VAAFM Secretary Anson Tebbetts outlines the dairy relief plan Tuesday during Governor Scott's press briefing. ORCA Media video screen shot.
Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) today announced the Vermont COVID-19 Agriculture Assistance Program for dairy producers and processors who have experienced income loss, additional expenses and market disruption as a result of the pandemic. The application will open on Friday, July 17 with an available $25 million in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds for qualified applicants.
“The pandemic has taken a toll on our dairy farmers and processors who are the cornerstone of many rural communities,” said Governor Scott. “While we know there is still much more to do to help our dairy industry recover, these grants will provide much-needed relief to businesses as we work together to recover and rebuild.”
Vermont’s dairy sector has experienced steep declines in milk prices coupled with increased operating costs due to COVID-19. These grants will provide relief for producers as well as processors who make cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream and other valued added dairy products and lost markets when restaurants, stores and other consumers were closed in response to the pandemic.
“Every dairy farmer and processor should look at this grant opportunity,” said VAAFM Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “COVID-19 has hit our dairy industry hard. These assistance dollars will help our dairy businesses recover from staggering losses due to this pandemic.”
During Tuesday's press briefing, Tebbetts offered some grim statistics.
The Vermont dairy industry on average has been losing 1.5 dairies a month in recent years. But since March 1, Vermont has lost a total of 25 dairies (about six a month).
Right now, there are 688 dairies in the state and all may apply for the grants: 636 cow dairies, 47 goat dairies and 5 sheep dairies.
As recently as 2010, there were over 1,000 cow dairies in Vermont (see table below).
He added that while Americans have "rediscovered their kitchens" and are cooking more at home, which has helped the local agriculture industry, that does not nearly make up the loss from the closing of schools, colleges and restaurants in Vermont and across the country. In that regard, the local dairy industry has been particularly hard hit.
Tebbetts of course encouraged Vermonters to buy local dairy products. He said consumers can identify whether milk is locally bottled if it has "Code 50" printed on it.
VAAFM will oversee grant applications, which are open to applicants who can demonstrate economic losses and costs incurred since March 1, 2020 that are related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
For details about the application process, requirements and qualifications, and to apply beginning Friday, July 17, visit: https://agriculture.vermont.gov/covid-19-information/vermont-covid-19-agriculture-assistance-program.
VAAFM will also provide grants to other agricultural and working lands producers and processors, and to Vermont’s agricultural fairs, through the Vermont COVID-19 Agriculture Assistance Program. These additional grant programs for those who have experienced economic losses and costs due to the COVID-19 public health emergency will be available soon and many will be administered in partnership with the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA).
Source: VAAFM report to Legislature January 2019.
Source: Montpelier, Vt.— Governor 7.14.2020