Planting, Growing, and Nurturing New Ideas, Fresh Outcomes
By Anson Tebbetts
April 1, 2023 | Montpelier, VT - As spring approaches, farmers are cultivating seedlings while the Legislature starts to wrap up their work in Montpelier. There will be a flurry of activity; some proposals will grow into law, but many will not. As these bills unfold, the agriculture community has presented a proposal to lawmakers. This initiative, contained within the Governor’s budget, would make significant investments in Vermont’s produce, meat, and maple industries.
This one-time $10 million dollar appropriation will allocate funding to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets to provide competitively awarded grants. This support will be directed toward small and mid-sized agricultural producers and value-added processors in the meat, produce, and maple sectors, which remain under-resourced or ineligible for most currently available programs. At the same time, these industries are poised for growth and add diversity to Vermont’s agricultural landscape and economy.
The proposal supports one of the core focus areas of the Governor’s Future of Vermont Agriculture Commission. The group focused on leveraging economic development, supporting strong local food systems, and investing in the success of the next generation of Vermont farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs. Grants could include expanding slaughter and processing capacity for meat and poultry. Grants could support of post-harvest handling, processing, and distribution for fruits, vegetables, and grains. Grants will also focus on increasing capacity and production for value-added and new maple products. All these sectors will grow when backed by greater investment.
The Vermont agriculture community is also working with lawmakers to champion an initiative to support Vermont’s Working Lands Program. The Governor has proposed investing $4 million dollars in this successful program this year. We believe it is critical to continue to invest in those who make their living off the land, on the farm or in the forest. This initiative, working in tandem with funding for the meat, produce, and maple sectors, deliver a total investment of $14 million dollars for growing Agriculture economy.
Now is our time to invest in our farmers and producers. They feed us and contribute to our rural economy. As the spring unfolds, we will continue to advocate for these proposals and ultimately, Governor Scott’s action to create new laws to support Vermont agriculture. Here’s to planting, growing, and nurturing new ideas and fresh outcomes in the spring of 2023.