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YCQM: November 18, 2012 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

YCQM: November 18, 2012

Posted: Updated:
BURLINGTON, Vt. -

>> GOOD MORNING EVERYONE, CONTAM NATED COMPOST, A FISCAL CLIFF AND THE FARM BILL, MILK PRICES AND MORE.

>> THOSE ARE TOPICS WE'RE GOING TO DISCUSS WITH OUR NEWSMAKER, AGRICULTURE SECRETARY CHUCK ROSS, THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE.

>> THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE MYSELF, THIS IS GREAT.

>> MR. SECRETARY, LET'S START WITH THE EVER VOLATILE MILK MARKET. WHERE ARE PRICES RIGHT NOW -- WHAT ARE PRICES RIGHT NOW GETTING PAID TO DAIRY FARMERS.

>> THEY'RE IN THE 20 RANGE. MILE O'CLOCK PRICES HAVE COME UP BUT WE HAVE HIGH GRAIN PRICES SO THE PROFITABILITY OF THE DAIRY FARM IS VERY DIFFICULT. I'M CONFIDENT THERE ARE FARMS THAT ARE ACTUALLY LOSING MONEY TODAY. THERE ARE SOME THAT ARE MAKING MONEY BUT IT'S VERY, VERY STKPWHRAOEUT AND THE COST OF PRODUCTION, WHAT THEY NEED FOR THE MILK MONEY, IS ACTUALLY A LITTLE BIT LOWER, BUT THERE'S STILL FARMERS LOSING MONEY?

>> WHAT WE'VE SEEN HAPPEN IN THE LAST SIX MONTHS, WE'VE SEEN THE MILK CHECK BE USED FOR ABOUT 30 PERCENT -- ABOUT 30 PERCENT TO BE USED FOR GRAIN OR FEED COST, FROM 30 TO 50 PERCENT, THE MILK CHECK USED ON SOME FARMS USED TO COVER FEED.

>> DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH WEATHER AND STORMS? WHY THE DRAMATIC SHIFT?

>> IT HAS TO DO WITH THE PRICE OF GRAIN OUT OF THE -- OUT OF THE MIDWEST, EXACERBATED BY MULTIPLE-STATE DROUGHT, AND HIGHER THAN NORMAL GRAIN PRICES, ANYWAY. AND WE JUST HAVE NOT SEEN THE GRAIN PRICES DROP THE WAY WE ARE USED TO SEEING THEM DROP. WE ARE USED TO SEEING SPIKES BUT THERE'S BEEN A LONG PERIOD OF TIME WHERE GRAIN PRICES ARE HIGH.

>> DOES SUPPLY AND DEMAND STILL PLAY A ROLE IN MILK PRICES? I REMEMBER, YEARS AGO, THAT WAS THE BIG CONCERN, THAT THERE WAS AN OVERSUPPLY OF MILK VERSUS THE DEMAND FOR MILK.

>> IT ABSOLUTELY HAS A ROLE TO PLAY, AND WE ARE ACTUALLY SEEING GLOBAL DEMAND HAVE A LOT TO DO WITH THE MIT O'CLOCK -- WITH THE MILK PRICES AND COUNTRIES LIKE NEW ZEAL THAUPBD DON'T PRODUCE A LOT OF MILK BUT THE MILK THEY PRODUCE GOES INTO THE INTERNATIONAL MARKETS HAS AN IMPACT ON THE INTERNATIONAL PRICING, THEN DOMINOES BACK IN TO THE UNITED STATES. AND WE ARE -- WE'RE SEEING PLACES WHERE THERE'S A REAL STRONG DEMAND FOR MILK AND WE'RE ACTUALLY SEEING IT IN THE NORTHEAST, WHERE WE'RE AT TIMES MILK SHORT OR HAVE BEEN IN TERMS OF MEETING NEEDS FROM THE MANUFACTURERS. BUT WE'RE IN A NATIONAL MARKETPLACE AND NATIONALLY, THERE'S ENOUGH MILK IN THE COUNTRY TO KEEP THE PRICE AT A LEVEL THAT IS VERY DIFFICULT FOR FARMERS TO REACH PROFITABILITY. AND WHAT'S DIFFERENT RIGHT NOW IS THAT THERE HAVE BEEN REGIONALLY DIFFICULT PLACES TO MAKE PROFITS ON MILK. WE'RE ACTUALLY SEEING THIS ACROSS THE COUNTRY RIGHT NOW. THIS IS A PROBLEM FOR DAIRY FARMS ACROSS THE COUNTRY. IF YOU GO TO CALIFORNIA, THEY'RE HAVING REAL TROUBLES THERE, AS WELL AS ON THE EAST COAST, WHERE IT'S A REAL STRUGGLE RIGHT NOW.

>> SO A PROJECTION -- BECAUSE $20 MILK PRICE ISN'T AS BAD AS FARMERS HAD SEEN OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS BUT IT'S CERTAINLY BEEN A ROLER COAST: YOU'RE TALKING TO AGRICULTURAL ECONOMISTS ABOUT GRAIN PRICES. PROJECT OUT. WILL THAT STAY STEAD OR OR WILL THEY SEE A DROP?

>> THE POINT IS NOT JUST THE MILK PRICE. IT'S THE COST OF PRODUCTION RELATIVE TO THE MILK PRICE AND THE COST OF PRODUCTION -- THE DRIVER IS GRAIN. THE CONTINUED PROJECTIONS ARE TO BE STILL HIGH FOR GRAIN SO WE CONTINUE TO BELIEVE WE'RE GOING TO BE IN A TOUGH MARKET T MAY EASE UL IN -- EASE UP IN THE FRONTS AHEAD, PARTICULARLY IF THE DEMAND FOR MILK INCREASES, WE MAY SEE A BOOST TO PRICES BUT I DON'T SEE US GETTING TO A HIGH PROFITABILITY IN THE NEXT FEW MONTHS. HOPEFULLY IT WILL GET A LITTLE BETTER, BUT YOU KNOW, THIS IS DIFFICULT, DIFFICULT FOR THE DAIRY FARMS. THEY WENT THROUGH 2009 WHERE THEY WERE IN VERY DIFFICULT TIMES THEN, AND NOW REALLY, FRANKLY, A SHORT TIME LATER, THEY ARE BACK IN A DIFFICULT PLACE, AND FOR VERMONT FARMERS, IT'S BEEN EXACERBATED BY IRENE, THAT WASN'T UNIFORMLY BAD ACROSS THE BOARD, BUT FOR MANY DAIRY FARMERS IT CREATED A PROBLEM.

>> WHAT ARE DAIRY FARMERS SUPPOSED TO DO? AT THIS POINT, AS YOU KNOW, VERMONT -- THERE ARE LESS THAN 1000 FARMS, THAT NUMBER CONTINUES TO SLIGHTLY DECLINE. WHAT IS THE PROGNOSIS HERE? IF YOU'RE SEEING MILK PRICES THAT AREN'T STRONG ENOUGH TO HELP THEM IN MANY CASES BREAK EVEN, YOU SAID PROJECTIONS FOR GRAIN CONTINUES TO BE CHALLENGING, AND WE'RE SEEING MORE FARMS GO OUT OF BUSINESS. WHAT'S YOUR OUTLOOK HERE? WHAT DO THEY DO?

>> WELL, THESE ARE TOUGH TIMES. AND EVERY DAIRY FARMER HAS GONE THROUGH THESE TOUGH TIMES BEFORE. AND EACH FARM, IT'S IMPORTANT TO RECOGNIZE, IS THEIR OWN INDIVIDUAL BUSINESS UNIT. THEY HAVE DIFFERENT FINANCIAL FOUNDATIONS RELATIVE TO DEBT, RELATIVE TO OPERATING COST. ONE OF THE THINGS WE'VE TRIED TO DO HERE IS START A CONVERSATION WITH A DAIRY COMMUNITY IN VERMONT ABOUT HOW TO ADDRESS PROFITABILITY, HOW TO BOOST THEIR PROFITABILITY, AND WE'RE ENGAGED IN THAT CONVERSATION RIGHT NOW, AND A LOT OF THIS COMES TO ISSUES OF MANAGEMENT, AND WHAT THEY MIGHT BE ABLE TO DO DIFFERENTLY. THEY COULD BE INCREASING THE PRODUCTIVITY ON A PER-COW BASIS, SO YOU MAKE MORE MONEY PER COW, AND THAT BECOMES MORE EFFICIENT FROM A FINANCIAL STANDPOINT. THEY'RE INTERESTED IN GROWING MORE GRAIN AND FEED ON THEIR FARMS. AND THAT CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. WE'RE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT DIFFERENT WAYS TO HELP THEM TRANSITION THEIR FARMS. A NUMBER OF THESE FARMERS ARE AT AN AGE WHERE THEY NEED TO BE THINKING ABOUT WHAT THEY'RE GOING TO DO NEXT, MATCHING THEM WITH PROSPECTIVE BUYERS OR TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO ON INTER GENERATION TRANSFER THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE IN THE FARM'S VIABILITY. CANDIDLY, RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT, EVERY FARM HAS THEIR OWN SET OF TRICKS, IF YOU WILL, OWN TWEAKS THEY CAN TRY TO MAKE, TO GET THROUGH A TOUGH TIME. BUT IF WE DON'T SEE A FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE IN THE DAIRY PRICING, WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO SEE VERY DIFFICULT CHALLENGING TIMES. WHICH IS WHY WE WERE SO EXCITED BY WHAT OUR DELEGATION WAS ABLE TO DO WITH THE LEADERSHIP OF VERMONT FARMERS, AND THAT IS TO PUT TOGETHER A WHOLE NEW DAIRY PRICING PROGRAM CALLED THE DAIRY SECURITY ACT THAT WAS PASSED THROUGH THE SENATE IN WASHINGTON, PASSED THROUGH THE HOUSE AG COMMITTEE IN WASHINGTON, BUT DID NOT GET PASSED THROUGH IN THE FARM BILL THIS FALL. AND THIS IS -- YOU KNOW, FRANKLY, DOUBLE DOWN DIFFICULTY FOR THE DAIRY FARMERS WHEN THEY SEE CONGRESS NOT ACT ON A PLAN THAT WOULD ACTUALLY PROVIDE THEM WITH SOME RELIEF.

>> OF COURSE, CONGRESS LEFT WITHOUT THIS GETTING DONE. KUGMAN WELCH HAS SAID HE WILL MAKE THIS A PRIORITY WHEN -- CONGRESSMAN WELCH HAS SAID HE WILL MAKE THIS A PRIORITY TO GET TO THE FLOOR VOTE. IF THIS DOES NOT PASS, THEN WHAT?

>> THAT'S ONE OF THOSE MULTI-MILLION-DOLLAR QUESTIONS THAT ARE KIND OF BOUNCING AROUND A LOT RIGHT NOW.

>> YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE IN WASHINGTON. YOU'VE WORKED THERE FOR SOME TIME AND YOU KNOW HOW IT WORKS.

>> I DO. I BELIEVE CONGRESS IS GOING TO ACT AND I DON'T BELIEVE THEY'RE GOING TO LET EVERYTHING RIDE TO THE FISCAL CLIFF. NOW, HOW WI HANDICAP THAT, I'M NOT SURE. THERE IS TALK ABOUT GOING OVER THE CLIFF, AND LEARNING THE LESSONS OF THAT, BUT NOT HITTING THE FLOOR AFTER THEY'VE GONE THROUGH THE CLIFF. BUT I BELIEVE THEY'RE GOING TO BE CONFRONTED WITH THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS FISCAL DILEMMA AND THEY'RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING. WHETHER THEY'RE GOING TO DO A COMPLETE FARM BILL, WHETHER THEY'RE GOING TO DO A COMPLETE BUDGET SOLUTION, I THINK IS PROBABLY -- IT'S IN QUESTION. I SUSPECT THERE'S A GOOD CHANCE THEY WON'T. THEY'LL DO A BRIDGE TO SOMETIME NEXT YEAR IN 2010 AND WHEN THEY'LL TAKE ON THE BIG ISSUES. WE HOPE THAT CONGRESSMAN WELCH AND SENATOR LEAHY AND SANDERS ARE SUCCESSFUL IN GETTING A FARM BILL PASSED. THE FARM COMMUNITY IS UNITED IN THE BELIEF THAT THEY NEED A FARM BILL AND I THINK THEY'RE STARTING TO BE HEARD, BUT THE FARM BILL IS ONLY ONE ISSUE WITHIN A COMPLEX MATRIX OF ISSUES AROUND THE FISCAL MATTERS CONFRONTINGING CAN. -- CONFRONTING CONGRESS.

>> WHAT IS IN THE BILL, THIS ACT, THAT WILL BE THE SAVING GRACE FOR FARMERS?

>> WELL, I DON'T THINK THERE'S A SILVER BULLET. I DON'T THINK THERE'S A SAVING GRACE IN THE FARM BILL. WHAT THERE IS IS A DAIRY SECURITY ACT, A REDOING, A REWRITING, IF YOU WILL, OF NATIONAL DAIRY POLICY THAT WILL PROVIDE A MORE STABLE DAIRY PRICING PROGRAM THAT LENDS STABILITY, IF IT WORKS AS IT'S PROJECTED. SO WE DON'T HAVE THESE VOLATILE PERIODS WHERE WE HAVE GREAT PROFITABILITY FOLLOWED BY GREAT DIFFICULTY IN THE DAIRY COMMUNITY. AND WHEN YOU HAVE A STEADIER PRICE, YOU CAN BUILD A BUSINESS WITH GREATER SUCCESS, AND THAT'S ONE OF THE DIFFICULTIES RIGHT NOW, DAIRY FARMERS HAVE HAD TO HAPPEN INTO SAVINGS AND EQUITY IN 2009, AND SOME OF THEM ARE BACK THERE DOING THAT AGAIN. AND YOU CAN ONLY DO THAT SO MANY TIMES. AND IF YOU CAN MAINTAIN A STEADY PRICE YOU CAN BUILD A BUSINESS PLAN AND EQUITY THAT GIVES YOU MORE RESILIENCE GOING FORWARD. THAT'S WHAT THE DAIRY SECURITY ACT IN BROAD STROKE SOCIAL SECURITY GOING TO TRY TO DO. NOW, THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS BETWEEN NOW AND IF THAT WERE TO BE PASSED BY THE FIRST OF THE YEAR, IT'S STILL GOING TO TAKE A YEAR FOR THAT TO GET IMPLEMENTED BY THE USDA, AND THAT COULD BE A CHALLENGING PERIOD OF TIME. YOU'RE PROBABLY FAMILIAR WITH THE MILC PROGRAM. RIGHT NOW, WE DON'T HAVE THAT PROGRAM, AND THE PRICES ARE SUCH THAT THEY WOULDN'T HAVE KICKED IN MUCH IN THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS FOR MOST FARMS. WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO IN THE INTERIM, IF THEY DO PASS A SECURITY ACT IS NOT CLEAR TO ME AND IF THEY WERE TO PASS ONE WITH AN MILC TO BE IN PLACE WHILE THEY ACTUALLY STAND UP AND THEN IMPLEMENT THE DAS, THAT WOULD BE A GREAT THING.

>> THE DAIRY SECURITY ACT?

>> YES. AND THIS IS WHAT'S FRUSTRATING AND WHY IT'S FRUSTRATING FOR VERMONT FARMERS, SO WATCH THIS KIND OF PROCESS WITHOUT THE KIND OF CERTAINTY THAT THEY NEED, WHEN YOU'RE LOOKING AT WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY BUSINESS. AM I GOING TO HAVE A STABLE POLICY AROUND MY BUSINESS SO I CAN PLAN. AND YOU KNOW, THIS WILL INFLUENCE SOME FARMERS' DECISIONS UNFORTUNATELY. PROBABLY INTO THE NEGATIVE. WHY AM I STAYING IN THIS BUSINESS WHEN THE CONGRESS CAN'T EVEN PASS A FARM BILL. HAVING SAID THAT, I WANT TO UNDERSCORE SOMETHING HERE. THAT THE DAIRY COMMUNITY IN THE STATE OF VERMONT, THOSE FARMERS THAT ARE HERE RIGHT NOW, ARE INCREDIBLE BUSINESSPEOPLE. THEY HAVE MADE IT THROUGH 2009, THEY'RE STILL STANDING AFTER THE LAST SIX TO EIGHT MONTHS, THEY'RE RESILIENT, THEY'RE CREATIVE, AND THEY'RE COMMITTED. AND THAT'S WHY THEY'RE STILL HERE. AND I HAVE GREAT CONFIDENCE THAT WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A STRONG DAIRY COMMUNITY IN THIS STATE. IT'S GOING TO LOOK A LITTLE DIFFERENT AS WE GO FORWARD, AS IT LOOKS DIFFERENTLY TODAY THAN IT DID A FEW YEARS AGO. BUT THE DAIRY COMMUNITY IN THIS STATE HAS DEMONSTRATED THEIR ABILITY TO SUSTAIN THEMSELVES THROUGH THICK AND THIN, AND THEY ARE DOING AN AMAZING JOB, PRODUCING AN INCREDIBLE PRODUCT, THAT IS BEING RECOGNIZED ALL OVER THE NORTHEAST, AND BY THE ATTRACTING OF MANUFACTURING, BOTH MANUFACTURING PLANTS IN THE STATE OF VERMONT AS WELL AS UPSTATE NEW YORK, AND INCREDIBLY STRONG DEMAND FOR THE PRODUCTS THAT WE PRODUCE IN THE STATE OF VERMONT.

>> WE'RE GOING TO TALK MORE ABOUT THOSE ISSUES WITH AGRICULTURE SECRETARY CHUCK

>> WELCOME BACK EVERYONE. WE'RE TALKING TO AGO SECRETARY -- TO AG SECRETARY CHUCK ROSS. LET'S SWITCH GEARS HERE A LITTLE BIT. GREEN MOUNTAIN COLLEGE, A CONTROVERSIAL MOVE DOWN THERE RECENTLY, WHERE BILL AND LOU, THE FAMOUS OXEN ON CAMPUS, ONE OF THEM STIRRED UP AN ENTIRE OUTROAR FROM PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD REALLY WHEN ONE OF THEM WAS PUT DOWN AFTER AN INJURY. BUT LEADING UP TO THAT, THE PLAN WAS TO SLAUGHTER ONE AND SERVE THAT MEAT TO THE CAMPUS AS PART OF THE SUSTAINABILITY INITIATIVE ON CAMPUS. WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THIS?

>> THIS HAS BEEN AN INCREDLY DIFFICULT TIME FOR GREEN MOUNTAIN COLLEGE AND IT'S DIFFICULT BECAUSE THEY HAVE AN AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION PROGRAM AND PHILOSOPHY DOWN THERE AND THEY HAD ENGAGED IN A COMMUNITYWIDE DISCUSSION WITH THEIR STUDENTS AND STAFF AND HAD REACHED A CONCLUSION ON HOW THEY WANTED TO MANAGE THEIR LIVESTOCK AND BILL AND LOU, THE TWO OXEN AS THEY'RE CALLED WERE PART OF THAT. NOW, THEY HAD PEOPLE FROM OUTSIDE THEIR COMMUNITY BEGIN TO TAKE ON THE ADVOCACY FOR A CERTAIN SET OF CHOICES THAT THOSE PEOPLE OFF THE CAMPUS WANTED THE COLLEGE TO MAKE AND I WENT ON THE RECORD AND SUPPORTED WHAT GREEN MOUNTAIN COLLEGE HAD DECIDED. I THINK WHAT THEY DECIDED IS IN KEEPING WITH THE VERMONT COMMUNITY-BASED AGRICULTURAL ETHOS, THAT WE HAVE FARMERS AND VERMONTERS EVERY DAY THAT ARE RAISING ANIMALS IN THEIR BACK YARDS AND ON THEIR FARMS AND THEY'RE RAISING THEM FOR MEAT AND THEY MAKE THE DECISION AS TO WHEN AND WHY THEY'RE GOING TO SLAUGHTER THEIR ANIMALS. IT'S CLEAR TO ME THAT THESE ANIMALS HAVE BEEN HANDLED HUMANELY, THE OXEN THAT WAS PUT DOWN IN THE LAST WEEK WAS DONE SO AT THE -- WITH THE ADVICE OF A VET, WHICH IS WHAT WE EXPECT TO SEE. AND THIS HAS BEEN DIFFICULT FOR THEM. AND THEY'RE MANAGING FORWARD, AND IT'S BEEN, YOU KNOW, RAISED AS YOU WELL NOTED, AN IN ADDITION FOR MANY PEOPLE. BUT I THINK WHAT GREEN MOUNTAIN COLLEGE HAS DONE AND HOW THEY'VE CONDUCTED THEMSELVES IS IN KEEPING WITH THE WAY WE PRACTICE AGRICULTURE IN VERMONT.

>> BUT BECAUSE OF THE PROTESTS AND, YOU KNOW, OUTPOURING OF PEOPLE FROM OUTSIDE THE STATE, EVEN INTERNATIONALLY, THEY COULDN'T REALLY GO FORWARD WITH THE PLAN WHICH WAS TO SLAUGHTER THIS ANIMAL AND THEN, YOU KNOW, USE ITS MEAT, BECAUSE THERE WAS AN INJURY AND THERE WERE NO SLAUGHTERHOUSES WILLING TO TAKE ON THAT DUTY BECAUSE OF FEAR ABOUT THESE PROTESTORS. SO IT DIDN'T REALLY END UP GOING DOWN THE ROAD THAT THEY INITIALLY PLANNED.

>> THAT'S TRUE. AND IT'S A DEMONSTRATION OF WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN WE START HAVING SOCIETY TRY TO INTERVENE IN ALL THE FARM DECISIONS.

>> BUT DO YOU THINK, YOU KNOW, GREEN MOUNTAIN COLLEGE SHOULDN'T HAVE BACKED DOWN? BECAUSE THEY HAD A PLAN, THEY WERE VERY CLEAR ABOUT THEIR PLAN, THEY SAID THAT THIS WAS SOMETHING SUPPORTED IN THEIR COMMUNITY, THE FOLKS WHO WORKED WITH THIS GROUP OF OXEN, AND NOW THEY HAVE THIS POINT NOW WHERE THERE'S ONE OXEN THAT'S STILL ALIVE, THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT. SHOULD THEY HAVE BACKED DOWN? BECAUSE THIS IS COMMON AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES THAT GOES ON IN THIS STATE AND OTHER STATES.

>> YOU'RE SAYING THEY BACKED DOWN. I'D SAY THEY'VE BEEN DEALING WITH THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT THEY FOUND THEMSELVES WITH.

>> BECAUSE THEIR INITIAL PLAN WAS TO GO AHEAD. THERE WAS A PROTEST. AND NOW THEY HAVE NOT.

>> AND THEY HAVE NOT BECAUSE THEY'VE NOT BEEN ABLE TO FIND SOMEONE WHO WAS EITHER EQUIPPED, BECAUSE THESE ARE LARGE ANIMALS, THESE ARE NOT YOUR AVERAGE SIZED BOVINES BUT THEY'VE NOT WANTED SOMEONE TO TAKE ON THE POLITICAL BURDEN OF SLAUGHTERING THESE ANIMALS. AND THAT'S AN INTERESTING OUTCOME IN AND OF ITSELF. AND SO I THINK WHAT THEY'VE DONE IS THEY'RE ALSO LEVERAGING THIS INTO A DIFFERENT KIND OF EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE, AREN'T THEY? AS WE'RE ALL LEARNING SOMETHING ABOUT THIS PROCESS. THE FOOD SYSTEM THAT WE ALL DEPEND UPON IS A COMPLICATED SYSTEM AND THERE'S A LOT OF STAKEHOLDERS, A LOT OF PLAYERS IN IT, AND WE'RE SEEING WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE CAN'T GET THE SLAUGHTER, WHEN OTHER PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO MAKE DECISIONS FOR FARMERS, AND HOW BINDING THAT CAN BE, AND I THINK THIS IS ULTIMATELY GOING TO BE AN EDUCATION -- NOT AN IN-- AN INCREDIBLE EDUCATION FOR THE STUDENTS. AS I UNDERSTAND IT, THE COMMUNITY DOWN THERE IS MORE UNITED THAN EVER. AND THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF SOME OF THE CONTROVERSIES WE NEED TO WORK THROUGH IF WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL AGRICULTURE-BASED COMMUNITY IN THE STATE OF VERMONT AND I THINK WE DO. I THINK THERE'S A GREAT DEAL OF SUPPORT FOR JUST THE KIND OF ETHICAL AND THOUGHTFUL APPROACH THAT GREEN MOUNTAIN COLLEGE HAS EXERCISED IN TRYING TO REACH THEIR DECISIONS.

>> LET'S TALK MORE ABOUT SLAUGHTERHOUSES. SINCE THEY WERE UNABLE TO FIND ONE FOR, A, POLITICAL REASONS, AND THERE JUST FRANKLY AREN'T A LOT OF SLAUGHTERHOUSES IN THE STATE OF VERMONT, WHERE ARE WE IN DEALING WITH THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE SHORTAGE?

>> THERE'S A COUPLE OF THINGS I'D WANT YOU TO KNOW. ONE IS EVERY FEDERAL AND STATE-INSPECTED SLAUGHTERHOUSE HAS A HUMANE HANDLING PLAN THEY MUST COMPLY WITH. THIS HUMANE HANDLING PLAN IS DEVELOPED IN CONSULTATION WITH A WOMAN BY THE NAME OF ERICA VOGUE, A STUDENT OF TEMPLE GRANDIN AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT LAST WEEK TALKING ABOUT THESE VERY ISSUES AND THIS MAKES VERMONT UNIQUE IN THAT WE'RE THE ONLY STATE IN THE COUNTRY THAT REQUIRE ALL THEIR SLAUGHTER FACILITIES TO HAVE A HUMANE HANDLING PLAN. NOW, WE HAVE ACTUALLY SEEN GROWTH IN THE CAPACITY OF THE STATE OF VERMONT IN THE LAST YEAR AND A HALF.

>> HOW MANY SLAUGHTERHOUSES ARE THERE IN VERMONT?

>> IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF EIGHT OR NINE RIGHT NOW, AND IT'S -- THERE ARE PROCESSING FACILITIES AS WELL. AND THE REAL ISSUE HAS BEEN LESS SO ON THE SLAUGHTER, WHICH IS THE KILLING OF THE ANIMAL, VERSUS THE PROCESSING OF THE ANIMAL. AND WE'RE ACTUALLY SEEING AN INCREASE IN PROCESSING. BLACK RIVER PRODUCE, DOWN IN SPRING IT WOULD -- SPRINGFIELD, IS PUTTING IN A WHOLE NEW PROCESSING CAPACITY, MAD RIVER FOOD HUB THAT'S COME ONLINE IN THE LAST YEAR, THEY'RE PROSOCIAL SECURITYING MORE PRODUCT. WE'VE SEEN THE ROYAL BUTCHER EXPAND THEIR CAPACITY. AND THESE ARE THE KINDS OF THINGS WE'RE SEEING IN THE AGRICULTURE COMMUNITY, IN THE SLAUGHTER AND PROCESSING COMMUNITY, EXPANSION OF CAPACITY. WE ARE, AS THE AGENCY OF AGRICULTURE, DEALING WITH MANY PEOPLE WHO ARE LOOKING AT INCREASING THEIR CAPACITY OR STARTING A NEW BUSINESS. AND THAT'S ALL RELIEVING SOME OF THE PRESSURE. HAVING SAID THAT, WE'RE NOT AT THE PLACE WHERE WE HAVE ALLEVIATED ALL THE BOTTLENECKS AND FARMERS HAVE TO BE THOUGHTFUL ABOUT SCHEDULING AHEAD IF THEY'RE GOING TO GET THEIR ANIMALS SLAUGHTERED AND PROCESSED IN A TIMELY MANNER.

>> OF THE EIGHT OR NINE SLAUGHTER PROCESSING PLACINGS, HOW MANY WOULD DEAL WITH A BIG OXEN?

>> THAT'S ONE OF THE CHALLENGES. THERE WERE SOME THAT DIDN'T THINK THEY COULD HANDLE AN ANIMAL THAT SIZE.

>> HOW --

>> I'M NOT SURE, HONESTLY, WHICH, OF THOSE, WOULD BE ABLE TO HANDLE THAT.

>> THIS IS INTERESTING BECAUSE THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME, AND THAT THE SLAUGHTERHOUSES, THE REASONS THAT THEY -- THE COLLEGE SAID THEY WEREN'T ABLE TO MOVE FORWARD WAS BECAUSE THE SLAUGHTERHOUSES SAID THEY WERE CONCERNED ABOUT ANIMAL RIGHTS PROTESTORS GETTING INVOLVED IN SOMETHING THEY DO EVERY DAY. HAVE YOU TALKED WITH THE SLAUGHTERHOUSES ABOUT THAT CONCERN? I WOULD THINK THERE WOULD BE AN EVERPRESENT CONCERN.

>> THAT'S WHAT'S INTERESTING IS THEY HAVE NOT HAD A LOT OF CONCERNS AROUND THIS LATELY. THAT IF YOU HARKEN BACK, THERE WAS AN INCIDENT IN A SLAUGHTER FACILITY A FEW YEARS AGO THAT RAISED A LOT OF CONCERNS BECAUSE OF THE HANDLING OF ANIMALS IN THE SLAUGHTER FACILITY, AND THAT IS PART OF THE IMPETUS WITH WHICH WE WENT FORWARD AND GOT HUMANE HANDLING PLANS IN PLACE.

>> THE BUSH WAY --

>> YES, THE BUSH WAY FACILITY.

>> WHICH WE SHOULD MAKE CLEAR IS NOT A FACILITY WE'RE SPEAKING OF NOW. BUT MOVING FORWARD.

>> AND SO WE HAVE WORKED HARD TO GET OUR FACILITIES IN A PLACE WHERE THEY HAVE THESE PLANS IN PLACE, THEY CAN HANDLE THE ANIMALS APPROPRIATELY, AND HUMANELY, IN KEEPING WITH WHAT IS THE -- THE PERSON WHO SETS THE STANDARD, THAT'S TEMPLE GRANDIN AND HER STUDENT, ERICA VOGUE, WHO HAS CONSULTED WITH OUR AGENCY AND FACILITIES IN THE STATE.

>> WE'VE TALKED ABOUT THE STRUGGLES OF DAIRY FARMERS, BUT WHEN YOU LOOK FORWARD, YOU SIGNED ON FOR A FEW MORE YEARS WITH THE ADMINISTRATION AFTER SERVING YOUR FIRST TWO YEARS, WHAT DO YOU SEE IS THE GREATEST SPOT IN VERMONT FARMING RIGHT NOW?

>> THE BRIGHTEST SPOT IS THE LEVEL OF ENERGY AND EXCITEMENT THAT PEOPLE ARE BRINGING TO THE WHOLE INDUSTRY AND PROXIMITY TO A MARKETPLACE THAT IS THE BIGGEST ONE IN THE UNITED STATES.

>> YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT THE BUY LOCAL?

>> IT'S REALLY TWO, IF YOU WANT TO BREAK IT DOWN INTO TWO COMPONENTS. THERE'S A SIGNIFICANT BUY LOCAL EFFORT THAT'S HAPPENING IN VERMONT. AND THERE ARE GROWING JOBS IN VERMONT. AND THAT'S FANNING UP AND HELPING PRODUCERS. LARGE AND SMALL, GROW. AND AS THEY'RE GROWING, THEY'RE ALSO FINDING THERE'S AN OPPORTUNITY TO EXPORT FOOD PRODUCTS OUTSIDE THE STATE OF VERMONT TO THAT -- TO BOSTON, WASHINGTON, THE BROADER METROPOLITAN COMPLEX. WHERE VERMONT'S BRAND, OUR REPUTATION FOR QUALITY IS GREAT. AND WHAT WE'RE DISCOVERING IS THAT CUSTOMERS IN THIS MARKETPLACE WANT TO KNOW FOUR THINGS. THEY WANT TO KNOW WHAT THEY'RE BUYING, HOW IT'S PRODUCED, WHO DOES THE PRODUCING, WHERE IT COMES FROM. AND WE, VERMONT FARMERS, AND VALUE-ADDED PRODUCERS, COMPETE VERY, VERY WELL WHEN WE'RE ASKED ABOUT THOSE QUESTIONS. AND WE'RE KNOWN NOT ONLY -- IS OUR PRODUCT KNOWN, MANY TIMES OUR FARMERS ARE KNOWN BY THE ACTUAL CONSUMERS. AND WE DO VERY WELL. AND THAT'S VERY EXCITING. AND WE'RE SEEING THAT MARKETPLACE DRIVE OUR AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRY IN THE STATE OF VERMONT. AND AN INTERESTING POINT IN FACT, BETWEEN MARCH 2010 AND MARCH 2011, WE SAW CLOSE TO 500, 470 JOBS IN THE FOOD SYSTEMS ARENA COME ON. NEW JOBS IN THE STATE OF VERMONT.

>> YOU WERE MENTIONING THE EXPANSION OF THIS LOCAL FOODS MOVEMENT, AND IN FACT, RIGHT NOW THE AGENCY IS WORKING WITH A MAJOR FOOD DISTRIBUTOR, SEDEXO. TELL US WHERE THOSE TALKS ARE AT THIS POINT AND WHAT IT COULD ULTIMATELY MEAN FOR FARMERS.

>> IT WAS VERY EXCITING, JUST THIS LAST WEEK, WE HAD A MEETING THAT INCLUDED SEDEXO THAT REPRESENTED A NUMBER OF MONTHS OF CONVERSATION WITH SEDEXO, WHICH IS A COMPANY BASED IN FRANCE, THEY PRODUCE 30,000 MEALS A DAY IN THE STATE OF VERMONT, AND WE'VE BEEN TALKING TO THEM ABOUT HOW THEY COULD SOURCE MORE OF THEIR PRODUCT FROM VERMONT AND WE HAD A MEETING LAST WEEK AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT WITH SMALL PRODUCERS ALL THE WAY THROUGH OUR DISTRIBUTORS LIKE BLACK RIVER PRODUCE, AND TRYING TO FIGURE OUT AND LEARN HOW AND EDUCATE OUR PRODUCERS AND DISTRIBUTORS HOW TO SOURCE TO SEDEXO AND HOW SEDEXO CAN SOURCE TO VERMONT PRODUCERS. THAT'S THE KIND OF DEMAND THAT GROWS A BUSINESS. THAT'S THE KIND OF DEMAND THAT IS REPRESENTED BY THAT BOSTON AND D.C. MARKETPLACE, AND WHEN WE HAVE A SEDEXO THAT'S GOT A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF FACILITIES IN VERMONT, TO PRODUCE 34,000 MEALS A DAY, THAT CAN MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE, THAT WE CAN HAVE VERMONTERS SUPPLY AN INCREASING PERCENTAGE OF THEIR FOOD.

>> WE HAVE A COUPLE OF MINUTES LEFT BUT I WANT TO GET TO SOMETHING IN REGARD TO THE CONTAMINATED COMPOST THAT WE HEARD SO MUCH ABOUT. ABOUT 500 VERMONTERS AFFECTED BY THIS COMPOST AT GREEN MOUNTAIN COMPOST, MANAGED BY CSWD. IN THAT PROCESS, HOW MUCH HAS BEEN REFUNDED?

>> YOU'D HAVE TO ASK CSWD HOW MUCH THEY'VE REFUNDED. I WANT TO COMMEND THEM. THEY WERE OUTSTANDING FROM THE GET GO, THEY WERE OPEN, HONEST, THEY WERE TRYING TO EXPLAIN AND UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS HAPPENING, AND THEY WENT OUT AND INITIATED CONVERSATIONS WITH CUSTOMERS. AND THEY ARE TO BE TOTALLY COMMENDED FROM THAT PERSPECTIVE. IT WAS A REAL MODEL ON HOW TO TAKE OWNERSHIP OF A PROBLEM THAT THEY DIDN'T CREATE ON THEIR OWN. WHERE WE'RE AT ON THIS IS IT CERTAINLY APPEARS THAT WE HAVE SOME PERSISTENT HERBICIDES THAT ARE IN OUR COMPOST, AND THAT'S NOT UNIQUE TO VERMONT. AND THE QUESTION APPEARS TO BE HOW DO YOU MANAGE THE CREATION OF THE COMPOST IN THE WAY THAT YOU ENHANCE THE BREAKDOWN, BECAUSE WHAT WE'VE SEEN IS THERE ARE DIFFERENT COMPOST STREAMS HAVE DIFFERENT REACTIONS. AND WHAT I'M ASKING THE COMPOST COMMUNITY TO DO IS TO TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT IS THE BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICE OF CREATING COMPOST, SO THE HERBICIDES WILL BE BROKEN DOWN AND ANYONE EFFECTIVE IN TERMS OF CAUSING A PROBLEM AND THAT'S A CONVERSATION THAT'S UNDERWAY AND WE'RE TRYING TO FIGURE THAT OUT. IT'S NOT AS SIMPLE AS OH, WE'RE JUST GOING TO CHANGE THE RECIPE, BECAUSE WE NEED TO BETTER UNDERSTAND WHAT HAPPENED IN THE VARIOUS RECIPES THAT ENABLED SOME COMPOST TO BE NOT A PROBLEM WHATSOEVER.

>> DO WE NEED MORE REGULATION?

>> I DON'T THINK WE NEED MORE REGULATIONS. I THINK WE NEED MORE COLLABORATION AND MORE INVESTIGATION AND FIGURING OUT WHAT WOULD BE THAT BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICE. THE HERBICIDES ARE PREVALENT, THEY COME FROM OUT OF STATE, AND SOME MAY HAVE COME FROM IN-STATE AS WELL, BUT IT'S NOT A REGULAR REGULATORY BREACH THAT HAPPENED HERE.

>> AGRICULTURAL SECRETARY CHUCK ROSS, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US, EVERYONE, TAKE CARE.

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