The fact that some farmers are dumping milk and other produce in a time of crisis is further proof of the disconnect between farm food production and the food industry. A silver lining of the pandemic is that we see renewed appreciation and increased purchasing of fresh, healthy food from local producers. I hope this trend continues for the health of our local economy.
We all know that dairy in Vermont faces an extreme threat. Farms continue to sell off their herds or land, and milk prices continue to stay stuck at 1977 levels. Milk prices are a federal policy and there is little that Vermont can do to directly change them. But we can put pressure on the processors to establish a milk quota, so farmers are paid fairly for a set amount of milk rather than their only option being to produce more, further driving down prices.
But we do have opportunities to market Vermont quality and freshness to 20 million consumers within a four hour drive. Farmers are already doing this on their own, fitting it in between chores. But our state government needs to help them more.
I have worked to successfully ease restrictions on on-farm slaughter and processing, on raw milk sales, and on on-farm events, creating more opportunities for farms to thrive. I successfully advocated for increased pollinator protection. I brought the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture to the district to visit local farms and speak directly with those on the front lines. I argued for actually reducing regulations on those who qualify as “regenerative farms”, rather than imposing yet another inspection and permit for doing the right thing.