Keep Carney on ag plan’s path (Editorial)

(Jan. 31, 2017) As Delaware Gov. John Carney enters his second full week in office, he carries the report from his transition team as guidance in governing in The First State.
This “Action Plan for Delaware” details policy objectives from four committees. In the Economic Development and Healthy Environment Committee, “Grow Delaware’s agriculture economy” is one of seven objectives.
In that objective are four recommended items from the committee, which included Chris Perdue, director of inventory management for Perdue Agribusiness.
Those items are: Support and expand the state’s cover crop initiative and make continued improvements to its nutrient management programs; continue implementation of the state’s shellfish aquaculture program; review and reduce permitting barriers for farm construction projects and preserve an average of 4,000 acres of Delaware farmland per year.
Each item, if achieved, would constitute a key helping hand in protecting natural resources, improving farmers’ bottom line or both.
Cover crops have shown their value in reducing nutrient and sediment in runoff and maintaining soil health.
Maintaining funding of at least at $2 million for the state’s core programs, as stated in the action plan, is a good starting point and should only grow.
Delaware is the last state on the East Coast to establish a shellfish aquaculture industry.
With annual revenue of $119 million dollars on the East Coast alone, the shellfish aquaculture industry has seen 10 percent annual growth, fueled by demand for local seafood, and restaurant interest in serving locally-sourced food.
As it finalizes its permitting process to get growers in the Inland Bays, that industry could bring not only economic benefits to Delaware, but also ecological benefits to the bays.
Regulatory hurdles are usually high on farmers’ list of issues in maintaining profitability.
A permitting process that doesn’t discourage farm expansion will get cheers throughout the agriculture community.
Preserving farmland, something Delaware does better than any state on a per capita basis, has been deemed a priority by the state’s governors since the program was created in 1991, though funding has fluctuated, subject to the state’s budget climate.
Carney’s transition team estimated it would take $10 million, the maximum funding allowed by law, to meet its ambitious yet important annual preservation goal, which was also repeated in the transition report’s objective for protecting Delaware’s natural resources. 
Carney and others on the state’s political scene often tout “the Delaware Way” in collaborating across agencies, and across the aisle, to get work done.
As the messy work of governing picks up where the campaign trail left off, Carney should not lose sight of agriculture’s needs along the way.
The state’s farmers surely will remind him.