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The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) will hold a third public workshop on the State’s new Farmland Access Program next month. The voluntary, pilot program – approved by voters as part of a 2014 environmental bond measure – helps ensure Rhode Island’s farmlands remain in farming. During the workshop, DEM will highlight and gather input on a revised, preliminary outline of the program.

WHAT: Review and Comment on Updated Draft Rules & Regulations for the Rhode Island Farmland Access Program

WHEN: Wednesday, December 14, 2016 – 5:30 p.m.

WHERE: DEM Headquarters, 235 Promenade Street, Providence // Room 300

DEM continues to work across many fronts to strengthen Rhode Island’s green economy and to promote the viability of local agriculture. The state’s green industries account for more than 15,000 jobs and contribute $2.5 billion to the economy each year. And local agriculture continues to be an area ripe for growth – with the number of farms in Rhode Island on the rise and a growing young farmer network. Access to land, however, continues to be a challenge for many farmers.

The Farmland Access Program is one way DEM is addressing this challenge. It allows the Department to partner with the State’s Agricultural Land Preservation Commission and willing sellers to purchase farmland, protect it, and affordably sell it to farmers looking for land. The voluntary program supports farmers by giving landowners an option that will keep historic farmlands available for farming. As part of the 2014 Clean Water, Open Space and Healthy Communities bond measure, $3 million is available for farmland preservation under this program. The program’s formal rulemaking process, which will involve a public comment period, has not yet begun. The public workshops held to date are designed to gather early feedback on the program’s draft regulations. The latest version of the Draft Rules & Regulations is available online and will continue to be updated based on public input.

For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov.

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Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What'sUpNewp.

He currently serves as Vice President of the Board Of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and on the Board of Directors for Potter League For Animals.

He is a member of Local Independent Online News Publishers, Society of Professional Journalists, and the North American Snowsports Journalists Association.