Blog

March 22, 2018

It’s no secret the farm community was not happy with the former program. It was unfortunate that the effectiveness of the Dairy Margin Protection Program implemented in the 2014 Farm Bill was compromised due to last minute budget cuts and implementation problems at USDA. The new agreement might offer fixes to fit small and medium farms. The new safety net will only trigger when margins between milk price and feed costs are low and doesn’t guarantee a profit or cause oversupply. This might not be the best answer for all farmers, but we suggest farmers should at least take a look at the new program to see if it might help them get through this difficult period.

The dairy provisions in the Senate budget agreement fixes problems with the old Margin Protection Program (MPP) and provides a pathway to new, customizable insurance tools. This is done through a complimentary approach that substantially reforms MPP to target benefits for small and medium-sized farms (the annual production of approximately (250-300 cows), while also removing an arbitrary cap on dairy insurance that allows for innovative new risk management tools for larger-scale operations.

These critical improvements also generate over $1 billion in additional baseline funding for dairy as we begin Farm Bill reauthorization discussions. 

USDA Farm Services Agency is preparing for the new signup period but it is not expected until late April.  When sign-up reopens, there will be announcements sent to dairy farmers.

MARGIN PROTECTION PROGRAM

The new and improved MPP is especially important for small and medium-sized dairy farmers by making the program more responsive to market conditions and drastically reducing premiums to make it affordable for farmers to purchase higher levels of coverage. Importantly, producers will also have another chance to sign-up or change coverage levels for 2018 coverage.  Specifically, the changes:

1.     Affordable Buy-up Coverage—Dramatically reduces the premium costs for “Tier 1” enrollment to incentivize small and medium farm to consider higher levels of protection.  Eliminates the premiums for $4.50 and $5.00 coverage and cuts other premiums by an average of 70% (see table for details).

2.     Allow Flexibility—Provides farmers a chance to immediately take advantage of the revised program.  USDA will re-open the election period to allow producers another chance to sign-up or change coverage levels for the 2018 coverage year. 

3.     Farmer-Friendly Improvements—Calculates potential payments on a monthly basis instead of making farmers wait for two months to provide more relevant and timely responses to changes in milk or feed costs.

4.     Target Small and Medium Farms—Adjusts the “Tier 1” threshold that corresponds with substantially lower premium costs, to the first 5 million pounds of production, an increase from the current level of 4 million pounds of production.  This better aligns the program with the median U.S. dairy farm size, 223 cows, and encourages more farms to participate and secure meaningful levels of protection.

5.     Target Those Most in Need—Waives the $100 administrative fee for underserved producers (limited resource, beginning and minority farmers), bringing the program in line with other USDA programs with a similar service fee waiver, such as the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). Creates new waiver for “veteran” farmers, term that will have to be defined by USDA.

MPP Premium Rate Reductions

 

Margin Coverage Level

OLD: Tier 1 Premium

NEW: Tier 1 Premium

Tier 2 Premium

(remains the same)

Covered production history less than four million lbs.

Covered production history less than five million lbs.

$4.00

None

None

None

$4.50

$0.010

None

$0.020

$5.00

$0.025

None

$0.040

$5.50

$0.040

$0.009

$0.100

$6.00

$0.055

$0.016

$0.155

$6.50

$0.090

$0.040

$0.290

$7.00

$0.217

$0.063

$0.830

$7.50

$0.300

$0.087

$1.060

$8.00

$0.475

$0.142

$1.360

EXPANDING DAIRY INSURANCE

Dairy farmers have historically had limited options for managing risk through the Federal Crop Insurance Program.  USDA wrongly classified milk production as “livestock” for the purposes of crop insurance, subjecting dairy insurance to an arbitrary limit on livestock insurance indemnities and stifling options for farmers.

The Senate budget agreement removes this arbitrary cap to expand insurance options for dairy farmers and incentivize the development of innovative new dairy insurance policies.  Any new policies would be subject to approval and overseen by USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA).  Like all other crop insurance policies, this coverage is available without limitations on size or revenue of the operation. 

March 19, 2018

It was a day of celebration for those working to strengthen the local food system, a coordinated effort that’s rooted deeply in Vermont. Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets Secretary Anson Tebbetts joined Burlington City Mayor Miro Weinberger at City Market Co-Op’s new store in Burlington’s South End to congratulate six Vermont non-profit organizations on receiving at total of $36,709 to help support local food projects in the community.

(City Market General Manager John Tashiro gives Secretary Anson Tebbetts a tour of the new store in Burlington's South End)

“This is a proud moment for our farmers, these projects help many of our farmers get a start, help them expand and ultimately help grow Vermont’s rural economy,” said Secretary Tebbetts. “These projects also help Vermont’s children learn about agriculture, a valuable piece of education that is important to our future.”

The following organizations have been selected to receive 2017 grants: 

Burlington High School's Richard Meyer's Food Science Class - $818

Burlington High School is an innovative, equitable, and collaborative community of learners inspiring and shaping a dynamic and sustainable future for Burlington. They build on the diverse cultures, experiences, and interests of our students and community to support student‐centered learning and foster intellectual growth. They partner with families and the community at large to help our students develop the skills to become independent, self‐directed, and lifelong learners who contribute responsibly to our world. 

BHS’s project is part of Richard Meyer’s Food Science class. “Microgreens for Students” will be threefold: 

a. Students will learn how to grow various plants (microgreens and herbs) in the greenhouse. 

b. These plants will be used by students in the culinary class at Burlington Technical Center as part of the meals they serve and be sold to staff of Burlington High School. If appropriate quantities exist, they will be used in the cafeteria for all to enjoy during lunch. 

c. Students will be conducting experiments testing various factors that may influence the production of the plants. 

The Intervale Center - $8,979

The Intervale Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a mission to strengthen community food systems. In the face of the massive challenges of hunger, poverty, environmental degradation and climate change, we believe in the power of good food to change the world. Our work starts in Burlington’s beloved Intervale; for nearly 30 years, they have cared for this unique community resource of 380 acres of farm fields, wetlands, trails and wildlife corridors in the heart of Burlington, where people come to work, learn and play. Their programs have a broad reach, providing business planning, technical and marketing assistance to farmers across Vermont, growing trees for riparian restoration projects statewide, improving food access by providing 50,000+ pounds of fresh food to community members each year, and hosting thousands of visitors from Burlington and around the world, who come to learn about and be inspired by their impactful work. 

The Intervale Center’s Kitchen Project seeks to complete improvements to their kitchen that will allow them to increase the impact of their community programs. With these funds, they will invest in new equipment designed to better support the level of food preparation, storage and clean-up in which their programs are currently engaged. This equipment will also allow them to “dream big” as they add the capacity they need to engage more people through deliciously prepared local food. 

Janet S Munt Family Room - $7,621 

The Janet S. Munt Family Room nurtures healthy, strong and diverse communities by providing research-based, wrap-around services and programs designed to help families with young children thrive. As a Parent-Child Center of Vermont, they provide education, support and connection for parents, and promote physical, social, emotional and linguistic development in children. A caring, flexible and trusted staff connects with each family and individual to help them celebrate their strengths and address their challenges. 

Their project strengthens the roots of the Family Room’s Garden, Nature and Family Play program. Annually, for the last 14 years, the Family Room’s Family Play program moves outside to the Ethan Allen Homestead for the summer. In this way, the indoor Family Play program offered throughout the year continues in an outdoor setting. All services offered in Family Play programming (such as family support, parenting education, community resource and referral, crisis support, visitation, case management) are offered with the added value of being in a natural setting. 

The Schoolhouse Learning Center - $1,222

The Schoolhouse Learning Center (SH) is a dynamic, diverse educational community that promotes curiosity and independence of mind. SH values each student’s voice, nurtures respectful relationships and empowers students to have a positive impact on their communities. Located in South Burlington, SH offers high quality, year-round, affordable after school, camps (summer and vacation), preschool (for 2-4 year olds) and elementary school (pre- K to 5th grades) and middle school (6th to 8th grades) to about 120 students each year. 

SH seeks Seedling Grant support to bring its hot lunch program better into alignment with the values of its established farm to school program, Farm Food Forest (FFF), and the school-wide commitment to encouraging the values of sustainability, personal responsibility and environmental stewardship. Specifically, SH seeks funds to expand its kitchen gardens, its local purchasing capacity and its ability to process and store more seasonal and locally produced foods for its daily hot lunch offerings. 

UVM Foundation – $8,906

The mission of the UVM Foundation is to secure and manage private support for the benefit of the University of Vermont. Incorporated in 2011, the UVM Foundation is empowered to perform a wide range of services and conduct a variety of activities that support the University in its mission of teaching, research, and public service. Their “Huertas: From Garden to Table” project is nestled within the health access programming of their Bridges to Health program that addresses migrant farmworker food security and sovereignty concerns identified through years of UVM Extension 

outreach to the state's dairy farms. The mission of Huertas is to address disparities in access to nutritious and culturally familiar food while simultaneously bridging the barriers of isolation and social inequalities for this population. Now in its eighth year, Huertas works together with community partners and volunteers to increase food security through building kitchen gardens with Latino migrant farmworkers living in rural Vermont. 

Through planting kitchen gardens and organizing other food-related activities with Latino farmworkers on Vermont’s dairies, Huertas aims to address persistent household food insecurity and increase opportunities for nutrition education while simultaneously building community and fostering cross-cultural relationships. They utilize a modified community garden model that, despite possibly sacrificing some of the benefits of a more "typical" community garden project, recognizes the constraints and challenges that are caused by the economic and geographic conditions in which dairy workers live. Both transportation barriers as well as the varied and intense work schedules on each farm renders access to a community garden site near impossible. As such, Huertas focuses on participation at a household level, planting kitchen gardens at the dairies where farmworkers work and live. 

Downtown Winooski – $9,163

 The Winooski Community Partnership (WCP) is committed to a long-term comprehensive growth and revitalization effort and seeks to make Downtown Winooski a better place to live, visit, work, shop, do business, dine and be entertained. Throughout the year, the WCP identifies activities, projects, and events that enhance the downtown. 

The Winooski Farmers Market and Summer Meals program are part of WCP’s concentrated efforts 

to make sure every person who lives in Winooski has access to fresh, healthy food, not just the folks who can afford to shop and dine in Winooski. They serve everyone who lives, works and recreates in Winooski. In the last two years, they have focused significantly on serving those who may be falling through the cracks or feeling like Winooski’s downtown is “not for me”. 

March 14, 2018

                      

Jeff Carter and Heather Darby opened the conference by talking about why they believe the growth in farmer adoption of no/reduced-till and cover cropping in Vermont has been so strong and how 30+ years of research, innovation, and persistence has created a system that will last into the future. Listen to a short clip of Jeff's and Heather's presentation below. 

Jeff Carter Intro to Conference "A Farm Odyssey"

Heather Darby "Healthy Soils makes for Healthy Crops"

Kirsten Workman and Joshua Faulkner of UVM Extension gave presentations about challenges and opportunities to sustainable farming in Vermont. Listen to two short clips of Kirsten's and Joshua's presentation by clicking the videos below!

Kirsten Workman "Changes in Agriculture"

Joshua Faulkner "Climate Change in Vermont"

Bob Schindelbeck of Cornell University spoke about how we assess and try to quantify soil health.  A regular soil test looks only at the chemical properties of the soil, but we now have tools (like the Cornell Soil Health Test) that look at the chemical, biological, and physical properties of a soil and can give you results that show you where there are opportunities for improvement.  Listen to a several minute clip of Bob's presentation by clicking the video below!

Bob Schindelbeck "Healthy Soils"

At lunch Blake Vince spoke to us about farming in Ontario, Canada.  Blake grows small grains in his crop rotation and uses the second half of the growing season after harvesting in July/August to grow 8-way cover crop mixes using warm-season and cool-season annuals.  Blake also talked about his travels to South America, seeing different crop agronomics depending on the climate and gaining an appreciation for how much of an agriculture "powerhouse" Brazil is and will be going into the future.  Listen to a six minute clip of Blake's presentation by clicking the video below!

E. Blake Vince on Cover Crops and No Till in Ontario

 

After lunch we had a multi-part session on Tile Drainage research, proposed regulations, and proper installation.  Eric Young of Minter Institute and Heather Darby of UVM Extension gave presentations on the various research studies going on in our region.  Ryan Patch of the Agency of Agriculture gave a quick overview of the proposed Tile Drainage Regulations that may be included as part of the RAP's.  Lastly, Steve Roy of Redline Drainage talked to us about how modern systematic tile drainage is installed and the best management practices to make sure that it functions as intended and minimizes any environmental issues. 

To end the day, Jeff Sanders of UVM Extension led a quick farmer panel about their transitions to a no-till/cover cropping system. Most people think that no-till is primarily just about the planter, or having a proper planter and then planting cover crops after you harvest.  In reality, we are changing the entire cropping system, and to be truly successful we as farmers and technical service providers have to look at every aspect of our farms.  Not tilling our land and planting cover crops have trickle-down effects on the entire farm and the farmers who have successfully transitioned to this system have thoroughly thought about and made changes to many parts of their farm.  

 

March 13, 2018

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture has decided to cancel the 2018 Vermont Farm to School and Childcare Grant Award Ceremony due to weather, which was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon (March 14, 2018), in the Statehouse Cafeteria. Our concern for the safety and wellbeing of all our grantees and partners is why we have made this decision, but hope legislators and others will enjoy the school lunch planned by Vermont FEED and our agency, served by the staff at the Statehouse Café

 

Unfortunately, we will not re-schedule this ceremony, and will send official award certificates in the mail. The list of grantees for 2018 can be found, below. We have attached the 2018 Farm to School and Childcare Program Report, which was just published this week. 

 

Farm to School & Child Nutrition Grants

T

Addison Early Childhood Consortium Cohort

$15,000

Rutland City Public Schools 

$15,000

Concord School

$15,000

NewBrook Elementary School

$15,000

Riverside Middle School

$15,000

Harwood Union Middle and High School

$15,000

Childcare Equipment Grants

 

Springfield Area Parent Child Center

$1,000

Sunny Lane Daycare

$1,000

Lund's Early Childhood Education Program

$1,000

Four Seasons of Early Learning 

$1,000

Family Center of Washington County

$1,000

Little Mountaineers Home Child Care

$1,000

Hey Diddle Diddle Daycare 

$1,000

Happy Days Playschool

$1,000

Just Like Home Daycare

$1,000

Notch Day Camp

$1,000

Sunrise Family Resource Center 

$1,000

Brattleboro Centre for Children 

$1,000

Suzy's Little Peanuts 

$1,000

Gadapee Family Daycare 

$1,000

Milk Cooler Grants

 

Albany Community School 

$1,000

Bishop John A. Marshall School

$1,000

Camels Hump Middle School 

$1,000

Eden Central Elementary School 

$1,000

Fairfield Center School 

$1,000

Fayston Elementary School 

$1,000

Hyde Park Elementary School 

$1,000

Lakeview Union School 

$1,000

Walden School 

$1,000

 

March 13, 2017 / Montpelier VT – A celebration of the Vermont Farm to School and Childcare Grant Program will occur at the Vermont Statehouse tomorrow, March 14th.  Beginning at 4pm in the Statehouse cafeteria with Agency of Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts, Agency of Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe, various other state officials and program partners will visit with students highlighting their local Farm to School Program, explain its importance and impact, and announce new grant recipients. 

 

The Vermont Farm to School and Childcare Grant Program strives to improve the education and health of Vermont’s students, and positively impact the local economy, by providing Vermont schools and childcare programs with technical and financial assistance to develop and execute farm to school and farm to childcare programs. These programs integrate fresh, healthy, locally grown foods and nutrition education into Vermont’s cafeterias, classrooms and communities.

 

Important information about Vermont Farm to School:

  • Nearly 66 thousand students and children have been served by the Vermont Farm to School Program, through 174  separate grants to Vermont schools.
  • For every dollar spent on local food in Vermont schools through the Vermont Farm to School Program, an additional 60 cents goes back into our state economy by supporting local agriculture.
  • New in 2018, the Vermont Farm to School and Childcare Grant funded 22 licensed childcare programs. 
  • $1.81 million state dollars invested in the program has leveraged more than $500,000 in federal, private and foundation funds

29 Vermont Farm to School Grantees from 12 counties, are being awarded Farm to School and Childcare grants at this event.  Please join us in this celebration and recognition of our school communities efforts to provide quality local food to their students and children, and our agricultural community.

Please view the 2018 Farm To School Annual Report.

For questions please contact:

Ali Zipparo, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

(802) 505-1822

March 12, 2018

It's time to get in the mood for maple. The Vermont Maple Open House Weekend is coming up March 24th and 25th. So, lets tap into those taste buds, prime the pump and get ready to experience the full force of Vermont's favorite flavors.

First printed in April 1983, The Official Vermont Maple Cookbook explores the limitless ways to use natures sweetest gift, 100 percent pure maple syrup. Over the course of the maple season, we'll be highlighting some of these recipes to bring these truly natural treats into your home. So, keep these in mind while you're out on the maple farm and if you have a great maple recipe, share it with us on our Facebook page.

The Maple Shake: A sweet and silky combination of two Rooted In Vermont signature products, high-quality dairy and 100 percent pure maple syrup.

 

Recipe: 

1/2 Cup 100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup
1/4 Cup Milk
1 Pint Rooted in Vermont Vanilla Ice Cream

Combine all ingredients in blender jar and blend until creamy. Pour into soda fountain glasses and serve at once.

Makes: 2 - 8 oz. servings

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