Leahy: Vermont’s Dairy Business Innovation Center To Receive Significant Funding Boost

. . . . $6.13 million secured by Leahy will expand the center’s work at a critical time

(THURSDAY, Aug. 20, 2020) – Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy on Thursday announced a significant funding increase for the Vermont-Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center.  The Center, operated by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM), was originally selected as one of three regional dairy innovation centers through a competitive process in 2019.  As Vice Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy secured a significant increase to the national program’s funding level in the fiscal year 2020 Agriculture Appropriations Bill which allowed the allocation for Vermont to increase from $450,000 in 2019, to more than $6.1 million in 2020.

Leahy, also a leading member of the Agriculture Committee, helped lead the effort to authorize the new dairy innovation program in the 2018 Farm Bill and later secured initial funding for the program in the fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill.  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.  Leahy worked to secure an additional $20 million to support the three centers in that bill.

In its first year, Vermont’s center has begun supporting work in the region 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:  “The need to improve the resilience, diversity, and adaptability of our dairy sector has been better illustrated this year than ever before. I worked hard to establish the dairy innovation centers in the 2018 Farm Bill and to make sure the program was well-funded because I know that dairies in Vermont and across the region can thrive, so long as we embrace new products and practices, innovative business models, and improve our ability to respond to changing markets.  I know that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, home of the Vermont-Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center will see that this $6.13 million enables dairy farms of all scales and types across the region to lead the future of dairy.” 

Governor Phil Scott said: “Agriculture is critical to Vermont’s rural economy and these dollars will keep our eye on the future.  A strong dairy sector is essential to growing our economy and especially our rural economy. We are grateful for Senator Leahy’s leadership in creating these innovative programs and bringing them to Vermont.  This will provide the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets much needed resources to help our dairy industry.”

Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts said:  “This investment in Vermont agriculture is important. It will allow our dairy farmers to grow, innovate and look to the future. A healthy vibrant dairy economy is critical to Vermont’s future. These dollars will grow the Vermont economy while preserving our working landscape.”

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