Your Role in the Future of Farming in Vermont

This post was originally published on the Women in Agriculture Network (WAgN) Blog.

Now is the time to have your voice heard.

As an Extension Outreach Professional, I am part of many networks related to farming and farmers.  Emails arrive in my inbox everyday about another issue that is directly related to how you farm in Vermont.  Whether it is the next pest, weed, or exciting crop to grow; a new grant or cost-share program; or the newest regulation being decided by the Vermont Legislature or state agency that will impact your farm business.  Many times these directives and programs are implemented without much input from the people and landscapes they will impact the most—YOU!

You most likely hear the same discussions I hear.  You may even get the exact same emails I get (whether you read them or not).  You probably have conversations with your neighbors about the many issues facing agriculture in Vermont.  I don’t walk into many barns without doing just that.  However, I encourage you to take the next step.

Stand up, participate, be heard, and take a leadership role to shape how these initiatives, programs, and policies impact you and Vermont agriculture.

It is very easy to put your nose down, focus on your own farm, and keep more than plenty busy just trying to get your daily farming tasks done.  However, sometimes we need to pick up our heads and take a look around.  Are you happy with the trajectory of policy-making, technical assistance programs, educational opportunities, water quality rules, food safety policy, funding programs, or farm economics?  If you have insight on how to improve any of these issues, NOW IS THE TIME TO SPEAK UP.

There are a lot of initiatives already happening or just starting that directly impact how you farm now and will farm in the future.  In my experience, farmer participation is not only accepted, but sought after.  I can’t tell you how many meetings I have been to where the participants are making decisions that directly impact Vermont farmers, and when you look around the room there may not be a single farmer in the room.  This happens for a few reasons.  Farmers are either not included, do not know about these meetings, or decide they are simply too busy to attend.  Let me say now that none of those are adequate reasons anymore.  As farmers, you need to know when and where these meetings are taking place and show up.

Having your voice heard just got a lot easier thanks to a group of local farmers, UVM Extension and a Conservation Innovation Grant from the Vermont NRCS.  We have started the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition in much the same manner as the Farmers Watershed Alliance in Franklin County. The idea is to help all farmers proactively address water quality issues in the Chittenden, Addison & Rutland counties in the Lake Champlain Basin to advance local farm economic resiliency and environmental stewardship.   The group aims to target education and outreach, acquire potential project funding, and facilitate communication between farmers, agencies and the public to move us forward in improving water quality The Champlain Valley Farmers Coalition meets once a month and will be accepting new members soon. Call us if you want your voice to be heard and want to be proactive about how water quality and agriculture will co-exist in Vermont now and into the future.

If you would like to join the Champlain Farmers Coalition, please contact Kirsten Workman or Jeff Carter at (802) 388-4969 or

Beyond farmer-based groups like the Champlain Valley Farmers Coalition and the Farmers Watershed Alliance, you can participate on so many levels: in your town, your county, statewide or even national groups and boards.

Here are just a few examples:



Summary of Current Dairy Situtation Conference Call with Bob Wellington, Agrimark Senior Economist

Via Alan Curler…

The following is summary of a conference call with Bob Wellington, Senior economist with Agrimark, on Sept. 6, 2012 at 10:AM. These are notes taken by Bob Parsons, UVM Extension.

Current dairy situation: We are seeing the following conditions….Record low milk:feed ratio, $8 corn, $530 Soymeal, $17 soybeans, Drought in midwest, tight dairy economic conditions, rising milk prices but continuing increase in milk production….What does all this mean for milk prices in the coming months?

Bob Wellington:  Currently we are seeing US production leveling off, with some regions reporting less milk production than that reported by USDA. Michigan and
Wisconsin up but other states like California and New Mexico down. Vermont and New York are up slightly while PA is down in milk production. For the northeast We are seeing milk prices increase through growth of Class III and Class IV. Cheese prices have moved up as have prices for butter and powered milk. Exports now account for 14% of US production so they make a huge difference. Its helping farmers by raising Class IV and Class II prices.

In the coming months, we expect:
Sept payments for Aug milk to be up $1 from Aug checks and a$1.70 over July milkchecks.
By November, payments for October milk can expect blend prices to be over $20.
In December for November milk, expect blend prices over $21.
In January for December milk, expect blend prices of $20.
But we expect cheese or powder milk need to go up a bit and remain stable to meet these prices.

Next spring….CME dairy futures are hanging at $18-$20 for Class III through next spring.

Bob Wellington is more pessimistic about milk production than USDA as feed conditions could get worse. If production is lower, likely have $20 milk prices into next summer. Could we see $25….likely not because as milk prices increase, likely to lose international markets, dampening milk prices. With 14% of milk exported, a loss of exports will impact
domestic milk prices.

Policy update:
MILC was reformulated on Sept 1, which is detrimental to dairy farmers facing tight margins. Many questions of future actions of House of Representatives on the new Farm Bill. If Farm Bill is extended, it would include revised MILC which is not going to help dairy farmers. There are some big changes in the current dairy provisions of the Farm Bill passed by the Senate. What will come out will depend on the action, or inaction, of the House.  Stay tuned.

Question on why we are seeing decline in fluid milk consumption….
School consumption is down with elimination of flavored milk and preference of cafeterias for fat free milk. Fat free milk doesn’t taste as good.
Lots of alternative drinks out there with lots of promotion.
Lots of imitators…soy milk, almond milk, available and being pushed.
Processors promoting alternative products which are likely more profitable than milk.
Class I consumption in recent years is linked to the growth of US population. More people, more fluid milk consumption but lower consumption per capitia. Hispanic population
consumption of fluid milk is a big plus.
As fluid milk consumption per capita goes down, other products as cheese, butter, soft products, and powder have a greater impact on milk prices.