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Lancaster Farming: Farmers & Ag Industry People Talk Goals for the New Year

On 09, Jan 2018 | In latest-news | By Admin

ST. ALBANS, Vt. — Perhaps the word “resolve” should have a picture of a farmer next to it in the dictionary, especially considering the struggles in the commodity and dairy markets.

But what do farmers want to do in 2018?

Several farmers and ag professionals were asked about some of their New Year’s resolutions and, as expected, their answers were diverse.

Troy Bishopp, owner of Bishopp Family Farm in Deansboro, New York, said he wants to leave his land in better hands for the next generation.

“I want to advocate more for managing land with the next generations in mind, with a 25- to 50-year mindset, instead of ‘what’s the commodity price look like next year’ decision-making. It isn’t sustainable for our grandchildren,” Bishopp said. “This long-term work ethic honors the soil, the critters — large, small, underground and overhead — water infiltration and community. I am resolute in redefining a farmer as a craftsman for the planet and do away with the ‘producer’ mantra. It’s not the cow, it’s the how.”

Betsy Rosenbluth, project director of Vermont FEED on her Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont, said she wants to continue promoting childhood nutrition.

“Vermont FEED is doubling down on our resolution to engage every Vermont student and community in a local food and farm culture that nurtures children’s health, cultivates viable farms and builds vibrant communities. In 2018, we will be measuring the level of farm-to-school activity in every Vermont school to track our progress,” Rosenbluth said. “We also are resolved to complete a resource guide for other farm-to-school champions from across the country that share our best practices and lessons learned from Vermont.”

Bill Rowell, co-owner of Green Mountain Dairy Farm in Sheldon, Vermont, said he wants to be a better advocate for farmers.

“Agricultural commodities are in abundant supply these days. The U.S. population enjoys their choice of fresh, top-quality foods for about 8 percent of the average annual income in this country. Science and technology play a significant role in the equation,” Rowell said. “In this new year, I will advocate on behalf of agriculture, the environment and the farmers producing our food supply.

“The Vermont General Assembly convenes this week, and water quality is expected to be at the forefront of hot topics once again. Agriculture and forestry are said to comprise better than 88 percent of Vermont’s land base, which accounts for about 40 percent of the water quality problem. With a finger pointed at agriculture, those accounting for the remaining 60 percent of the problem appear reluctant to take ownership,” Rowell added.

He said that he wants to make sure farmers have lawmakers’ ears when considering legislation.

“We are familiar with what happens during a legislative session when questions arise with no farmers present for discussion, or no one to answer last-minute questions,” he said. “The Vermont Dairy Producer’s Alliance will provide agriculture with a lobbyist team in the statehouse this year to provide legislators with factual information and better represent our needs.”

Kiersten Bourgeois, business development and communications manager for St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, said she hopes to continue supporting dairy farmers, even in this time of low prices.

“This past year has flown by and we look forward to the new year with all our members throughout Vermont, New York and New Hampshire,” Bourgeois said. “Although milk prices are not expected to rise, we are committed to continued support of our valued membership through responsible decision making and investment into the St. Albans Cooperative.

“We also will advocate on the farmer’s behalf to ensure that any new policies or programs that are proposed benefit our industry. And finally, we all commit to drinking more milk,” she said.

Her message was seconded by Leon Berthiaume, CEO of St. Albans Cooperative Creamery.

“As I look to 2018, I will continue to strive and work in the best interests of our dairy farmer owners. They are the foundation of our cooperative and dairy industry. I look forward to working with the St. Albans Cooperative team to plan our 100th annual meeting that will take place in February 2019,” Berthiaume said.

Anson Tebbetts, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, said he wants to better represent farmers’ needs in 2018. “Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture wants to improve the rural economy in 2018. We all know the farm economy is fragile and we need to pay close attention to our farm families,” Tebbetts said. “There are so many things farmers cannot control. Take our dairy farmers, for example. They are under a federal pricing system that is unpredictable and unfair. The Vermont Milk Commission will be releasing a series of recommendations to Congress in 2018. We hope this document will help policymakers in Washington get farmers to a better place as Congress writes the 2018 Farm Bill. We will do our best to control the things we can control.

“The VAAFM will ask lawmakers in Vermont not to raise fees or taxes on our farmers,” he added. “We did this in 2017 and we hope we can again in 2018.”

Tebbetts said the department wants to better support specialty crops and industries.

“The VAAFM is also committed to supporting new approaches to farming in 2018, whether it’s a dairy farmer who wants to grow hemp as a cash crop or supporting new markets for Vermont’s world-class food companies, our focus remains improving the economy and being a support system to our farmers and all those who touch agriculture,” he said.