What's New In Working Landscapes
Working Lands Enterprises are Growing Throughout the State
The Working Lands Enterprise Board received a total of 387 applications for the three investment areas, for a total requested amount of $11,569,397. Some examples of requests include processing equipment, facility upgrades and expansions, marketing assistance, product development, technical assistance and start-ups. The maps below show the breakdown by investment category, as well as type of enterprise by county:
Working Lands Coalition Calls for “5-by-3” Investment: Five million per year for three years will build a strong working lands economy
Members of the Working Lands Coalition launched their “5-by-3” campaign on Wednesday, February 13, 2013, at the Vermont State House. The day included an early morning presentation to the Rural Economic Development Working Group (REDWG), testimony in front of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and a press conference in the Cedar Creek Room. The campaign calls for a bold state investment in Vermont’s working lands enterprises. Coalition members encouraged the legislature and the administration to commit to $5,000,000/year for three years to bolster farm and forest product businesses through the Working Lands Enterprise Fund that was created last year through Act 142.
The morning presentation featured representatives from the Farm to Plate initiative, the Green Mountain Dairy Cooperative, the Vermont Woodlands & Wood Manufacturers Associations, and the Vermont Natural Resources Council. Ellen Kahler, of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (Farm to Plate) noted, “We have this limited window of opportunity to make a big difference.”
Kathleen Wanner enthused, “The need is truly there. Forest products businesses are ready to grow.”
Kate McCarthy of Vermont Natural Resources Council summed up the group’s comments by saying, “All in all, the Working Lands Enterprise Fund reinforces our heritage as a state, while building on that heritage with today’s brand of innovation and entrepreneurship. It builds our resilience and our economic success, while giving us options in a changing world. And that’s a good investment.”
During the group’s press conference, three state legislators – a Democrat, a Republican, and Progressive – expressed their strong support for the “5-by-3” campaign.
Rep. Carolyn Branagan (R-Georgia) explained, “The 5-by-3 investment will attract entrepreneurs and youth to rural Vermont, galvanize economic development, create jobs, and though this might sound a bit lofty, I believe it will also unite Vermonters in an agricultural and natural resources Renaissance. A multi-year investment is critical; we need the three years. Only with this kind of bold, significant investment will we achieve the transformative, long-term potential of our working lands economy.”
Rep. Chip Conquest (D-Wells River) noted, “A budget – any budget – is a statement of values….this is one of those rare areas of state budget where not only are we supporting our values, but we can expect an economic return for that support.”
Senator David Zuckerman (P-Chittenden) celebrated last year’s Act 142 by observing, “I think this kind of thinking and three-tiered approach with supporting our working lands … is really going to allow our farmers and foresters to go to that next step, which is going to allow us to meet needs in our state. I think this is really just the beginning.”
The day resulted in several legislators expressing their support the Working Lands Coalition’s “5-by-3” initiative while members of the coalition organizations talked with them.
The Appropriations committees will consider this proposal during the next several weeks. The administration has included $1.5 million for the Working Lands Enterprise Fund in the governor’s proposed budget.
Members of the Working Lands Coalition include:
The Vermont Working Landscape Coalition is a non‐partisan and broad‐based effort to support local agriculture and forestry, grow and attract farm and forest entrepreneurs, and conserve Vermont’s Working Landscape far into the future. The members believe that all Vermonters benefit from the state’s working landscape and everyone should contribute to ensure its future.
Working Lands Coalition 5x3 campaign launch in the press
Here are a few recent articles about the launch of the Coalitions 5x3 campaign requesting $5M for each of the next three years:
Big rush for 'Working Lands' cash, Brattleboro Reformer
Farm, forest advocates lobby for more state money, Danbury News Times
farm, forest advocates lobby for more state money, WCAX
Working landscape groups look for $15 million boost over three years, Vermontbiz.com
Working Lands Campaign Update - Dec 2012
December 21, 2012 ~ We deeply appreciate all our partners as we launch the 2013 Campaign to support the farm and forest entrepreneurs who are the economic foundation for the future of Vermont’s Working Landscape!
As a partnership this past year, we’ve made tremendous progress in bringing the farm and forest sectors together and framing the Working Landscape effort as a priority for state policy and investment. With your help in 2012, the legislature created the Working Lands Enterprise Board along with state investment of close to $1M that they are distributing through grants to farm and forest enterprises now. They are still accepting applications. Visit their website at www.vermontworkinglands.com to find out more.
Now we're gearing up for the work to come—and we will need your help again, and we will reach out to you at each stage of the effort to show the support of Vermonters for working lands investments.
Working Lands Coalition
Today, we want to let you know about the new Working Lands Coalition and its focus on behalf of the Partnership for the 2013 legislative session. The Coalition formalizes a leadership structure for the Partnership and unites leading organizations contributing to the promotional work ahead. Here's a link to the press release announcing the Coalition. Its members include:
2013 Legislative Platform
The Coalition is beginning its “5x3 Campaign” that calls on the Governor and Legislature to invest $5M annually for each of the next three years in farm and forest enterprise development. We will be looking for your support for its just-released 2013 legislative platform.
We're working to build public dialog as we approach the new session. Here's a commentary by Will Stevens that was published in digger.com, and a news link to the campaign on WAMC radio: http://wamc.org/term/vermont-council-rural-development. We expect to see more commentaries in the weeks ahead. We hope you will help spread the word by passing them on to your networks and sharing on Facebook.
Please, raise your voice in support of WLEB investments with your legislators, your local media, and your network!
We’ll reach out to the Partnership for help at key points in the days ahead. Together, we are making the best kind of progress!
Vermont Working Lands Coalition: 2013 Legislative Platform
The Working Lands Coalition members have joined together to support farm, forest and value‐added development for the future by systematically encouraging significant additional public investment in the Working Lands Enterprise Fund. The Coalition represents the Vermont Working Landscape Partnership made up of over 600 individuals and 220 organizations who together support investment in the fund. They have just released their 2013 Legislative Platform.
Working Lands Enterprise Fund - Application Details Announced
On November 29 2012, the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) announced the release of available grant funds to invest $986,500 into agricultural, forestry and forest product enterprises and organizations. Applications are now available at http://www.vermontworkinglands.com along with tools and resources to assist applicants. Application deadlines are in January.
Agriculture, forestry, and forest products investments will be made in the following areas:
Visit www.vermontworkinglands.com to apply and for all the details.
The fund is directed by the WLEB and is administered by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets in cooperation with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. For additional information, contact Noelle Sevoian, Working Lands Development Coordinator, at email@example.com, or 802.585.9072.
The Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative aims to stimulate entrepreneurism, jobs, as well as to attract a new generation of entrepreneurs within the agriculture and forestry sector. Please help to spread the word and forward this on to anyone you think would be interested.
Video ~ Vermont Countryside interview about the Working Landscape Initiative
A Vermont Countryside show featuring Representative Will Stevens and Paul Costello from the Working Landscape Partnership will be broadcast on public access TV in Vermont at the end of November and early December... But you can see it here in the video below. It's a great discussion of the origins of the Working Landscape Partnership and the work in the Legislature this past year.
Working Lands Enterprise Fund - RFPs to be announced on Nov 29th
The 2012 Legislative session brought with it a renewed commitment to Vermonter’s values by passing the Working Lands Enterprise initiative, Act 142 (http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2012/Acts/ACT142.pdf), for the management and investment of $1 million into agricultural and forestry based businesses.
The Working Lands Enterprise Board will be announcing the RFP's (Request for Proposals) to apply for grants from the fund on November 29, 2012. In the meantime, they have released information about the categories and amounts for funding so folks can start thinking about how their agriculture or forestry operation might fit in. For more information, visit Working Lands Enterprise Initiative and/or click the link below for a pdf with the funding categories.
"Financing the Working Landscape Conference" to be held November 29
Register today for the second annual "Financing the Working Landscape Conference" to be held November 29, 2012, from 8:30am to 3:30 pm at the Middlebury American Legion. Registration fee is $30 ($20 for students).
Businesses connected to the working landscape will have the opportunity to meet with service providers, capital providers, and their fellow entrepreneurs for a day of networking, discussion, and education. Maple syrup producers, farmers, food manufacturers, woodworkers, and other regional business owners can explore ways to energize their plans and grow their businesses.
This year’s conference features panel discussions, case studies of entrepreneurs, open networking time and active feedback sessions for local start-ups and small business owners. Additional sessions focus on writing bank-ready business plans, exploring the different types of resources available, and preparing a business for capitalization. Attendees will enjoy a local foods lunch.
Paul Costello, Executive Director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD), will be the keynote lunchtime speaker, offering information on the newly created statewide Working Lands Enterprise Board. In 2009, 97 percent of Vermonters polled by VCRD's Council on the Future of Vermont said that the working landscape is key to the state’s future.
Visit http://acornvt.org/ for more information or http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Early-bird-prices-end-tomorrow-for-the-Financing-the-Working-Landscape-Conference.html?soid=1103044050321&aid=CdSdESxauP4 for the conference schedule.
Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Fund and Initiative Launches
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets is pleased to announce the creation of the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB), a newly appointed board which will create and execute a fast-paced timeline to support investment in Vermont’s working landscape.
As stated in the Working Landscape Action Plan by The Vermont Working Landscape Partnership, “Over 97 percent of Vermonters polled by the Council on the Future of Vermont (CFV) endorsed the value
of the working landscape as key to our future.” Due to this poll, the 2012 Legislative session brought with it a focused commitment to Vermonter’s values by passing the Working Lands Enterprise initiative. The initiative is at the intersection of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development for the management and investment of $1 million into agricultural and forest based businesses.
Fifteen Vermonters have been appointed to the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB). The Board will direct the funds for strategic investments and be provided with administrative support by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. The board is charged with 1) the establishment of an application process for and awarding of grants and loans; (2) entering into performance contracts to provide investments and services; (3) identifying workforce needs and programs, strategic infrastructure and investment priorities; and (4) pursuing additional resources for grants and loans.
The WLEB had its first meeting on August 21, 2012, and is currently in the process of determining the funding criteria for the requests for proposals (RFP’s). The Board has set an ambitious target date of November to announce the first round of RFP’s. Requests for proposals will target Vermont enterprises and non-profits (both public and private) in all stages of growth looking for mini-grants, infrastructure investments, or investments in technical assistance such as business planning and other services. Participation is encouraged from individuals who have not recently (or ever) received funding from the State of Vermont in the past. Participation is also encouraged from individuals who focus on innovation, such as building pilot programs that add value to farm and forest commodities.
Members include (click names for member photos):
Chuck Ross, Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets (Chair)
Ross has 16 years of experience as U.S. Senator Leahy’s State Director. Born in Burlington, Vermont, he graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.A. in Geography in 1978 and from the University of Washington with an M.A. in Geography in 1982.
Mike Snyder, Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation
Snyder was appointed Commissioner of Vermont Forests, Parks, and Recreation by Gov. Shumlin in January 2011. He served 14 years as Chittenden County Forester, providing land stewardship assistance to private landowners and municipalities. He received both his Bachelor’s and Master of Science degrees in forestry from the University of Vermont.
Lawrence Miller, Secretary of Commerce and Community Development
Miller founded Otter Creek Brewery in 1990. Following the sale of Otter Creek, Miller became involved with Danforth Pewter and moved into the role of CEO. Miller earned his undergraduate degree in psychology in 1987 from Reed College. In 1999 he completed the Birthing of Giants Entrepreneurial Leadership program at MIT, in Boston.
Kurt E. Zschau, Forester/Vermont Real Estate Manager
Zschau works for Fountains America as a forester and real estate manager in the Vermont office. Zschau graduated from Sterling College with a degree in Natural Resources and the University of Maine with a degree in Forestry.
Emma Marvin, Butternut Mountain Farm
Marvin has worked on managing the retail operations, marketing, and special projects of the family business since 2004. Prior to joining the family business she spent several years working for an environmental educational non-profit in northern Vermont. Marvin is an honors graduate of Cornell University with a degree in Natural Resource Management.
Mike Rainville, Maple Landmark
Rainville is the founder and president of Maple Landmark Woodcraft, a wooden toy and gift company located in Middlebury, Vermont. Rainville graduated from Clarkson University in 1984.
Brian Kemp, Mountain Meadow Farms
Since age 10, Kemp has been working with animals. For seven years he worked at the University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm as a Horse Specialist. Following, Kemp worked at Monument Farms Dairy. Kemp now works as the Farm Manager at Mountain Meadows Beef Farm where he is fully responsible for the day to day management.
Amanda Ellis-Thurber, Lilac Ridge Farm
Since 1996, Ellis-Thurber has been a co-owner and operator of Lilac Ridge Farm in Brattleboro, Vermont. Ellis-Thurber, a native of Cleveland, OH, graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.S. in Plant and Soil Science.
Kathleen Wanner, Executive Director of the Vermont Woodlands Association
Wanner is co-owner and vice president of Ghostwriters Communications, Inc., a marketing and communications firm in Rutland that serves the non-profit, natural and cultural resource sector in Vermont. Wanner graduated with a B.A. in English from Castleton State College and an M.S. in Technical Communications from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Eleanor Léger, Eden Ice Cider
Léger left a successful 20-year business career to start Eden Ice Cider Company with her husband in April of 2007. Léger earned a B.A. cum laude in Economics from Harvard and an M.B.A. with Distinction from The Wharton School.
Eric DeLuca, National Cooperative Business Association
DeLuca is the U.S. program manager for the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives through the National Cooperative Business Association. Previously, DeLuca was a program manager at Dialogos. He holds a B.A. from Brown University, and a CalArts M.F.A. in Integrated Media.
Steven P. Marsh, Community National Bank
In 2008, Marsh was named the President and Chief Executive Officer of Community National Bank. For the past year he has served as Chair of the Board. Marsh attended the University of Vermont (1996-1997).
EX Officio, non-voting members include:
Jo Bradley, Manager of VT Economic Development Authority
Bradley became Chief Executive Officer of the Vermont Economic Development Authority in February, 1997. She graduated with Honors from Johnson State College, earning a B.A., and from the Boston University School of Management with an M.B.A. in Finance. She also completed the Program for Senior Executives in state and local government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Ellen Kahler, Executive Director of VT Sustainable Jobs Fund
Kahler became the Executive Director of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) in late 2005. Prior to joining the VSJF, Kahler was the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Center in Burlington (1990-2002). She graduated from Bucknell University in Pa. with a B.A. in Political Science and from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University with an M.P.A.
Gus Seelig, Executive Director of VT Housing Conservation Board
Seelig was the founding Executive Director of Vermont Housing Conservation Board. As a direct result of Seelig’s leadership, Vermont now has some 325,000 acres of conserved land, including over 500 conserved farms, 9,800 units of permanently affordable housing and the infrastructure policies in place for the future.
Colleen Leonard, Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
Leonard will be providing administrative oversight for both the Working Lands Enterprise and Vermont Agricultural & Forestry Product Development Boards. Leonard worked for UVM Extension for 13 years with the state’s 4-H Livestock Programs, and as a Dairy Herd Management Specialist, before working for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.
Alex Ibey, Agency of Commerce and Community Development
Ibey is an Economic Development Specialist with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development for the State of Vermont. He is excited to be a part of the Working Lands Initiative and looks forward to providing assistance to both Ag and Forest Sector businesses.
Noelle Sevoian, Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
Sevoian will be assisting both the Working Lands Enterprise and Vermont Agricultural & Forestry Product Development Boards. Sevoian is an Agricultural Development Coordinator with the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. This May, Sevoian completed her Masters of Science from UVM’s Community Development and Applied Economics program.
As stated by the in The Action Plan of the Vermont Working Landscape Partnership, “Vermonters desire a strong working landscape for all its scenic, cultural, economic, environmental, and recreational benefits.” And, Vermont’s land based economy has proven to be a driver for ongoing economic recovery. The Working Lands Initiative aims to protect Vermont’s countryside for future generations by maintaining a balance between responsible land use practices and economic development within the agricultural and forest product sectors. The initiative aims for healthy, active, and sustainable working lands, just as much as it targets economic development.
Click here to read the full Act, “An act relating to preserving Vermont’s working landscape”
Click here to stay informed on the progress of the initiative at the Vermont Council on Rural Development partnership page
Click here to visit the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets site
Click here to visit the Vermont Department of Forestry, Parks and Recreation site
Click here to visit the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development site
For more information on the Working Lands Enterprise Board or how to apply for funds, please contact Noelle Sevoian at the Agency of Agriculture at 802.578.9072 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets: VAAFM facilitates, supports and encourages the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment. Visit www.VermontAgriculture.com
VT Agricultural Development Board to Include Forestry; Will Become the VT Agricultural & Forest Products Development Board
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:
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, email@example.com, or call (802) 828-2790.
New law aims to grow Vt farming, forestry
SHOREHAM, Vt. -
If there is any question how important rolling fields and forests are to Vermont, consider this.
"Agriculture is in the neighborhood of 20 percent of the land base, forestry is about 75 percent and that is most of our landscape, and the rest of us spend our time and energy on about 5 percent of the land... and the forests and farms surround us," Vt. Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross said.
Which is why bill H.496, the Working Lands Enterprise Investment Bill, sailed through the Legislature and was signed into law by the governor earlier this month. The law creates a $2 million fund and a board to oversee those funds. The goal is to stimulate economic development in the agriculture and forest products sectors.
The origins of the bill actually started years ago.
"The Vermont Council on Rural Development built the council on the future of Vermont five years ago to look into the things that Vermonters say we stand for. And out of that came this overwhelming sense that Vermonters love and are dedicated to the future of the land," said Paul Costello of the Vermont Council on Rural Development.
Rep. Will Stevens, I Shoreham, was one of the main sponsors of the bill in the House. He is also a farmer, producing flowers and organic vegetables. He says the funds will be used as seed money to help existing business or new start ups grow.
"It's an economic development bill and that is the bottom line. You know, people need to remember that this is an ED bill that draws on the work we have done both at a policy level, as well as at an entrepreneurial level over the years. So what it's done is put all that together," Stevens said.
Stevens says the key to this legislation is that it focuses on local control and the long history of what the state does best.
"We can work hard to get other Huskies or IBMs in the state and so forth, but we don't at the end of the day own that. We don't control that. This stuff we control," Stevens said.
Where does the leadership for these projects come from? Costello says the ground up, of course.
"It is going to come from the business community on both the farm and forest side. This is about hard business entrepreneurs building new ideas and coming to look for investment that helps them attract other dollars," Costello said.
Other dollars that can come from nonprofits or the private business sector interested in supporting new opportunities in Vermont.
Video ~ Governor Shumlin's speech at the signing of the Working Lands Enterprise bill 5/15/12
Yesterday in St. Albans, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed into law the Working Lands Enterprise Investment bill (H.496). At the signing, Governor Shumlin noted that this initiative is the first new program in government of significance since the great recession began. “This is a big day...The renaissance in agriculture is happening right here in Vermont...Vermont’s best agriculture and forest products days are ahead of us. This bill is a testament to our future.” The Working Lands Enterprise Fund will start off with a million dollars to invest in our working lands enterprises.
Celebrate Vermont Festival: August 23-26
The Celebrate Vermont Festival will bring together Vermont farmers, food producers, loggers, woodworkers, cheese makers, performers, entrepreneurs, bakers, brewers, artisans, and chefs to sample and celebrate the harvests of Vermont’s working landscape. Vermonters and visitors from throughout the region will celebrate, discuss and learn about the fruits and stewardship of our working landscape. The love and labor of generations of farm and forest families is evident today in our landscape and continues to inspire innovation and entrepreneurship in new farms, foods and forest management systems. As Vermont leads this national renaissance, all are welcome all to come, share, learn and enjoy Vermont and become part of creating a sustainable future in the nation’s most rural state.
The Celebrate Vermont Festival is Aug. 23-26 in Stowe at Stowe Events Field, Trapp Family Forest, Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center and other venues in town.
For more information, visit their website at http://celebratevermontfestival.com/ and read festival organizer Bill Schubart's article in the Burlington Free Press: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20120818/LIVING20/308180001/Bill-Schubart-says-our-fields-clearings-hosted-our-celebrations-now-s-time-celebrate-Vermont.
Video ~ VT Working Lands Bill Signing Ceremony
May 15, 2012 - Chuck Ross, VT Agriculture Secretary, and Paul Costello, Executive Director of the VT Council on Rural Development, speak at the signing of the Working Lands Enterprise Investment bill. Governor Peter Shumlin signs the bill.
Agreement Reached on Working Lands Enterprise Investment Bill: Final bill moving toward governor’s desk
MONTPELIER, VT – Legislative conferees reached agreement on the Working Lands Enterprise Investment Bill (H.496) in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday. All six conference committee members approved the compromise version of the bill, which will create the Working Lands Enterprise Fund and the Working Lands Enterprise Board, which will oversee the Fund. The intent is to stimulate a concerted economic development effort on behalf of Vermont’s agriculture and forest products sectors by systematically advancing entrepreneurism, business development, and job creation.
The conference committee report was approved by the full Senate on Thursday morning with a unanimous voice vote, and will now move to the House for final approval before being sent to the Governor’s desk. The conference committee report was given by Senator Vince Illuzzi (R/D – Essex/Orleans), who chaired the committee. He explained that the board structure was the key change made in the final version. The conference committee recommended a 14-member board, with 3 of those members being ex-officio, non-voting members. The House had recommended 19, while the Senate had asked for a 24-member board. The committee also agreed to eliminate three other boards that are no longer needed, upon the recommendation of Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross.
Speaking on the floor of the Senate in support of the bill, Senator Sara Kittell (D-Franklin), who chairs the Agriculture committee and who was the lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate, explained that this bill will foster an “agricultural renaissance” in Vermont, and that it recognizes that working lands enterprises are part of the “economic business of the state.”
Senator Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden), chair of the Natural Resources and Energy committee and member of the conference committee noted that the bill brings the “forest products sector into a new era” and said that the committees had worked closely together to ensure that agriculture and forest products were both represented in the bill.
Senate President Pro-Tem and bill cosponsor John Campbell (D-Windsor) urged support of the measure, saying, “This is one of the most important economic development bills of this session.”
Paul Costello, executive director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development, celebrated the conference committee agreement by saying, “This bill raises a flag in Vermont for our natural resource economy and lets the nation know that agricultural and forest products entrepreneurs are welcome here. Vermont will be known as the ‘value-added’ state. This initiative is an economic development strategy that supports rural prosperity.”
Members of the conference committee were:
A detailed summary and the final version of the bill is available here: http://vtworkinglands.org/programs/policy-councils/working-landscape/bill
The Vermont Working Landscape Partnership (VWLP) is a non‐partisan and broad‐based effort to support local agriculture and forestry, grow and attract farm and forest entrepreneurs, and conserve Vermont’s Working Landscape far into the future. The Partnership’s members believe that all Vermonters benefit from the state’s working landscape and everyone should contribute to ensure its future.
Video ~ Reps testify on H.496 before the House Appropriations Committee 3/27/12
Vermont Reps. Carolyn Partridge and Will Stevens testify on H.496, the Working Landscape Enterprise Investment Bill, before the House Appropriations Committee.
Vermont House of Representatives Supports Working Lands Bill: House gives initial approval to bill with non-partisan vote
MONTPELIER, VT – The Vermont House of Representatives gave initial approval for the Working Lands Enterprise Investment bill (H.496) on Thursday afternoon with a 131-5 vote. The bill includes a little more than a $2 million appropriation for a new fund to be directed toward economic development investment in agricultural and forest products enterprises. The bill will be considered for final passage in the House on Friday, and then will move on to the Senate for consideration.
The bill had overwhelming non-partisan support, with an 11-0 vote in the Agriculture Committee, and several members speaking for the bill on the floor. Rep. Duncan Kilmartin (R-Newport) said he thought the bill was “one of the best bills I’ve seen” during his years as a House Representative.
Rep. Paul Ralston (D-Middlebury) said the bill will support “an economy only Vermont can have.” Ralston was thanked by Rep. Carolyn Partridge (D-Windham) for sitting in on Agriculture Committee discussion “on loan” from his usual committee, Commerce and Economic Development.
Rep. Tess Taylor (D-Barre) noted that the bill strengthening the working lands economy is a way to help keep Vermonters here, and Vermont’s “land is an asset for resiliency.”
The bill was reported on the floor by Rep. Will Stevens (I-Shoreham), who celebrated a birthday on Thursday. He told his colleagues, “This is a bill you can take home.”
Rep. Dick Lawrence (R-Lyndon) added, “The Working Lands bill brings the agriculture and forest products sectors together.”
Paul Costello, Executive Director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development, celebrated after the vote, saying, “We are pleased with this strong support for the working lands economy and for the people who are part of that economy. This bill is a real jobs bill that will make Vermont stronger and keep our land open and productive.”
More information about the bill is available here: http://vtworkinglands.org/programs/policy-councils/working-landscape/bill
Working Lands Investments allocated $2.1 million; House vote is Thursday
Parallel bills to invest in rural economic development have cleared key hurdles in the House and the Senate, and the House version is scheduled for a vote Thursday.
The bills create a Working Lands Enterprise Fund, which would invest state money in grants and loans to businesses related to the rural economy, infrastructure like slaughter facilities and incubator kitchens, and direct services to businesses related to the farm, food, and forest economies.
The bills passed unanimously out of each chamber’s agriculture committees, but funding has been less unanimous. The House Appropriations Committee voted Tuesday to allocate $2.1 million for its version of the bill (H.496). It’s less than the $3 million originally in the bill, but supporters say the amount is sufficient to start needed state investment in rural economic development.
A coalition supporting the Working Lands Enterprise Investment bill grew out of the Council on the Future of Vermont, a 2007-2009 project of the Vermont Council on Rural Development. In over a dozen public forums and more than 100 focus groups plus surveys and other inputs, Vermonters consistently expressed their support for a strong economy for farm- and forest-based enterprises. On the surveys, the highest-ranked statement of values was “I value the working landscape and its heritage.”
Vermont Council for Rural Development now leads the Working Landscape Partnership, which supports these bills.
“If current trends continue, we could lose the working landscape within a generation,” VCRD executive director Paul Costello said in an interview before the session started.
The Council looked at the contradiction between the forest and fields landscape valued by Vermonters, according to its polls, and the decline in the forest and dairy economies.
“At the same time, we have a local foods movement that is growing rapidly. We’re first in the nation in per capita organic farm CSA development [and] farmers’ markets’ direct sales to consumers,” Costello said. “We have a great tradition in the forest products industry, a great deal of skill, beautiful hardwood forests that are very enviable globally. So tremendous assets to start with, but we believe that Vermont needs to look at these assets and determine that they are essential to our economic future and set as a priority the future of the working landscape economy as a foundation for the rest of the economy of the state.”
Rural economic development has also been the subject of informal study by the Legislature’s Rural Economic Development Working Group, created during Gaye Symington’s tenure as Speaker of the House.
The bill sets up a Working Landscape Enterprise Board to oversee the administration of the fund. The House and Senate versions of the bill set up the membership of the board differently, but in both cases, it’s a board that needs a meeting space considerably bigger than a breadbox. The House version sets it at 19 members, with 11 appointed by the existing Vermont Agriculture and Forest Products Development board. The Senate bill sets up a 24-member board, with the governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate Committee on Committees each appointing six. Those appointments are constrained by descriptions of the types of appointee, e.g., two of the governor’s appointees are to be “a person familiar with the agricultural or forest tourism industry” and “a member of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.”
In both bills, the main authority for rural economic development lies in the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets rather than the Agency of Commerce and Community Development — though the Commerce secretary is named as a member of the board. Rep. Will Stevens, I-Shoreham, lead sponsor of the bill, is an organic farmer and member of the Agriculture Committee. He explained in an interview that the program is housed with the Agriculture Agency “because of the natural resource focus, our land-based focus. There are many opportunities and tools available on the commerce side of things, which is fine. We’re saying through this bill that in fact our natural resource base is worthy of that attention too. It’s not a silo-building or ‘either/or.’ It’s an ‘and’ situation.”
While Costello declined to make specific predictions about the number of jobs that the Working Lands bill would create, he pointed in a recent interview to a report just out from the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund’s Farm-to-Plate program, which counted 500 jobs created in one year in the state’s food and agriculture sector. With state money anticipated to pull in four to five times as much private investment, Costello said the new bill “leverages far beyond what we’ve had … in agriculture and forest products. I think we’re at the beginning of something that’s really big, really significant for the rural economy of the state.”
The House Appropriations Committee informally set aside $2.1 million to the bill on March 16, without examining the bill in detail. On Tuesday, Will Stevens and House Agriculture Committee chair Carolyn Partridge, D-Windham, testified to the Appropriations Committee about the bill, and the committee voted to appropriate the $2.1 million. The vote was along party lines, with the Democrats supporting the bill. (Kitty Toll, D-Danville, a supporter of the bill, was reportedly out of the Legislature responding to the killing of Melissa Jenkins, the St. Johnsbury teacher who was found dead earlier this week.)
Committee member Joe Acinapura, R/D-Brandon, supports the bill’s principle but voted against it on fiscal grounds. “The concept is good. It’s a job creator,” he said the day after the vote. However, he expects the shortfall to be greater than projected, and the House budget leaves $16 million in reserves — a figure he fears is inadequate. “If we’re going to put $2.1 million against a new initiative, even though it’s a great initiative, what are we going to take the money from? There are just too many uncertainties out there.”
The full House is scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday. So far, Costello has seen “general and broad interest” in it among legislators. “Everyone recognizes that this is the bill that steps forward,” Costello said. “There’s not another jobs bill.”
Sen. Ann Cummings, D-Washington, has indicated that the Senate will take up work on the House bill rather than continue working on its own version.
Posted By Carl Etnier On March 28, 2012 @ 11:19 pm
Article printed from VTDigger: http://vtdigger.org
Farm to Plate Strategic Plan
The Farm to Plate Strategic Plan is a 10-year plan to strengthen Vermont's food system. Click here to learn more.