Got milk? These folks do, and plenty of praise. State leaders say the Green Mountain State's dairy industry is the cream of the crop.
"The best dairy farm state in America," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont. "There's no question about that."
Vermont farmers at the Vermont Dairy Industry Association's Dairy Farmer's Appreciation Banquet Thursday say the event is a great way to celebrate what they do.
"I think it's a great idea; it gets us all together to talk about issues and gives us hope for a great year," said David Silloway, a dairy farmer.
But industry leaders say there are still challenges, like smaller farmers being able to grow and get the resources they need. The Dairy Vision Vermont program is currently accepting applications for its 2014 program which will select six farms and provide graduate-level service to strengthen their dairy farming, like planning expansion projects.
"It is about bringing in-state and out-of-state expertise to the farm to rise to the next level," said Diane Bothfeld, Vermont's deputy secretary of agriculture.
Regulations are also at issue.
"Farmers have said, we are doing a good job and we are really doing things well and it's very frustrating to us that you're picking on us, when my neighbor down the road is the one who has a major water quality problem," said Marli Rupe of the Vermont Watershed Management Division.
Despite challenges, economists say international interest in Vermont's dairy products will only move the industry forward.
"We probably will have some of the highest prices farmers will ever get during this winter and it all has to do with international demand," said Bob Wellington, an economist with Agri-Mark.
Vermont farmers say the state's future looks strong-- like it's past.
"Dairy, you know, for the last 80 years has been the backbone of our agricultural industry in Vermont," said Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden County.
"The great results of the new farm bill-- we are on track for another five years to support Vermont-sized farms," Silloway said.
Shumlin also praised Vermont for selling 600 million more pounds of dairy than four decades ago.
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