At Issue: Dairy Grants - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

At Issue: Dairy Grants

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The $384,000 of new dairy farm grants went to infrastructure improvements ranging from basic repairs to new buildings. And those farmers are now putting their new business plans to the test.

"Dairy farmers over this past 5-6 year period with the low dairy prices and a difficult economy have put off many infrastructure improvements needed on their farms," says Vermont Farm and Forest Viability Program Director Ela Chapin. "And so many dairy farms are at a place where they can start to reinvest in their farms."

But she says many are also still paying off bills from the down years. She says even with the record high milk prices we're seeing now, dairy farmers need grants to help them get hundreds of thousands of dollars in financing that they'll need for large projects like new barns and equipment.

The Sizen family got a grant of $40,000. With that, they're planning on building a new barn with robotic milkers, to replace the one they're using now. They say that's an investment that will help secure their farm's future.

"We've been talking about building a barn for about ten years. We've really gotten serious in the last year and half to pull it together," says Daren Sizen. "My wife and my son, this new project has just sent them both over the top with excitement about doing it."

Sizen says right now, he gets about 70-75 pounds of milk per cow each day. But by installing robotic milking machines, he will get about 10 pounds more from each because the machines work nearly around the clock. He says both the cows and the farmers will be more comfortable.

"It's going to be easier on us. We're all getting older, we're all getting more sore," he says. "To be able to not have to deal with the cows' milking, the repetitive stress of milking is hard on the body."

And once they have the machines to help with the work, Sizen also wants to add about 30 more cows to their herd. He's hoping their new barn will be ready for these cows to move in by the end of the year.

The funding for these grants comes largely from Commonwealth Dairy. Right now, only farms in the St. Albans Cooperative and the Dairy Farmer of America are eligible because Commonwealth Dairy buys milk from them. But Chapin says they are starting talks to see how they can expand the program to other farms.

There will also be another round of grants for farms this fall.


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