to reach out to stakeholders for input and recommendations on how we as public servants can do a better job, I held a rural roundtable discussion with over 40 producers, stakeholders, and officials from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. The discussion was extremely positive and helpful. Concerns included food safety certificates, support for small/local producers, a level playing field with foreign competition, and the impact of federal budget constraints. Positive dialog and support was received on the Specialty Crops Block Grant Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP), Market Access Program (MAP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and other programs that are provided by USDA.
I had the opportunity to recognize and honor Bob Pellegrino, Director of Marketing for the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, for his commitment and success in helping and supporting the agriculture/agribusiness sector for the past 34 years in his beloved state of Connecticut.