Newest impact report highlights successes and investment in rural communities and economy
February 13, 2023 | Montpelier, VT - In 2012, the Vermont Legislature passed Act 142, creating the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, and the structure for investment of state dollars into agricultural and forestry-based businesses. Over the last 10 years, farm, and forest businesses from all 14 Vermont counties have accessed $13.6 million from the Working Lands Enterprise Fund (WLEF) and leveraged $22.5 million in matching funds. With growth supported by WLEF grants these farm and forest businesses have generated tens of millions in new economic activity, helped strengthen local supply chains, and invested in the future of Vermont’s working lands.
“Over the last ten years, the Working Lands program has provided critical support to our rural markets and communities across Vermont’s working landscape, which is vital to the health of our state,” said Governor Phil Scott. “I want to thank all of those involved in the creation and management of the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative for their vision and hard work in support of our Vermont working lands businesses. It’s apparent from the numbers that the program is helping grow our rural economy, is helping sustain our working lands heritage and culture, and helping to sustain Vermont’s rural nature, identity, and economy.”
In the 10 years of the program, WLEI has funded 418 agriculture and forestry projects. These projects have created 539 new jobs, impacted 24,007 acres, and generated $55,557,487 in sales one year after completing their grant.
“Investing in those who are make their living off the land is growing the Vermont economy. These investments make it more affordable to do business in the Green Mountains while producing products that support our food and forestry economy” says Anson Tebbetts, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets.
WLEI and the governing board are committed to stimulating economic development in both the agricultural and forestry sectors of Vermont. To support strategic investments each year, the Working Lands Enterprise Board prioritizes a range of critical gaps and opportunities for maximum impact.
In agriculture, dairy and meat products make up the bulk of investments. Produce operations and value-added agricultural products have also been key areas of grantmaking.
- Forestry makes up about a third of WLEI business grant investments to date, with wood manufacturing and construction businesses that use local wood receiving the most investments.
- Primary forestry, logging, and sawmill operations also represent a critical sector of Vermont’s working lands economy and WLEI grant investments.
In recent years, the Working Lands Enterprise Board has sought to increase funding specifically to forestry businesses, including those involved in wood heat and energy like pellet mills and firewood processors. In fiscal year 2022, WLEI also prioritized funding for service provider organizations and producer associations to provide technical and business assistance to agriculture and forest businesses.
Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets Deputy Secretary Alyson Eastman acknowledges the impact of this program. “For ten years the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative has been a critical program for businesses across the agriculture and forest sectors in all corners of the state. Our dollars invested in Vermont’s rural economy has helped keep our working lands in active production, creating jobs and employment security, as well as increasing sales and strengthening our supply chain. I look forward to what the next ten years will bring!”
The latest WLEI Impact Report details the significant outcomes from the entire 10 years of the program, as well as specific results of the unprecedented funding in fiscal year 2022. The program continues to grow, and in fiscal year 2023 received an increase in annual base funding from $594,000 to $1,000,000. Governor Scott has proposed $4 million in funding for the program in fiscal year 2024.
The General Assembly will hold hearings about WLEI on Wednesday, February 15 from 9-10:30 with the Senate Committee on Agriculture and from 11-12:30 with the House Committee on Agriculture, Food Resiliency, and Forestry.
Contact: Clare Salerno | Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative | 802-917-2637 | Clare.Salerno@vermont.gov