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Dairy vital to state economy

While we are enjoying the summer growing season and local farmers markets, especially Shelburnes, I thought I would mention some of the work that the agriculture committee worked on. This session, the Vermont State House Agriculture Committee brought two complementary strands of legislative work together: Support for our conventional dairying economy and diversification to new markets for greater economic opportunity. Overall we seek a robust agricultural sector that is profitable and environmentally sustainable. Because dairying still generates approximately 85 percent of our states agricultural income, it is crucial that we continue to support and enhance the profitability of this sector, even as we diversify into other areas of agricultural and horticulture. Dairying is facing another tough period as fuel, fertilizer, and feed prices are all increasing more rapidly than the price paid to farmers for their milk. This is true for both conventional and organic dairy farmers. Our work supports dairying, both conventional and organic, as well as large and small-scale cheese making. We also work to help develop other agricultural operations, including fruits and vegetables, poultry, grapes and wine, and apiaries. In addition, we have supported Buy Local programs, encouraged the State of Vermont to buy more of its food for schools and institutions locally, increased slaughterhouse capacity, and are working to develop expertise and support for on-farm energy development. We have also started a farm safety program to help control agricultural workers compensation costs; Vermonts rates are the highest in New England and in the top five nationally. Anytime, please feel free to contact me at 802-985-8515 or jg lenes@aol.com Joan Lenes is the Representative for Chittenden County, District 5-2 in Vermont. Her column appears regularly in the Times Sentinel.

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