Vermont’s farmers and agricultural producers are struggling, yet, according to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont’s agricultural sector contributes nearly $281 million to Vermont’s GDP.
Why then are our farmers losing their lands and livelihoods at such an alarming rate? We cannot claim to be an agricultural state and sell images of red barns while our farmers struggle so profoundly.
There is a lot of talk about the environmental impacts of farming, especially on our waterways. I am the first to say that clean water is a necessity. Our solutions to cleaning up and improving our waters must involve our farmers. Not now, not ever, should this burden fall solely on their shoulders- this is a multi-sector problem with multi-sector solutions. But I promise to work with our farmers to balance farming interests with the environment, and step one, is to make sure that farming is an economically viable pathway for Vermont families.
Also, this past year, the Agricultural Enterprise Bill was passed which opened up ways for farmers to diversify their income. I believe this bill is a great step forward, but we must go further.
We need to reduce burdensome regulation on farmers and continue to open up direct market opportunities to make it easier for farmers to sell to consumers. Farmers also need direct financial support to implement on-farm best management practices, especially those that replace old equipment or systems with new technologies that reduce farmer’s operating costs AND assist in mitigating environmental impacts. This could be as simple as direct assistance to replace dairy fans or compressors with energy efficient technologies that will reduce monthly electric bills.
Lastly, we must invest in our UVM Extension officers, Conservation Districts, and other outreach professionals. They provide farmers with necessary direct support, advocacy, and help with implementing innovative practices, but staff is overworked and overburdened. By enhancing their capacity, the state can provide additional direct support to our farmers and continue to research and implement innovative on-farm systems.
Plain and simple, our farmers deserve better representation, and we deserve better. Vote for me, Kendall Lambert, in November, and I promise to not be beholden to any Party and to work with everyone to help our Northeast Kingdom farmers and communities.
Submitted by Kendall Lambert, Independent Candidate for House of Representatives, Orleans 2.