Farmers ask state to extend slaughter law

MONTPELIER — Two food producers from Starksboro spent the day away from their farms on March 30 with a group of other young farmers to meet privately with legislators and provide testimony before the House and Senate agriculture committees. Over 40 participating farmers shared the unique challenges they face, and called on legislators to prevent the repeal of Vermont’s on-farm slaughter law.
Taylor Hutchison and Jake Mendell of Footprint Farm in Starksboro joined dozens of farmers at Small Farm Action Day in Montpelier.
Vermont’s on-farm slaughter law is set to expire on July 1 unless the Legislature acts to preserve it. Act 83, passed in 2013, allows farmers to sell a small number of live animals each year to be slaughtered on the farm where they were raised. Vermonters have relied on local farm-raised, farm-slaughtered meat for generations, and farmers view the law as an important codification of this traditional practice.
In addition to operating Footprint Farm, Hutchison is a lead organizer with the Vermont Young Farmers Coalition. She told lawmakers that the on-farm slaughter law is key to the state’s increasing number of young farmers.
“This law is a great starting point for young farmers to get into livestock farming on a small scale without having to invest in expensive infrastructure, and we need it to continue,” she said. “We take great care raising our pigs, right up until their final moments, and that’s what our customers want.”
In early March the Vermont House passed H.860, which extends the law for another three years; the Senate must still consider the bill. As farmers called on Senators to pass H.860 and preserve the law, they also suggested improvements, including making the law permanent and increasing the number of animals allowed to be slaughtered annually. According to the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, there have been no reported problems with meat sold under the on-farm slaughter law since its enactment in 2013.
“The issue is entirely about authenticity for me,” said Carl Russell of Earthwise Farm and Forest in Bethel, during testimony to the Senate Committee on Agriculture. “Many people want to have a relationship to their food as I do to my food as a farmer. This law provides me with a means to meet the needs of my customer.” 

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