A new agriculture committee?

As we reported a week or so back, the idea of re-establishing an agriculture committee in the General Assembly for the first time in decades was being considered by a pair of Republican lawmakers.

On Thursday, Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, and Rep. Penny Bacchiocchi, R-Somers, will announce plans to create a Select Committee on Agriculture.

“We are encouraged by the state’s recent efforts to revitalize agriculture, and we want to build on that,” Bacchiocchi said in a statement.

“We have heard directly from leaders in the agricultural industry and from farmers in our districts. They want this to be our focus in Hartford,” she said. “They feel a committee dedicated to helping the growth of all forms of agriculture in our state will lead to the creation of hundreds of critically needed new Connecticut jobs.”

Agriculture is a $3.5 billion industry accounting for about 20,000 jobs in Connecticut. Coupled with the strong local food movement here, the Malloy administration has embraced it as a potential jobs generator.

“We want to protect and grow this industry by creating a climate that enables current and future farmers to succeed,” Kissel said in a statement.

“Creating a select committee only lengthens the process and makes it harder to get legislation to the floor,” said Rep. Bryan Hurlburt, D-Tolland, a member of the Environment Committee, who pointed out that a select committee would mean agriculture-related legislation would first have to go through it and then through the Environment Committee as well. “I think the reality of the situation is we are better suited to keeping agriculture solely in the domain of the Environment Committee as a way to support agriculture.”

He also noted the cost to create the committee — $50,000 at a time when the legislature has just been hit with an $800,000 cutback. “At this time it doesn’t make a lot of sense with what we’re dealing with fiscally.”