Vermont Farm Show kicks off in Essex Jct. - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermont Farm Show kicks off in Essex Jct.

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Thousands will walk the aisles of the Champlain Valley Exposition this week, where Vermont's agricultural industry is on display.

But at this year's Vermont Farm Show, all eyes are on Washington, D.C. Legislators there are set to vote yes on a bipartisan farm bill by next week.

"It's a relief. It's not everything we wanted, but it's a lot better than what we had," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

As currently drafted, the measure bears a $950 billion price tag over the next 10 years. Most of that will be spent on food stamps, but $8 billion less than the previous version, which expired in 2012. It does not contain a guaranteed minimum price for milk, but does offer insurance to farmers for low prices.

"It's going to make a big difference for us," said Eric Clifford of Clifford Farm LLC.

Clifford runs a dairy with more than 200 cows and is president of the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition. He says a bill will provide more stability than the temporary measures used since the old bill's expiration.

"The uncertainty is just driving us crazy," Clifford said. "We can't make plans, we don't really know what we're supposed to be doing, so the fact that we just have a farm bill is huge."

Vermont Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross says dairy farmers aren't the only winners. Fruit and veggie farmers will also have new insurance options and will be reimbursed at organic prices if poor weather spoils production.

The bill would provide environmental conservation dollars as well, to mitigate farming's negative impacts on water quality.

"If this version of the farm bill as I understand it today passes, it will be good for Vermont," Ross said.

Ross still hopes Vermont's congressional delegation can secure more safety nets for Vermont's dairy farmers, but says the milk market forecast is favorable.

The Farm Show runs through Thursday. Admission and parking are free, but if you bring a canned good to donate to the food shelf you can drop the donation off at the front door. Click here for more information on the Vermont Farm Show.

Click here for the list of 2014 Farm Show winners.

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