Leahy: Vermont Tapped To Receive Grant To Create A Dairy Business Innovation Initiative

. . . Vermont Will Host One of Only Three Initiatives Nationwide... ‘Innovation is a key to value-added agriculture in Vermont, and diversification makes us more resilient’

(WEDNESDAY, September 18, 2019) – Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy (D), Vice Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, Wednesday announced that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) will soon receive funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create regional a Dairy Business Innovation Initiative.

Leahy, a leading member of the Agriculture Committee, helped lead the effort to authorize the new dairy innovation program in the 2018 Farm Bill.  Through the appropriations process, he secured initial funding for the program in the fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill, which was signed into law earlier this year.  The Farm Bill directed USDA to create at least three regionally located initiatives across the country.  Vermont was selected to host one of the initiatives through a competitive grant-making process.  The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday will consider the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill to fund the USDA.  Leahy has worked to secure an additional $20 million to support the three initiatives in that bill.  If advanced by the Committee, it will need to be approved by the Senate, the House, and ultimately signed by the President.

Once established, VAAFM will work in Vermont and support work in surrounding states to provide technical and financial assistance to help dairy producers diversify their products, demonstrate innovative on-farm production practices, and adapt to emerging market trends, with the overall goal of improving dairy farm viability.

Leahy said:  “I have made this a top priority on both the Agriculture and Appropriations Committees because this is a crucial time for dairy producers in Vermont and the region.  Our state and our farmers are uniquely suited to lead the dairy sector toward a viable future.  In recent years, Vermont has been significantly impacted by the downturn in the dairy economy, but our farmers demonstrate daily the opportunities for innovation and diversification.  Innovation is a key to value-added agriculture in Vermont, and diversification makes us more resilient.  I’m proud to have secured this funding through the appropriations process, and am delighted that Anson Tebbetts and his team at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture wrote a winning project proposal.  As Congress negotiates the final spending bills for 2020, I will continue to make this a high priority.”

Governor Phil Scott (R) said:  “These dollars will help sustain and enhance Vermont’s dairy farms and, most importantly, will help farm families innovate as the industry continues to evolve.  I appreciate our congressional delegation’s continued support of Vermont’s dairy sector and farms. Our farmers are innovative by nature and with this funding we can work to strengthen Vermont dairy statewide.”

Having won the competitive bid, Vermont will now serve as the region’s Dairy Business Innovation Initiative for the next three years.  Leahy led Vermont’s congressional delegation -- Senator Bernie Sanders (I) and Representative Peter Welch (D) -- in sending a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in support of the state’s proposal. 

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