Agriculture is a significant part of Vermont's economy, culture and tradition, and dairy farming, which comprises 85% of Vermont agriculture, is probably the most iconic form.  As such it is a large component of tourism, another driver of Vermont's economy.  I am not a farmer, so I have a lot to learn about this aspect of Vermont; however, I know that dairy farmers in Vermont are in crisis. 

I attended the Dairy Farming Town Meeting organized by Senator Bernie Sanders on February 13th.  Farmers from around the northeast, including Maine, New Hampshire and New York, as well as from Vermont, attended the meeting.  It is no secret that the price farmers get for milk is well below the cost of producing that milk.  What I learned at the meeting is that This unsustainable situation has led to the the loss of more than one Vermont dairy farm per month on average during the last 2 years.

The price farmers get for milk is driven primarily by milk processors with the federal government regulating minimum wholesale prices.  This system puts small farmers at a disadvantage, and the challenge is to leverage their influence through cooperative agreements.  After talking to several local farmers, I learned that another way to increase the value of milk production is by processing some of the milk locally.

The state of Vermont can support family farming by facilitating regional partnerships spanning state borders to counter the leverage enjoyed by major milk processors, and by providing low cost loans for local value-add production facilities. 

Apart from dairy farming, the "locavore" movement has created opportunities to supply locally grown high-quality produce to consumers, thereby reducing the carbon-footprint of food consumption.  State government departments with food purchase requirements, e.g. prisons, schools, cafeterias, should be encouraged, if not required, to obtain a reasonable percentage of that food from local producers. 

I am open to comments about my ideas as well as suggestions for improvements or additions to the ideas stated above.