Malloy hooked on benefits of urban fish farms, but money tight
HARTFORD -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wants to see abandoned urban warehouses converted into fish-growing facilities, raising restaurant-ready tilapia and catfish.
But the governor indicated Tuesday that he may not budget more funding to expand farm-related vocational programs for high school students, despite waiting lists at schools including Pomperaug High School in Woodbury.
He told a group of farm and open-space advocates that there remain major incentives in last October's bipartisan jobs legislation, offering farmers $500 to $900 a month in subsidies for hiring and training people such as veterans and the longtime unemployed.
"I recognized that Connecticut has not done as good a job as it should have done over a long period of time in training its work force and therefore subsidizing your training of the workforce seems to make a lot of sense," he said.
Speaking before the nonprofit Working Lands Alliance, Malloy said that abandoned industrial and storage sites could be prime locations for aquaculture programs, including "larger-scale" fish farming.
"We have a lot of mills, a lot of factories out there," in addition to empty steel structures with flat roofs, he said. "I'd love to see a program for that and that would be a specific way to get our foot in the water."
After the governor's appearance, Shelton farmer Terry Jones, chairman of the alliance's steering committee, recalled after the trip he and Malloy made last year to Ledyard High School, where students farm catfish and tilapia, both mild white fish popular in restaurants.
"It sounds like a good idea to me," Jones said in an interview. "It's certainly something that could be done in Bridgeport, or anywhere. It could provide food security and local jobs."
The governor promised to continue investing millions of dollars each year in farmland preservation and open space acquisition, the chief goals of the alliance.
The 20 members of the steering committee gave Malloy an earful of pitches, but he made few promises beyond a commitment to annual open-space farmland preservation and agricultural education.
After the 40-minute meeting, Malloy told reporters that the expansion of the regional high school agriculture programs, such as Pomperaug's, which also serves Naugatuck Valley communities, is currently not part of the budget revisions he will present to the Legislature next month.