Secretary Tebbetts: Scott Administration Proposes Dairy Relief Plan for Vermont Dairy and Agriculture
May 20, 2020 | Montpelier, VT - "This is a story of survival. Dairy farmers and those who make cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream and milk face an uncertain future. The collapse of markets practically overnight has forced farmers, cheesemakers and others into profound losses. The financial impact has already hit farm families and the forecast is dismal for June, July, and August with estimated milk prices at historic lows. It could extend well into the fall.
Vermont cheesemakers have reported sales losses ranging from 50-95%. Their markets dried up overnight in New York, Boston, Washington, and those spots where Vermont cheese was on the menu.
From the farm—its projected that a (small farm) in Vermont will lose approximately $58,000 in annual income due to disastrous milk price declines. A (medium farm) will lose approximately $117,000 in annual income, and a (large farm) would lose $1.16 million in annual income.
It is projected that many dairy farms will not be able to pay their bills next month and 5 Vermont dairy farms closed the first weekend of May. Many more could be next if we do not act.
The importance of Vermont dairy and agriculture to the state’s economy and rural communities is unquestioned. In 2017, dairy brought in over $500 million dollars into the state, while Vermont agriculture as a whole is a nearly $1 billion dollar boost to the state. As our State slowly and safely reopens the economy and considers welcoming visitors to Vermont, we want to ensure our dairy farmers and agricultural community will be here to continue providing for Vermonters. We want visitors to see Vermont’s hills, valley, open spaces and enjoy dairy on the menu.
Dairy needs immediate term stimulus grants, to maintain farms and continued food production. These stimulus payments would allow businesses to cover expenses incurred during this time when their income is low due to a health crisis that is beyond their control. Farms have also lost production, staff, and markets.
At risk are the many businesses who rely on dairy for a paycheck—the feed and seed dealers, the veterinarians and those who sell to and supply our farmers. Also in jeopardy the hundreds of jobs who make world class dairy products.
Under the proposal dairy farmers and dairy processors could receive payments. The total package is $50 million dollars. $40 million would be allocated to dairy farmers. The remaining $10 million would be allocated to dairy processors including those who make cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream and milk who have sustained losses under Covid-19.
Like our friends who own restaurants, inns and hotels and small businesses in our small towns and villages-these grants would provide relief and hope that pushes Vermont moving towards recovery. This is about survival---and setting up farmers for success.
Now is our time to support the backbone of Vermont so it can heal and create a path that protects those who make their living off the land."
Secretary Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets