Under the Golden Dome

“Under the Golden Dome”, is emailed weekly to subscribing members to keep them apprised of legislative developments at the Vermont Statehouse that affect agriculture. Legislative priorities are set annually by the organization following the elected delegate session determining policy in November.



August 24, 2018 

Jackie Folsom Legislative Director  (802) 426-3579 or at crkdbrks@aol.com 

I'm a couple days off the scheduled release of this report, but for a good reason - I had grand-daughter duty last week!  We went camping and to the fair, and then I needed a rest . . . no laughing, please, but a little sympathy wouldn't hurt!!   
We have the dates scheduled for our yearly Meet and Greet at the Statehouse:  Tuesday, January 22, 2019, and Wednesday, March 20, 2019.  Make sure you mark these down and plan on attending for coffee and danish in the cafeteria, and then visiting with your legislators in their committees or in the cafeteria.  More information about parking, etc, will occur closer to the dates.  See you then!

WALMART MILK MAKES THE NEWS     From a shopper in Columbus, OH, a notice appeared on the AgriMark blog that WalMart was limiting consumer milk purchases to 6 items per visit and they were sorry for the inconvenience.  Why would they limit purchases, when selling milk is what dairy farmers want and need?  Might have something to do with using milk as a lost leader - the price on a quart was a whopping $.95 and a gallon was $1.57 - !  Almond Breeze was selling for $4.00 a gallon on the shelf above and was not limited in purchases. Maybe they'd like to ask cooperatives who are floating in milk to help them out?  Or maybe they would like to cover cost of production with their pricing?  Wow.

Classes are available for the fall session at VTC and include Applied Associates Degree in Forestry (new offering), an Integrated Pest Management Certificate, a Certified Arborist class, a Certificate in Meat Cutting, a Certificate in Wetland Delineation, a Certificate in Cheesemaking and a Certificate in Diesel Technology.  Please register online at www.vtc.edu or request more information.

DAIRY SUMMIT IN ALBANY, NY, DRAWS A CROWD     President Tisbert, Ray Duquette from Rutland and I all attended this meeting, hosted by AgriMark at the Egg in downtown Albany.  Over 350 were there, including board members from AgriMark and St. Albans and representatives from DFA and Organic Valley.  There were also farmers from California, Wisconsin (an entire busload), Florida, Michigan and Quebec.  The morning was spent in re-capping what has happened since the '90s when different federal programs were begun and how that led to our current situation.  A panel of legal experts also presented about the importance of the Capper-Volstead Act and then answered questions from the audience.  We also had a presentation by a Quebec farmer who serves on the Milk Marketing Board for his region who explained how the quota system works for Canada.
The afternoon was spent listening to proposals.  Although all 19 proposals were not discussed, they are available for viewing and commenting on by going to www.dairyproposals2018.com.  The only one that received near unanimous support was the Whole Milk Act, introduced in Congress as HR5640 and requiring whole milk to be served in schools.  The rest were combinations of tiered pricing, quotas, base/excess or simply dumping milk.  They were also across the board regarding voluntary or mandatory, whether the Federal Milk Marketing Order should be in charge or the cooperatives, whether changes should be regional or national.  If you are a dairy farmer and interested in making a difference, please go through the proposals and if you find one you think would work for you and your neighbors, please send a note of support to our Congressional delegation.  
Everyone there noted that these were all long-term programs that would probably require federal oversight or assistance and consequently could take 3 to 5 years to implement.  One of the last comments was focused on the $12 billion in USDA that has been set aside to help farmers in soybean, rice, corn and dairy to buffer the loss due to the tariffs.  It was suggested that we should contact Senator Leahy (who is on the Farm Bill Conference Committee) and ask to use the dairy portion of the money (as yet undetermined) for an immediate whole herd buyout with more than two years out of business.  No action was taken on that suggestion.
I did want to say that I was impressed by the number of young farmers in the room, and I hope they take up the challenge and begin speaking up and out.  This is their future that is being decided, and they need to be a part of the process.

More than 150 farm and agribusiness organizations are appealing to congressional Farm Bill negotiators to finish their work quickly.  "Americans must have a five-year Farm Bill ahead of the September 30 expiration of the Agricultural Act of 2014," the groups said in a letter last Monday to leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.  "We urge you to quickly reconcile the bills' differences and pass a conference report so that it can be enacted in law."
    The letter doesn't take any positions on any of the major issues that face the House and Senate negotiations, including calls by House Republicans and President Trump for tightening Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program work requirements.  But the letter cites as reasons for finishing the bill both the downturn in the economy and the need for food assistance among low-income Americans.
    Farmers "need a strong and predictable safety net that includes important risk management tools such as crop insurance to weather these difficult economic times.  They cannot afford a short-term extension," the letter says.
    "Low-income Americans rely on a number of vital nutritional programs authorized through the Farm Bill.  While the overall economy has improved and participation has dropped, the need remains significant.  We urge the committees to work together to meet the needs of this important population."
    Separately, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, visited a hemp processing facility in his home state to emphasize his interest in getting a new Farm Bill passed that includes his provisions to legalize and promote the production of industrial hemp nationwide.
    American Farm Bureau has signed onto this letter.

    I guess I'm just old-fashioned enough to get frustrated when a discussion on "training" gets re-worked into "on-boarding" - but I dutifully got on the conference call with folks from other Farm Bureau groups and Nationwide staff to talk about how to get new staff or even old volunteers on board to the workings, mission and goals of your organization.  Sometimes the language changes so much it's hard to know what they are talking about, and I'm sure that's true in our industry, too.  
    It was interesting listening to the leader walk through his slides (which I couldn't see - no Skyeping in Cabot!) and trying to apply his thoughts to our Farm Bureau.
    At the end, he asked for questions - and I said, "what do you say when a prospective member asks why they should join Farm Bureau, since we would be doing advocacy or education or volunteering anyhow".  His response was:  "Can't 100 farmers get more done than 1?"  Of course that's one of the reasons - and we learned that during this past session with our action alerts.  Your 2019 Dues request just went out in the mail - please keep us strong as an organization and get involved in your county annual meetings, some of which are listed below.  Resolutions are needed from every county to figure out how to pay for water quality, how to respond to changes in the education tax and anything else that might come to mind.  We also need to figure out how to regain the respect for agriculture that seems to have eroded at the Statehouse in recent years.  Positive interaction with your legislators is one of the keys!
County Annual  meetings:    
Windsor        9/22/2018
Chittenden        9/26/2018
Rutland        9/28/2018
Addison        10/8/2018
 Orleans        10/9/2018
Washington        10/10/2018
Windham        10/15/2018
Vermont Farm Bureau Annual Meeting 11/2-3, 2018


    Have a great week - get that hay in, enjoy time at the remaining fairs, start picking those apples - and watch out for kids going back to school!
    From the team - Joe and Jackie

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How to submit written information to committees and how to get around the Vermont State House:

Vermont State House
Budget Speech (audio)
Budget Speech Read copy:

Newshounds: for those of you who want a daily dose please subscribe to Morning Ag Clips: Newshounds

 Any one of many AFBF publications: AFBF,  Vermont Digger, Morning Ag Clips, VT Farm to Plate, NRCS USDA Gov

Handouts Agricultural Committee




Contacting representatives Email or In Person

At the beginning of each term we publish the member names on each committee of agriculture. The members are easy to contact. It's their first initial; last name @leg.state.vt.us with no spaces.

 Please do not use their private home phone numbers, unless you have their permission.

House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products

Senate Committee on Agriculture

Sen. Robert Starr, Chair, rstarr@leg.state.vt.us

Sen. Anthony Pollina, Vice Chair, apollina@leg.state.vt.us

Sen. Brian Collamore, bcollamore@leg.state.vt.us

Sen. Carolyn Whitney Branagan, cbranagan@leg.state.vt.us

Sen. Francis K. Brooks, fbrooks@leg.state.vt.us

Contact me at 802-426-3579 or crkdbrks@aol.com.

Helpful Reports for the 2017 session are:

Vermont Subsurface Agricultural TILE DRAINAGE REPORT. Submitted by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources January 31, 2017. Prepared for the Vermont General Assembly in Accordance with 2015 Act 64, Section 5. 


The Miner Institute 2016 Annual Report on Tile Drainage.