Feds promise relief is on the way for organic dairy farms

Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 4:58 PM EST
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WHITINGHAM, Vt. (WCAX) - Federal relief is on the way for the region’s organic dairy farmers, an industry that has struggled to make ends meet recently. About 17 organic dairy farms in Vermont went out of business last year. But officials say relief is on the way.

“The last three years have been quite challenging,” said Leon Corse, an organic farmer.

Corse and his family have farmed their land in Whitingham for more than 150 years. They say switching to organic was a good move, but rising inflation has put their future in jeopardy.

“The organic pay price has remained stable or gone down slightly and our costs have gone up extensively,” Corse said.

“The cost of feed, the cost of fuel, the cost of supplies,” Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts listed off.

Tebbetts says the hard times have a ripple effect.

“They are no longer seeking veterinarian services, they are no longer buying supplies, and who knows where that land ends up,” he said.

Friday, USDA Undersecretary Jenny Moffitt toured the Corse Farm, thanks to an invite from Sen. Peter Welch, and she brought some good news: $100 million in emergency relief to small and medium-sized organic dairy farmers. Moffitt says it’s part of the Biden administration’s philosophy to build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out.

“That we are building local and regional markets, that we are building thriving rural economies,” Moffitt said.

She also says there will be added focus on strengthening enforcement of the organic seal, making sure larger producers and those overseas are playing by the same rules as small organic farms like this one.

“Of course making sure that farmers have the opportunity to stay on the land if they choose to,” Moffitt said.

“You can’t compete with someone who isn’t upholding the same rules as you are,” Corse said.

As for the $100 million in relief, exactly how that will be distributed is still being decided. However, officials at this farm say it cannot come soon enough.