Farms receive water clean-up grants; more money is available

ADDISON — Over the past year, as Vermont farmers and industry supporters have been preparing to meet the state’s new water quality regulations, the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, a program of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, awarded a total of $65,000 in Dairy Improvement Grants to five dairy farmers for water quality improvement projects.
All five farms that received Dairy Improvements Grants are located in the Lake Champlain Basin, and one is in Addison County. Jonathan and Mary Ann Connor of Providence Dairy in Addison received an $8,500 grant to build new laneways in grazing fields to control run-off.
The Viability program will be accepting applications for the next round of Dairy Improvement Grants this fall, with an upcoming application deadline of Dec. 15. Two information sessions will be held for applicants — on Oct. 17, noon-2 p.m., in Middlebury at the American Legion and in St. Albans at the St. Albans Free Library.
“These grants are very helpful to the farmers, especially at a time like this when finances are so tight due to the low price of milk,” said Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross. “The practices these grants help to finance not only improve the conditions and productivity on the farm, but they also help the farmers do their jobs even better at improving water quality — which is good for everyone. I applaud the commitment of Commonwealth Dairy to Vermont’s dairy farmers.”
Funding for the Dairy Improvement Grants comes from Ehrmann Commonwealth Dairy LLC. To be eligible for grants, farmers are required have a business plan and to be members of the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery or Dairy Farmers of America, where Commonwealth sources milk for its yogurt production facility in Brattleboro.
The Dairy Improvement grants can help farmers leverage loan funds for long-awaited projects or implement changes more quickly. For Lorenzo Whitcomb of the North Williston Cattle Company, their new no-till planter is a significant investment that Lorenzo calls a “once in a generation purchase.” No-till planting is a method that can increase organic matter in the soil and reduce erosion, thereby decreasing run-off. Going forward, Lorenzo says, “The fact that this grant helped us buy a no-till planter will greatly assist us in meeting ever more stringent environmental regulations.”
Past projects funded with Dairy Improvement Grants have yielded significant improvements in cow comfort, quality of life and farm viability.
The Viability Program will award approximately $340,000 in a fourth round of Dairy Improvement Grants this fall. Applications are available now and due Dec. 15. Eligible farmers can apply for up to $40,000. The application requires an up-to-date business plan. The Viability Program can help farmers develop business plans, as necessary.
For specific information regarding the next round of Dairy Improvement Grants and business planning please visit the Viability Program website: www.vhcb.org/viability or call Liz Gleason, Program Manager at 828-3370.

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