After a long and difficult deliberation, the Senate has passed a Farm Bill, which will arrive on the President’s desk, for his signature, at the end of the week. Although some compromises were made, overall, this is a win for agriculture both in Vermont, and on a national level.
Locally, our dairy farmers will benefit the new dairy margin protection program, which will provide a necessary safety net for the bed rock industry of Vermont agriculture.
This federally subsidized margin protection program will help dairy farmers to offset low margins caused either by low milk prices or high input costs, and prevent an erosion of equity. Our farmers will be able to insure their margins at significantly lower rates than the mega-farms in other parts of the country.
I am also pleased to see the creation of a new dairy donation program, which will redirect dairy products to food banks, when a glut of dairy hits the market. This is smart policy, and a win-win solution for all involved.
The new Farm Bill also renews the REAP Zone program, which has done much to stimulate Vermont’s economy, especially in the Northeast Kingdom.
Other key Farm Bill highlights which will benefit Vermont include:
New cost share programs for farmers seeking organic certification.
A 50% increase to Specialty Crop Block grant funding.
Re-authorization of the Food Export Program, which helps Vermont companies expand to foreign markets
Vermonters will also benefit from Farm Bill funding directed towards healthy food initiatives for schools, marketing specialty crops, and forest programs.
I would like to thank Senator Leahy and Representative Welch who, with the strong support of Senator Sanders, worked hard to move a new Farm Bill forward.