Leahy Scores Key Victories For Vermont As Appropriations Bills Clear Committee

Senator Patrick Leahy, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Thursday notched key victories for Vermont as the Agriculture and Energy and Water appropriations bills cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

Leahy said:  “This legislation rejects the majority of President Trump’s dangerous and unbalanced priorities and makes valuable investments in organic agriculture, dairy and rural communities like the Northeast Kingdom.  But this is still not sufficient, and I look forward to continuing to ensure that Vermont’s voice is heard in the appropriations process.”

Leahy’s wins include securing $499 million over 10 years to strengthen the safety network for dairy farmers, including the dairy Margin Protection Program.  Other Vermont-related features of the Agriculture Appropriations Bill approved Thursday by the committee include a $3 million increase for the National Organic Program, bringing total funding for the program to $12.1 million.  Leahy, the “father” of the national organics program, authored the organic standards and labeling program during his chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee.  Since then organic agriculture has grown to a $40 billion industry nationally and continues to grow across Vermont.  The increase in funding will protect the value of the USDA organic seal and ensure that consumers can remain confident in the integrity of organic products as the industry continues to grow. 

The Appropriations Committee also rejected the Trump administration’s shortsighted proposal to eliminate the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) and increased its funding by $5 million to $15 million.  The program provides funding for development in economically distressed Northern Border counties in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and New York.  The NBRC is estimated to have saved or created thousands of jobs by leveraging federal funds with other public or private investments.

The Committee maintained support for the Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zone program, which promotes revitalization and community development in rural communities, like the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont.  The Northeast Kingdom’s REAP Zone is one of only three in the nation and was established and subsequently renewed under earlier Leahy-led initiatives.  The NEK REAP Zone has been the key to securing ongoing investments in collaborative and citizen-led efforts to strengthen economic development. 

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