October 21, 2019 | Montpelier, VT - An independent poll by Vermont Public Radio (VPR) and Vermont PBS (VTPBS) found tremendous public support for dairy in the Green Mountains. The scientific poll released by the VPR and VTPBS found a total of 93% of Vermonters support Vermont dairy. “These independent results are encouraging as we try to grow the Vermont economy,” said Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “We are working hard to improve the livelihood for dairy farmers throughout Vermont. One major way to have an impact is to improve the outlook for dairy farming.” The poll asked respondents:
How important do you think the dairy industry is to Vermont’s sense of itself?
72% Very important
21% Somewhat important
3% Not too important
2% Not important at all
2% Not sure/Refused
801 Total Respondents
To see the full VPR/VTPBS poll, visit http://projects.vpr.org/rural-life-survey-2019-vpr-vermont-pbs
The Agency, along with its partners, has several projects underway aimed at improving the dairy economy. The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) was recently awarded one of three national USDA Dairy Innovation grants. These important dollars will help to further develop Vermont’s dairy economy, offering farmers support for developing new products, new markets and new practices.
In addition, support is building for a nationwide growth management plan. The Vermont Milk Commission continues to expand a grassroots network advocating for change in how farmers are paid for their product. The Agency, and partners like the Vermont Farm Bureau, believe that family farms will be able to better survive in a global market with this new long-term approach.
Another project to improve the dairy economy focuses on helping farmers continue to improve the environment. The Agency and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board are leading an effort to look at ways to reward farmers for implementing “gold standards” in conservation practices. The group will deliver its “Payment for Eco-Systems” approach, or compensating farmers for services they provide to the ecosystem, in a proposal to the Vermont General Assembly in January. Also in January the Agency of Agriculture, in partnership with the Agency of Commerce, will deliver to the legislature a comprehensive report suggesting ways our senators and representatives can act to improve the agriculture economy in Vermont.
Vermont lawmakers are learning and listening in many ways. Recently the Agency hosted a series of dairy farm tours across the state so lawmakers could experience first-hand the rewards and challenges of farming in Vermont. These tours came after farmers at the Northern Tier Dairy Summit invited policy makers to their businesses. This high-level summit also led to a new dairy advisory panel, comprised of farmers who provide on-the-ground feedback to the Agency on issues from dairy pricing, to taxes, to environmental integrity.
The Agency is also working with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. For the first time, an Agency of Agriculture employee will work side-by-side with development experts at the Commerce Agency, working on improving the dairy economy. As Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle noted, “Agriculture is critical to improving Vermont’s rural economy. We believe we can offer more support for our farmers and processors by working with an Ag Agency employee as part of our day-to-day work team.”
There is help available for those in the industry to simply pay the bills, too. We encourage farmers and producers to reach out to the Agency of Agriculture for help. The Vermont Working Lands Initiative has a host of financial programs aimed at making it more affordable to do business in Vermont, and an extra $500,000 is earmarked to support dairy this year. The Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program also helps to enhance the economic viability of Vermont farms and forestry enterprises.
As the VPR and VTPBS poll tell us, Vermont dairy is supported by 9 out of 10 Vermonters. Secretary Tebbetts said, “Vermonters support farms and farmers. It’s our duty to make sure farmers have the tools and finances to remain on their farms and land, so we can continue to develop our collective vision for Vermont with the contributions of our farmers, dairy, and all agriculture.”
To read the story accompanying the VPR/VTPBS poll, visit: VPR & Vermont PBS Rural Life Survey Spotlights Vermonters' Optimism, But Also Challenges .