Dairy strategy includes limits on milk production

MIDDLEBURY — Agriculture was an important topic addressed by Gov. Phil Scott and Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts when they spent Monday in Addison County for a “Capital for a Day.”
In an meeting with the Addison Independent, the two men gave their insights into a mainstay of Vermont’s ag economy — dairy — and an upstart — hemp.
Tebbetts did not sugarcoat the challenges that Vermont dairy faces.
“We’re at about 700 dairies statewide, now. We probably lost around 10 percent last year. The price of milk is starting to go up a little bit, but when a farm goes out, it has a ripple effect,” he said.
Tebbetts said the Vermont Milk Commission has endorsed a “growth management plan” in an effort to avoid over-supply — a factor in low milk prices. Agri-Mark/Cabot recently signed on to the effort, according to Tebbetts. He added the Dairy Farmers of America is also considering options for controlling milk production from its members.
“We’re trying to build a coalition to other states that want to do a growth management plan and get that under control,” Tebbetts said.
He said Vermont (along with Tennessee and Wisconsin) recently received a federal order to “look at new approaches to dairy.” Strategies might include developing new dairy markets, new practices for farmers, new product development and innovation centers.
Tebbetts said the hemp market is currently saturated, but he’s still upbeat about the long-term viability of the crop in Vermont.
“Some growers went into it without securing their market ahead of time, and that’s going to be a struggle,” Tebbetts said. “One silver lining is that if you can keep it, dry it and store it, you can find a market later.”
He said hemp cultivation presented a big learning curve for first-time growers. He noted some people moved to Vermont to grow the crop.
“It’s very labor-intensive,” he said. “But we had people buying tractors, seed, balers. We’re keeping land in active agriculture, and I think that’s important.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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