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Vermont farmers to see relief in governor’s recovery plan

Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 8:04 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - From water and sewer improvements to broadband expansion, Gov. Phil Scott’s plan to spend American Recovery Plan funding would reach a large population of Vermonters in one way or another. More than 150 small towns and villages in Vermont lack sewer systems and community water infrastructure. Addressing this could give agriculture, and more specifically meat processing, increased capacity to not only benefit farmers but Vermont’s economy.

“That ranges from folks that have one or two animals that they raise a year, to folks that have as many as 100 a year,” said Carl Cushing with Vermont Livestock Slaughter & Processing in Ferrisburgh. Cushing says it’s not a question of how many animals could be supplied to them, but how many they can handle. “They are able to raise more animals and the bottleneck is we aren’t able to kill as many as they need.” Cushing says they hold up both facility capacity and wastewater management at their site. They already have plans to upgrade their facility on their own dime, but the funds from the governor’s proposal for American Rescue Plan dollars could handle wastewater management upgrades.

“There are water sewer improvements, there is broadband, there is economic development grants, all of those would grow agriculture and advance it,” said Vt. Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts. He says the need to bolster infrastructure is nothing new, but the need has grown as agriculture has grown, and now there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet it head-on. “But until we really focus on the infrastructure, sort of these big-ticket items, it’s really hard to grow the economy in Vermont.”

Projects like those envisioned at Vermont Livestock Slaughter & Processing are prime examples of how to do it. “By upgrading the wastewater system, we will more than double our capacity in the amount of animals we will be able to do,” said Cushing.

That puts more meat on families’ tables, and Tebbetts says it’s literally a ground-up approach to take care of needed infrastructure. “You have to fix the base. Infrastructure is really important and some of these projects are really expensive,” he said. They could range in help to dairy, meat, and crops, and all lead to the expansion of Vermont’s economy, Tebbetts says. “If we don’t address these core basic foundation issues, it’s really hard to grow businesses. Vermont values the environment tremendously, so we have to keep our eye on that, so these investments into wastewater, infrastructure, sewer -- whether it’s agriculture or generally -- is critical to the survival of a lot of these businesses.”

That infrastructure spending could also have a major impact on clean water and other state environmental initiatives. Tebbetts says a critical piece of this plan is the money does not have to be spent right away, so it allows for more planning time.

Governor Scott’s plan is still pending Vermont legislative approval.

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