New Agricultural Innovation Center Will Take ‘Vermont Branding’ To Next Level

. . . Creation And Funding Of New Center Are Announced At Vermont Farm Bureau Gathering

RUTLAND, Vt. -- A grant secured by Senator Patrick Leahy will be used to launch a new Vermont Agricultural Innovation Demonstration Center, to help develop new Vermont products and chart new avenues for Vermont's farmers and businesses to connect with untapped customers and markets.  Leahy aide Tom Berry made the announcement Friday in remarks in Rutland before the Vermont Farm Bureau.

Leahy secured $469,000 in U.S. Department of Agriculture funding for the new Center, which will be housed at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.  Leahy is a senior member of both the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

The Center will use the grant to provide technical assistance for developing new Vermont crops and products; for market research and promotion; for promoting agricultural and culinary tourism; and for a wide range of other services to expand the reach of Vermont's agricultural products.

In a statement, Leahy said, "The Center will spark economic progress at several levels of our economy.  It will widen the reach of Vermont's farmers and businesses by linking their farms, goods and products directly to new customers.  Value-added production, and the marketing to go with it, is at the heart of our Vermont Branding strategy.  The importance of value-added agriculture to our export economy is especially apparent now, when our farmers are struggling with volatile and historically low commodity prices, and when markets often seem beyond our control.  We can contribute to a thriving future for Vermont agriculture by creating new opportunities to add value right on the farm and at nearby businesses, and by building our own national and international markets."

These funds will also launch the Vermont Agriculture Development Corporation, an independent nonprofit enterprise to support agricultural businesses through capital development and other private sector work.  In addition, an Agricultural and Culinary Tourism Council will be established to coordinate efforts in this quickly growing arena.

The next step for the Agriculture Innovation Center will be the appointment by Vermont Agriculture Secretary Roger Allbee of a Board of Directors representing Vermont's diverse agricultural sectors of dairy, livestock, produce, maple syrup and organics.

Vermont Agriculture Secretary Roger Allbee said, "Vermont has been a leader in innovative agriculture for generations.  The funding that we are receiving today will allow us to move forward more quickly on projects that will put help us to be strategically placed in creative business strategies and to build models of innovation for our state and the country."

Vermont Farm Bureau President Jackie Folsom said, "The Vermont Farm Bureau looks forward to participating in the Vermont Agricultural Innovation Center on behalf of our members and the agricultural community.  This exciting new program, focusing on the continued innovation and diversification of our farmers, can only strengthen our industry and add to the economic base of the state."

Enid Wonnacott, Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, said, "The Vermont Agricultural Innovation Center is an important resource for farmers and agricultural businesses in Vermont, including both the establishment of the Agricultural Development Corporation to provide capital and business planning services to start-up businesses, and support for farmers who want to develop new markets.  The Vermont Agricultural Innovation Center will be a critical resource for the people that are making a lot happen in Vermont agriculture right now -- entrepreneurs, farmers interested in capturing new market share and agricultural businesses that want to build on the values of Vermont's brand."

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