Scott creates commission to study viability of Vermont’s agriculture industry

  • Steve Geno, of Vermont Creamery, talks with farmer Doug Calderwood, not pictured, as he pumps milk from the bulk tank at Calderwood Goat Dairy in Royalton, Vt., to his truck while on a circuit of farms in Vermont that supply the creamery, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

VtDigger
Published: 2/19/2021 9:43:11 PM
Modified: 2/19/2021 9:54:07 PM

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott signed an executive order Friday creating a commission to study the long-term viability of the agriculture industry in Vermont.

The new group is to focus on increasing agricultural production and promotion, fostering cross-sector collaboration, diversifying the workforce and addressing long-standing environmental challenges.

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked conversations between Vermont lawmakers and the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets about shortcomings in the global supply chain and the importance of achieving a degree of food production independence in preparation for another major disaster.

“The pandemic has further emphasized how important agriculture is to Vermonters and highlighted gaps in our food system,” Scott said in a statement Friday. “So, as we recover, we must continue to advocate for investing in Vermont communities and the work of the people who make their living off the land.”

The governor’s order stipulates that the new commission include no more than 14 members appointed by the governor, including representatives of the dairy, maple, meat, produce and value-added food sectors. Other members are to have expertise in environmental conservation and land-use planning. They have yet to be appointed.

Scott called on Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts and Secretary of Commerce Lindsay Kurrle to head the commission. The governor has ordered the commission to send recommendations for an immediate action plan by Nov. 15, 2021, with an eye to implement strategies by November 2022.

“Developing the future of commerce for the agriculture sector is critical to our economic recovery,” Kurrle said in a statement. “As we look to grow our economy, recruit new residents and businesses to the state, and build a better future for all Vermonters, we must ensure our agriculture sector remains nimble and innovative both in the long and short term.”

Scott’s executive order comes after the Agency of Agriculture and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund released a strategic report last week on how to promote agriculture and local food in the state.

The primary goals of that report are to increase sustainable economic development, create food and farm-sector jobs, improve the soils, water and resiliency of the working landscape in the face of climate change, and improve access to healthy local food for all Vermonters.

It also looks to address the needs of Vermonters who can’t afford or gain access to local food.

The Vermont Legislature is also looking to put a task force together to study how to address problems in the state’s dairy industry.

Another recent report, put together by the Department of Financial Regulation, laid out different approaches Vermont could take to make dairy farming more viable. That study includes recommendations for the state to regulate the price of fluid milk, enact a state-based supply management system or incentivize more farms to become organic, among others.




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