STRATFORD,\u00a0CT\u00a0(STL.News) Governor\u00a0Ned Lamont\u00a0 today joined legislators, state officials, agricultural advocates, and business representatives for a bill signing ceremony in Stratford near the shore of the Long Island Sound to commemorate the enactment of legislation implementing policies that will support continued growth of Connecticut\u2019s shellfish industry in an effort to increase the populations of oysters along the state\u2019s shoreline and protect the sustainability of this vibrant sector of the economy. The shellfish industry is a significant sector of the Connecticut shoreline\u2019s economy, generating more than $30 million in sales annually and supporting 300 jobs statewide.\u00a0 There are currently more than 70,000 acres of shellfish farms under cultivation in Connecticut. The legislation: \tExtends Public Act 490 protections \u2013 which were adopted more than 50 years ago and allow landowners to have their qualifying lands classified as farms and thereby subject to reduced property tax rates \u2013 to include aquaculture operations; \tAllows more flexibility to actively manage the natural oyster beds in Long Island Sound, ensuring that Connecticut oysters will be available for future generations through better management of the natural beds; and \tReconstitutes and expands the Connecticut Seafood Council with new membership to drive the industry forward. It received overwhelming support from business and agriculture organizations across the state, including the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association, the Connecticut chapter of the National Audubon Society, the Connecticut Restaurant Association, and numerous small business leaders that depend on the sustainability of Connecticut\u2019s aquaculture to support their operations. \u201cAquaculture is one of the fastest growing sectors in Connecticut, and this legislation continues to move the dial on this industry receiving some of the same protections and support that land farmers receive,\u201d Governor Lamont said.\u00a0 \u201cMy administration will continue focusing on commonsense changes like these that business owners in Connecticut deserve.\u00a0 I look forward to seeing this already great industry continue to grow. Let\u2019s spread the word far and wide, Connecticut has some of the best oysters around.\u201d \u201cThis law ensures that the future for the industry is prosperous and encompassing of all the types of aquaculture industry in our state, including seaweed and indoor production,\u201d Connecticut Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt said.\u00a0 \u201cThe law also establishes parity and access to the property tax relief program, Public Act 490, to include aquaculture production, further ingraining this industry as a facet of Connecticut agriculture.\u00a0 Many thanks to the industry, the Connecticut Farm Bureau, and UConn Sea Grant for their partnership and commitment to this proposal and the future of the aquaculture in our state.\u201d \u201cOn behalf of its members and aquaculture farmers, the Connecticut Farm Bureau thanks Governor Lamont and the legislature for their support of this very important legislation,\u201d Connecticut Farm Bureau President Paul Larson and Executive Director Joan Nichols said in a joint statement.\u00a0 \u201cThis legislation provides both financial relief and equity in taxation for aquaculture farmers across Connecticut by expanding Public Act 490 to include aquaculture into the state\u2019s definition of farmland.\u201d The governor noted that shellfish aquaculture also provides a number of environmental benefits, including by improving sediment quality through the harvesting process, stabilizing sediments and helping to protect the shoreline from erosion, and providing critical ecosystem functions by creating structure and habitat for other species that provide a food source for fish and other marine species. The legislation is Public Act 21-24, An Act Concerning Connecticut\u2019s Shellfish Restoration Program, The Connecticut Seafood Council and the Taxation of Certain Underwater Farmlands.