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Division of Agriculture
Kenneth Ayars, Chief
235 Promenade Street
Providence, RI 02908-5767
Consisting of six primary program areas, the Rhode Island Division of Agriculture works to sustain, promote and enhance Rhode Island's agricultural viability today and for generations to come.
Programs include an Animal Health Unit, Mosquito Abatement Coordination Unit, Pesticide Unit, Agriculture/Marketing and Promotion Unit, Farmland Ecology Unit and Plant Industry Unit. These programs are responsible for a broad range of agriculture-related functions, including those traditionally associated with agricultural agencies nationally.
Program responsibilities are described below.
Get Fresh. Buy Local. Campaign Launched!
Get Fresh. Buy Local. is a new statewide Rhode Island-grown campaign to promote awareness of and interest in buying RI-grown specialty crops. This campaign launched at the RI Agriculture Day 2009 festivities at the State House on Tuesday, May 5, 2009. This exciting new effort is made possible by way of a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) the RI Department of Environmental Management Division of Agriculture received in 2008.
Local Beef to RI Institutions
The New England Beef to Institution Marketing Study was undertaken by all six New England states to determine whether the demand for beef by institutions (such as schools, universities, hospitals, prisons, etc) could be met in part by a supply of locally raised beef. The findings of this study are published in this report. The RI Division of Agriculture supports this effort to increase the number of markets that are available for locally produced beef.
RI 2007 Census of Agriculture Highlights!
On February 4th the USDA released the 2007 Census of Agriculture (last conducted in 2002). The hard copy will be available in July. On a national basis, the number of farms in the US since World War II has been increasing, with a four (4) percent increase from 2002 to 2007 for a total of 2.205 million farms. Nationally, the total amount of land in farms was down two (2) percent to 922.1 million acres. Within New England, the number of farms increased from 28,254 to 33,112 and land in farms increased from 3,996,503 acres to 4,044,104 acres. However, the average farm size decreased from 142 acres to 122 acres.
Rhode Island saw a sharp increase, the highest in New England and likely the U.S., in the number of farms and total land in farms. Farms grossing less than $50,000.00 in sales make up the majority of the increase however, the number of farms grossing more than $50,000 in sales also rose - from 168 in 2002 to 173 in 2007.
Nationally, RI ranked third in direct marketing sales on a per farm basis, and Providence County is the 50th highest county. Statistics not shown here, demonstrate a shift within categories of production and sales. For example, the green industry (i.e. nursery, horticulture and turf) accounted for 60 percent of market sales in 2007 compared to 67 percent in 2002. Fruits, vegetables and livestock have concurrently increased.
It is important to note the USDA figures for the market value of production do not include value added sales (i.e. making pies and apple cider from fruits grown on the farm) nor do they account for other economic multiplier effects of local agriculture, as in relation to tourism. In addition, high input costs such as fuels, fertilizers and real estate values have had a negative impact, especially in the recent year.
2007 Census of Agriculture - RI Highlights:
Demographics of RI's principal farm operators:
2007 Rhode Island Profile
RI Census Slide Show Part 1
RI Census Slide Show Part 2
Rhode Island Economic Impact Study for Green Related Industries
Animal Health Unit
The Animal Health Section of the Division of Agriculture has the goal of ensuring public health and animal health within the state. Staff from this division perform surveillance testing on poultry and livestock. They also assist farmers and pet owners with meeting requirements for the importation and exportation of animals to other states and countries. This section also assists state agencies with disaster preparedness involving the sheltering of animals and in the response to a disease outbreak that could threaten public health or animal health in Rhode Island. Animal Health plays a key role in rabies control within the state by coordinating all response agencies from the local to the state level. (back to top)
Mosquito Abatement Coordination Unit
A principal duty of the Mosquito Abatement Coordination (MAC) Office is to conduct surveillance of mosquito-borne diseases as an early warning system. Adult mosquitoes are trapped statewide weekly from June through September. Samples are then tested at the RI Health Department Laboratory for the presence of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV). Appropriate responses are based on those results.
The MAC Office assists communities with efforts to reduce the human risk of WNV. Since 2000 (the year WNV arrived in RI) the state has been providing product to communities to be distributed into underground storm-water catchment basins. This effort reduces mosquito production from that habitat – one that is well known to produce mosquitoes that are important in transmitting WNV.
The MAC Office also conducts salt marsh water management projects with specialized low-ground-pressure machines. This effort alters water flow such that predation of mosquito larvae by fish is enhanced. The MAC Office partners with other agencies and organizations as well, in conducting salt marsh restoration projects. (back to top)
This unit is responsible for enforcing state laws and regulations developed to protect people from poisonings and to prevent environmental degradation that might result from improper use of pesticides on farms, in yards, and inside homes. Through this program, commercial pesticide applicators are trained, tested, and licensed to achieve a level of competence in the pesticide application industry. Without diligent enforcement of these regulations, there would be an increased incidence of pesticide poisonings and environmental damage.
Agriculture/Marketing and Promotion Unit
Through agricultural promotion and market development programs, this unit carries out marketing initiatives and strategies designed to promote Rhode Island grown products and, thereby, increase the income of local farmers. Since the inception of these promotional programs, Rhode Island agricultural revenue has risen from $38 million in 1980 to $86 million in 2006. This increase has a still greater impact when considering multiplier effects throughout the economy. (back to top)
Farmland Ecology Unit
Staff from this unit work with, and regulate, farmers to ensure agricultural activities do not negatively impact Rhode Island's valuable wetland and groundwater resources. This section works with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Services to implement Best Management Practices for farmers and conservation projects. Permits are issued through this program for improvements to farms for activities which may impact wetlands or nearby bodies of water. This section works closely with DEM Freshwater Wetlands staff in the permitting process for activities such as constructing farm ponds, roads and agriculture waste runoff facilities. This section also implements the Purchase of Development Rights Program under the Agriculture Lands Preservation Program which reviews applications from farmers wishing to preserve farmland as open space. (back to top)
Plant Industry Unit
The Plant Industry Section is responsible for conducting statutory programs for the inspection and regulation of movement of plant materials and plant pests to prevent, detect and control the spread of plant pests and noxious weeds. Included among these programs are: nursery and nursery stock dealer licensing, nursery inspection and certification, post entry plant quarantine, state and federal phytosanitary certification, permits to move live plant pests and noxious weeds, biological control facility permits, permits for transport and planting of Ribes spp. plants under the white pine blister rust quarantine regulations, the Japanese beetle harmonization program participating nursery certification, and agricultural burn permit inspections. The Section administers the RI Organic Certification Program as a USDA-accredited organic certification agency, certifying organic crops and livestock producers and handlers to the National Organic Program Standards.
Inspection and control programs of apiaries and deer damage, similar to those listed above, are also administered by the Plant Industry Section.
This section also includes the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey program (CAPS) which is a cooperative program with the USDA APHIS PPQ Agency for safeguarding food and environmental security from exotic pests that may threaten agricultural production and natural resources' ecological systems. Staff will assess both the agricultural and natural environment to determine sites that may be at high risk against these pests. At high risk sites, staff will implement an insect survey protocol to determine if the pests exist and could potentially threaten food production or the natural environment. (back to top)