New help for organic farmers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New help for organic farmers

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With the sun setting beyond the hills, a party got underway at the Family Cow Farmstead in Hinesburg. The community tasted ice cream, cheese and several other items from local farms; most of the products were grown organically. An organic farming community that received a $13 million cash infusion Thursday. The money came from a provision in the 2014 farm bill that was added by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy.

The funds are designed to help farmers pay for their organic certification. It gives customers assurance that the products were raised 100 percent organically.

Hinesburg farmer Dave Zuckerman said, "So many farms have moved to organic that there has not been enough funding."

Farmers say becoming organically certified can be a long and pricey process. They will now get up to a $750 subsidy to help pay for that distinction.

Dave Zuckerman grows organically; he says the cash can go a long way for farmers on a tight budget.

"When you're a smaller farm, you're selling $20,000 to $30,000 worth of product and you've got a $400 certification fee but $300 of that gets reimbursed, that makes a big difference," Zuckerman said.

Organic farmers say they provide their customers with an alternative to artificially enhanced products. Andrea Stander, who works for Rural Vermont, a group that advocates for organic farmers, says, "What this is all about is giving both farmers and customers the opportunity and the ability to choose the food and choose the farming practices that meet their values."

But not all farmers feel the need to get certified. Kalyn Campbell says her customers trust that her products are organic even if she doesn't have the paper to prove it.

"I don't really feel that I need to be certified. My customers understand that I believe in organic and don't need to be certified," Campbell said.

She calls her milk, cheese and beef products semi-organic. Stander says more and more farmers are using Campbell's approach.

"In Vermont you'll see that a lot of farmers are saying things in their promotion like organically managed or using organic principles and that means they're doing every thing the organic farmers are doing but they haven't taken that step, that is very time consuming and can be expensive, to become certified," Andrea Stander explained.

Leahy says the subsidy will encourage more farmers to become certified. Zuckerman agrees that if farmers pay less for their certification, they can spend more on growing crops, taking more products to market, and driving down prices for consumers.

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