October 10, 2010 -- Vt. Agriculture Secretary Roger Allbee joins Kristin Carlson and Darren Perron to discuss the fall crop and the dairy industry.
And good morning everyone I'm Darren Perron.
>> I'm Kristin Carlson.
Ag Secretary Albee is our news make they are Sunday morning.
He is going to discuss the fall crop and current milk prices for dairy farmers.
>> Also your neighbors in the news.
We join Sharon Meyer on her wildlife tour as she finds turns, puffins and seals, coming up
>> Our news maker is Roger Allbee, Vermont' agriculture secretary now for four years.
And he is going to talk to us about all the big issues that are facing farmers from dairy to farm to haying, you name it.
We will cover everything.
>> Thank you very much.
>> So let's start with the fall crop.
Right now it is a lot of time when people are picking up their pumpkins.
I picked out my pumpkins and my crop looked pretty good.
>>> The it has been a very good year including a fall year not only for pumpkins but apples, even the hay crop has been very good.
And the corn looks good as well.
So those who are getting ready to celebrate Halloween will have a fantastic time with the pumpkins and the carving of the pumpkins which is a wonderful thing to do.
I do it with my grandchildren.
>> Why has it been a good year?
>> Think the weather conditions obviously have been very good to the crops.
We have had ‑‑ other than recently we have had fairly consistent rainfall.
The weather conditions have gun good ‑‑ have been good for the crops to grow.
the because of the heat hand just been a good crop year.
>> I think you may remember last year was not so good.
>> Was not a good crop year.
We actually had a very poor crop year last year but this year farmers are pretty optimistic because of what they've seen in the ‑‑ in terms of the crops they have been growing.
>> How important is it for farmers no make sure it is good.
The apples and pumpkins when it comes to the corn and hay.
How critical is that to be good?
>> That's very critical for dairy farmers in particular because they rely upon the corn and hay and ‑‑ for their cattle.
So having a good crop is extremely important to get them through the coming months.
>> How difficult is it to be a farmer when you sore dependent on the weather which is something you cannot control?
you can control other issues but not the weather.
>> Well, it is ‑‑ that's been the age‑old problem.
You can't rely necessarily on mother nature.
She will do what she wants to do.
But that's why farmers tend to be very optimistic people.
They go into the business knowing that they have to work 7 days a week but some years and some days they ‑‑ the weather may not be beneficial but on those years it is like this year where the weather is beneficial, what's to say you make hay when the sun shines.
>> I've heard that one.
>> Making lots of hay when the sun shines.
>> One of the things you mentioned is the issue of dairy farmers and they are benefiting right now because of the good weather.
But it has been a very difficult few years dairy farmers.
State has lost 100 in the last four years.
Do you see that trend continuing as there is more of a push to maybe be larger.
We haven't seen milk production drop
>> Milk production is up 3% which is actually good news because thele forecast for the northeast for the next several years that is we need much more milk.
We have several new processing plants coming on.
We have two major ones coming on.
Commonwealth yogurt is a major plant coming on in February.
And then swan valley cheese up in Swanton.
Which purchased the cheese plant, will be making fine Italian cheeses.
So yes, milk supply is very critical for our region.
And for our state going forward.
And obviously the federal pricing system has we have talked in the past, is very antiquated and there is attempts to change that.
we are working with our delegation.
We continue to work with our delegation.
At the same time, we are seeing farmers much more optimistic this year pa because the prices have come up, having said that, however they have lost a lot of capital in the past.
Many farmers have lost at least a thousand dollars per cow and when you figure that the average sized farm in Vermont is 130, that is 130 thousand dollars last year that many have lost so they have lost a lot of capital.
But, they are not ‑‑ they are an optimistic group.
And many of them are saying we still want to continue forward.
I go down to VTC once a year and talk to the dairy management class and I'm surprised many of those young students who can do anything if they wanted to, say they want to be dairy farmers or farmers going forward.
So we have a at this mystic people on the farm who want to continue producing milk even though they know the challenges are there.
So I'm encouraged by what I'm recently seeing even though I know that the federal pricing system has to change and we are all working to change it.
>> How are those new farmers thinking they are going to make it because we have seen this unfortunate decline of a lot of our dairy farms.
>> And that decline has been going on for years.
It is not a new thing.
As a number of farms decline the milk production per cow and size of farms increase so in Vermont we are limited by geography in terms of size of farms because all our ‑‑ all our landscape flows to water bodies in some way.
But I think what we are seeing is that we are seeing people interested in going back to the land.
I call it a renaissance of the past.
Because of food safety, because of the interest in local food supplies, we've been working on local farms which is an effort to connect farms with people.
We have UVM involved.
Last ‑‑ I think it was over a week ago a check of 5000 was presented to keep local farms from students who pay at least 10 cents more per quart, I guess per pint actually for their film and there is other institutions involved.
So I think this interest in local farms and people willing to pay more for milk has enticed young people to say let's go back and try what our parents have done.
Now there are challenges of course.
And we recognize that the federal pricing system is a challenge.
>> Any possibility of that changing?
I know it has been talked about for a long time.
>> Still being talked B it won't change quickly.
some people are saying the farm bill coming up and then it is possibly that the farm bill will be the vehicle where all working ‑‑ we are all working very hard with the delegation and others to change it.
There is a lot of pressure to change it.
But in the meantime, I think we also recognize that there is other things that will go on, such as there is a need for more value‑added, need for more specialty types of products coming out.
That's why we are encouraged when we see entities like commonwealth yogurt.
We are encouraged when we see places like Shelburn farms and grafton and Cabot making specialty products.
All these products are what consumers want.
I'm a pretty good student of AG history and what I've learned by reading the history of the past is that years ago back in the 1800s, the leaders in ago in Vermont at the time said that we could never compete with the west.
We've got to make products that the consumers in our markets nearby want and we have got 60 million or more people with an ‑‑ within a day's drive of us in Vermont.
And that is a market that really is a market that our consumers want to buy Vermont products.
We know that from studies.
So that is where we need to concentrate
>> I've heard from some vegetable familiarers that they think the ago agency focuss too much on dairy and ‑‑ and they see this whole local movement is really the growth sector and wish there was more attention on that.
>> That's a positive comment because I hear the same from the dairy people that we focus too much on the others so we are balancing quite well.
>> We talked about CSA,
>> Even local farmers market
>> And absolutely.
We've got over 70 farmers markets in the state.
And we have the most CSA's per capita.
We have done a lot.
We do a lot with those groups.
We have had ‑‑ what we call matchmaker events that the AG agencies started a couple years ago where we will bring fires and producers together to try to match them with markets.
We work with the farmers markets group.
We work with NOTA and others on the EBT, so that people who get food stamps can have access to farmers markets.
These are all wonderful things.
And as I tell people, it takes all kinds of agriculture in Vermont to make the landscape work.
We know from our research that has gone on with council on the future of Vermont that 97% of the public in Vermont want a working landscape.
Clearly dairy is the anchor.
Dairy is the averager.
But we have to have all the other types of agriculture to make it work too.
To make it work for the veterinarians, to make it work for the feed dealers, to make it work for the equipment dealers.
All of the is important and exciting when we see this new renaissance of excitement in local foods.
>> You mentioned debit cards can now be used at about 27 farmers markets.
>> 27 farmers markets.
>> As that really opened the market up to people who weren't maybe able to shop and buy these local produce before?
we feel it has.
And by all accounts that's true.
It has opened it up to people who would otherwise might not have had access.
Vermont has the second oldest population of any state behind Maine, so we have real need to each these markets up to others who otherwise may not be as able to have access as those of us who are younger.
>> We have also seen a big movement to change school cafeterias.
Used to be known as mystery meat and some other horrifying things when I went to school.
No offense to my school but it has really changed and this whole effort to bring local produce in which sometimes be cost pro particulartive but high schools are making it work.
How that is trend going to move forward if more schools want to try that?
money available to help?
>> There is money already available and there is work going on to get more money available.
There is a great coalition of people involved from Vermont feed, the agency, NOF a, the organic trade association and school system people are involved it.
You've got great leaders involved.
One of the key places in Vermont besides the school you mentioned, is certainly the Burlington school system with Doug Davis has been a real leader but other leaders as well.
And this trend is continuing and they are looking at not only why is the local food good for the students, some of the food they now give students, the commodity distribution system of USDA is not fresh, it comes from a long distance and you know these people who make these meals in schools are very creative.
They are very creative.
They don't have much money to work but at the them us, that the students seem to be happier with it.
It is fresher produce and goes further.
They don't have to throw as much away.
And they are making some very creative meals out there with these products.
>> One controversial issue the agriculture agency has had to deal with is the idea of undocumented workers.
>> You and I have talked a lot about that.
This is something that Vermont farmers are telling you I'm sure that they need this labor.
Vermonters don't want to do this work.
They want to have a legal way to bring these workers here and waiting for some kind of a federal Visa solution now for a long time.
I know senator Leahy has introduced a new bill do.
you think there will be movement on that or is it just so intractable and controversial on the federal level?
what are you hearing?
>> I ‑‑ what I'm hearing is that it is a very ‑‑ very difficult issue to move forward on the federal level with because there is just so much anguish and division among different groups in terms of how they want to move forward.
And I know it is ‑‑ it crosses party lines.
It is not necessarily one party against the other.
It is sometimes by location.
In terms of how people feel on the issue but it is absolutely essential issue that has to be addressed.
I have been told by the U.S. secretary of agriculture from work that they have done that over 50% of the food that is consumed in this country is somehow handled by guest workers.
>> 50% so half of the food ‑‑
>> Half of the food we eat an the northeast we know that the guest workers are an essential part of our AG system.
And without them, we would not be able to have the crops harvested, even this year as you may have heard, on the apple crop we faced a situation where many of the guest workers who come in under the H 2 A, that's the work system that brings some of the people in from Jamaica and other places on a seasonal level, we are not able to get here perhaps sometimes because of the whole documentation that takes place now and getting these people approved.
Luckily that was averted when senator Leahy himself got involved.
But, these guest workers, you know, what I found out in my time working in my position, and I've gone around to talk to farmers and I said can't you get local people?
we are in a recession.
Or some would say almost a depression.
Can't you get local people that want to work on farms and they say we have advertised in major papers, we've talked to people, we've put ads in and we can't get people who want to work the hours and under hard labor conditions that we have to work on, on farms to put in those kind of hours.
Even though we pay good wages.
And so these kind of worksers that we have called guest workers.
I don't call them undocumented.
Guest workers are absolutely essential to ago cut today.
>> So right now though farmers are in limbo.
You and I discussed how farmers don't want to break the law.
>> They do not want to break the law.
>> What are you hearing from senator Leahy?
I know he has been pushing for a federal solution for a long time.
He has been.
And this new bill that he has introduced is ‑‑ there is a regulation that goes way back that allows guest workers that are used in the GOGAN sheep herding in the west to be here on year‑round basis.
And what senator Leahy is trying to do is to make that provision applicable to guest workers who can work on dairy farms and it ‑‑ it would be a change in the regulation.
And at this stage, the ‑‑ the administration hasn't allowed that to happen.
And senator Leahy is trying to get that into law.
That would be quite helpful if that were to occur because none of these farmers want to break the law.
They really don't.
But it is ‑‑ it is not going to be very easy to get done.
>> Well, Vermont secretary of agriculture Roger Allbee thank you for your time and talking on all the wish issues.
>> Can I say one last thing, please.
The working landscape is something that people are saying they want in Vermont.
And it is really the ‑‑ the viability of agriculture that is important to that.
So we are all excited about what can be done going forward to ensure that we have working farms going forward in Vermont.
>> Thank you very much for your time.
Now here is dare Webb our neighbors in the news.
Coming up, spotting seals.
Sharon Meyer is on a mission in Maine.
Find out what it has to do with lake Champlain next!
two decades ago turns were dwindling on lake champagne and puffins disappeared on the coast of Maine W a little help both are making a comeback.
Sharon Meyer shows us how.
>> They flutter and squawk as their boat approaches rock island but that hasn't always been the case.
The numbers rapidly declined in the 1980s primarily because of gull interference and they were placed on the Vermont endangered specie list.
Mark has been working to bring those numbers back for the past 20 years.
>> Mark and the common recovery project have been monitoring them since the late '90s.
Once on shore it didn't take mark long to find a chick they were squawking about.
>> This chick is maybe 15 days old.
It is just beginning to get its adult feathers but we have been ‑‑ as early as 2 to 4 days and that way we will find them 2 to 3 more times over the course of the summer and we can document whether those birds are making it off the island this.
year we found one dead adult that was killed up on papa squash island by a mink and it was a bird that I had banded as a chick in 19 ‑‑ or 2004 so a 6 year old bird.
That was breeding up on papa squash and so we were able to get that band number and know that that bird had hatched from there, had ‑‑ and had returned to its native colony so tart breeding as an adult.
The grid thing is something that we modified after somebody who was working to exclude gulls on lake Champlain.
We use it to keep double crested KORMITS off the island.
We have been successful in using decoys to bring birds back.
Just protecting the islands and putting buoys around the island from getting too close.
That has been a big help.
The chick shelters help with ‑‑ especially early in the season when this isn't here.
Chicks have a place to tuck under and be that.
>> Mark also uses social attraction methods to keep them on lake Champlain, similar to those used in Maine to reintroduce puffins to coastal islands.
>> Black head, breeding season, bright red beak.
They see them.
Often we have used their sound system so it sounds like an active colony and the birds will come in and there is one above us right now.
And we will come in and start using the island.
This I think that there are birds using the island so what is called session attraction.
So we borrowed their idea from the Audobon bird restoration project and using it here on lake Champlain.
>> And the result, 220 pairs, the highest count in 3 decades.
As Sharon mentioned that same technique was used to bring puffins back to Maine.
She and Bridget Butler have more on that now.
>> It is a trip that bin et and I have been itching to take for years, a ride out to eastern egg rock to see the puffins of Maine.
>> We boarded the hardy boat 3 which left late in the day towards evening.
>> Sit back and relax and enjoy the trip.
>> They are so darned cute but also because the success of of the puffin restoration project led to the success of the restoration of the population on our own lake Champlain.
>> Tell me about the puffin.
They were gone for a while?
>> For quite some time and it wasn't until 1970 that they were brought back and it is one of the first sea bird restoration projects that's been successful.
>> Eastern egg rock is a small treeless island 6 miles off the point.
>> It started with this big project to bring the baby birds back.
Looking into the island you can see a lot of birds flying around mostly gulls.
>> Steve the the founder of project puffins started looking at the social interactions of puffins and wondered if he could convince the few puffins that he introduced here that there recall several more around and that this was once again a great place to raise their young.
He started by placing decoys on the island.
>> Successful strategies.
All over the world now.
Yeah it is so common TERNS, we are using the same kind of strategies there.
Audobon Vermont is using decoys to bring them back.
>> Today there are more than # 00 nesting pair of puffins on eastern egg rock.
Each pair only produce one chick.
They are small birds, only about 10 to 12 inches tall and weighing about a pound.
Their colors and body shape also cartoon like.
>> They have to run on top of the water a few steps before they can take flight.
Summer is when they raise their young.
With the kids back on the rock the adults spend the day out at sea fishing and return towards evening to socialize on the rock, Bausch around on the water and hang out before turning into their burrows for the night.
They sure look comfortable able to use their wings in the air as well as under water.
These birds spend most of their lives well out at sea and only come back to the island to reproduce during the summer.
>> Now that they have been successfully reintroduced they return to the island by mid to late April and then migrate back out into the open water by late August
Who ordered the rainbow?
We have a perfect day.
>> Any day with a rain bow and puffins, that is a perfect day.
>> Sharon on Bridgette say they couldn't leave Maine without checking out the state's famous sea dogs too.
>> While in Maine we couldn't resist going back out on the boat for a field watch.
Maybe the famous sea dogs or harbor seals that live along the coast.
A short trip from new harbor out to the tiny island where the seals like to haul out of the water and relax during the low tide.
>> Far side.
>> So come this side and there is a head sticking right outpatient in front.
>> Here we are.
We are at the ‑‑ seals may be on the other side.
>> These are harbor seals.
There are four types of seals that we can see on that Atlantic coast.
You can see harbor, guy, those are two the most common.
>> I see some on the other side of the rock.
>> And hooded.
Is the other one.
>> They are all on the other side.
>> Well, yep.
There is one little head popping up out of the water.
>> Look at him.
He is so cute.
>> A bunch of season the other side now.
>> See the rock where they are and just on the other side there is just a bunch.
>> Silvery and shiny.
>> There were over 100 seals all basks in the sunshine on the Lee side of the island N spite of the two layers of fur and the two inches of fat they do enjoy grabbing some warmth in the sun.
>> They got that banana pose going on and that is ‑‑ that ‑‑ they can keep their ex‑term I trees nice and warm.
And only a little bit of their body is still touching the water because they want to come up and warm up a little bit.
Banana poles is what you call that.
Look at the noses.
>> While they might look a bit lazy they work hard when they are in the water.
>> They will rest during the low tide, kind of get some of their energy back.
When these guys dive like they can stay under water for 15 minutes.
But when they do that, their heart rate slows down and they actually start to deplete their blood of oxygen.
Zoo they need that time to come back up and then have the reoxygenation happen to their blood again so resting is just as important as feeding.
>> And the difference between a true seal and a walrus or a sea lion?
a walrus or sea lion has little external ears and they can use their rear flippers to move on land.
Now in spite of the fact that these harbor seems aren't able to use their rear flippers on land, they do spend more time on land than in the water.
>> They haven't evolved to the point where they are like ‑‑ like what's have ‑‑ whales have their babies right on the water.
>> Hash or seals are migratory.
As we start looking for the fall foliage the Maine seals will head south, others wind up in Cape Cod, the Carolinas and far south as Florida.
But many of these seals will alive on long island in November.
>> There is one in the water.
>> Flipper wave.
>> Sharon has got to have a pretty good gig there.
>> That was great pictures.
>> And this coming week you have another mission Afghanistan story to bring us.
>> Sure do.
It is going to take a look at how heavy the equipment is.
Any idea how heavy this stuff is?
>> I saw you guys packing.
Looked like 25 pounds?
>> You will see.
It is all coming up this coming Wednesday.
Kind of a more light‑hearted story from mission Afghanistan.
Wednesday night on the channel 3 news at 6:00.
>> Looking forward to it.
Thanks for joining us everyone.
I'm Kristin Carlson
>> I'm Darren Perron.
Have a good day everybody.