Douglas announces agreement on emergency dairy subsidy

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(Host) Legislative leaders and the Douglas Administration have announced an agreement concerning a short term emergency subsidy program for dairy farmers throughout the state.

The two sides had been at odds over the need for the program and how to pay for it.

The House Agriculture committee had endorsed a bill to allocate nearly $4 million for the subsidies. The bill would have been financed by a small increase in the transfer tax for non-residential property. However Governor Jim Douglas opposed the tax increase.

The new agreement calls for $3.2 million to be appropriated from the state budget.

House Agriculture chairman David Zuckerman hopes the legislation will provide some relief for farmers, until a larger federal disaster relief bill can be passed in Washington.

It’s estimated that the average dairy farm could receive several thousand dollars from the legislation.

(Zuckerman) “This money is not going to make or break whether a farm is going to be profitable or not this year. But it is a very strong signal to the farmers that the state is behind our agriculture industry and we recognize the challenges that farmers are facing. And this is a short term step.”

(Host) Zuckerman says it’s critical for the Legislature to develop long term solutions for dairy farmers. The efforts could include new ways to market Vermont milk products.

(Zuckerman) “Farmers, if they got a fair price for their product, would not be in the dire straits that they are in today. Even with the bad weather, even with the increased prices, feed prices due to the Midwest ethanol production, if they got a fair price for their product they would not be in this situation today.”

(Host) Zuckerman is hoping the subsidy bill can be passed in the next week or two – he says that would allow the state to send out the first checks in March.

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