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VT Agricultural Development Board to Include Forestry; Will Become the VT Agricultural & Forest Products Development Board

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2012-07-13

From the 7/13/12 issue of Agriview, by Colleen Leonard, VAAFM Agricultural Policy Administrator

The 2012 Legislative session brought with it a renewed commitment to Vermonter’s values by passing the Working Lands Enterprise initiative for the management and investment of $1 million into agricultural and forest based businesses. Over 97 percent of Vermonters value the Working Landscape. Approximately 20 percent of Vermont’s land is used for agricultural purposes and 75 percent as forestry. The backbone of our “working landscape” is the economic viability of our farm and forest based businesses.

Fifteen Vermonters will be appointed to the Working Lands Enterprise Board. The board will direct the funds for strategic investments and be provided with administrative support by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. This initiative is an exciting opportunity, and is a big moment in Vermont’s history, because it pairs the agricultural and forestry sectors together to reach a common goal, which is to grow and sustain a thriving working landscape and economy for Vermont.

To begin aligning agricultural and forestry project initiatives together to inform stakeholders and policy-makers, the legislature expanded the scope of the Vermont Agricultural Development Board (established in the 2010 legislative session, S.295/Act 158) by adding four forestry sector seats to the board.

The forestry seats include a forester, a logger, a person with expertise in forest products manufacturing, and a sawmill operator. These appointments, at the time of writing this article, are in the process of being made.

The newly titled “Vermont Agricultural & Forest Products Development Board” (VAFPDB), will have its first meeting as a dual focused board in August.

The VAFPDB will function as a policy board performing in-depth analyses of the gaps, barriers, and opportunities in the agricultural and forestry sectors that are preventing and/ or enhancing economic growth and sustainability.

Specifically, the board is charged with three key areas: (1) optimizing the agricultural and forestry use of Vermont lands and other agricultural resources, (2) expanding existing markets and identifying and developing new profitable in-state and out-of-state markets for food, fiber, forest products, and value-added agricultural products, including farm-derived renewable energy, and (3) identifying opportunities and challenges related to infrastructure, product development, marketing, training, research, and education.

The VAFPDB will advise and make recommendations to the secretaries of relevant state agencies, the governor, the director of the state experiment station, the University of Vermont extension service, and the general assembly on the adoption and amendment of laws, regulations, and governmental policies that affect agricultural development, land use, access to capital, the economic opportunities provided by Vermont agriculture and forest products, and the well-being of the people of Vermont.

The board has been meeting monthly since October 2010 and has visited several robust agricultural business models throughout the state to increase collaborative opportunities and see on-the-ground working examples that demonstrate pathways for success.

The board works closely with their ex-officio members: the Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross, Secretary of Commerce, Lawrence Miller, and now, the Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation, Mike Snyder.

The current board members are listed with their affiliational status:

  • Chair - Leonard Bull, Emeritus Professor of Animal Science, NC State University, Middlebury, VT - A person with expertise in rural economic development issues
  • Vice-Chair - Jackie Folsom, Kingdom Creamery/VT Agricultural Fairs Association - A representative from a Vermont agricultural advocacy organization
  • Cynthia Belliveau, Director of Continuing Education, UVM - An employee of a Vermont postsecondary institution experienced in researching issues related to agriculture
  • Sam Cutting IV, Dakin Farm, Ferrisburgh, VT - A person familiar with the agricultural tourism industry
  • George Putnam, Yankee Farm Credit, Executive Director - An agricultural lender
  • Paul Harlow, Organic Vegetable Farm, Westminster, VT – A person who produces an agricultural commodity other than dairy products
  • Andy Kehler, Jasper Hill Farm & Cellars at Jasper Hill, Greensboro, VT - A person who creates a value-added product using ingredients substantially produced on Vermont farms
  • Mark Curran, Black River Produce, North Springfield, VT - A person with expertise in sales and marketing
  • Bob Rathbun, Seedway Facility Manager, Shoreham, VT – A person representing the feed, seed, fertilizer, or equipment enterprises
  • Jonathan Rooney, Monument Farms Dairy, Weybridge , VT - A representative of Vermont’s dairy industry who is also a dairy farmer
  • Darby Bradley, Vermont Land Trust, Montpelier, VT – A person with expertise in land planning and conservation efforts that support Vermont’s working landscape
  • Lynn Coale, Director of Patricia Hannaford Career Center, Middlebury, VT - A person with experience in providing youth with educational opportunities enhancing understanding of agriculture

More information can be found about the Working Landscape legislation on-line at the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s Vermont Working Landscape Partnership Program web page: http://vtworkinglands.org/programs/policy-councils/working-landscape For more information about the VAFPDB or the Working Landscape legislation, email Colleen Leonard, colleen.leonard@state.vt.us, or call (802) 828-2790.

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