Eighty percent of Vermont farmers reporting crop damage

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(Host) Tomorrow farmers, state officials and dairy industry representatives will convene an emergency meeting in Montpelier to try to help farmers.

Farmers have been struggling with bad weather, low milk prices and increasing fuel costs.

Speaking today on VPR’s “Vermont Edition”, Bob Parsons of the UVM extension service said 80 percent of the farmers are reporting severe crop damage after weeks of rain.

(Parsons) “A lot of the farms are really facing, if they don’t have some kind of cash payment coming in, I don’t think how they can survive. That is almost the blunt truth for a lot of them.”

(Host) This week the federal government declared an agriculture emergency because of the heavy rains.

The declaration means Vermont farmers will be eligible for low interest loans. Woodstock dairy farmer Paul Doten says the loans won’t help many farmers.

(Doten) “If you don’t have enough money to pay the current loans you have, it’s certainly not going to work to take out more loans, even if they are low interest loans.”

(Host) Doten says at current milk prices, farmers are being paid less than it costs to produce milk. He says farmers need immediate relief in the form of bigger milk checks, but they also need long term solutions.

He wants to see a regional approach to increasing milk prices because 95% of the milk produced in Vermont is shipped out of state.

Vermont’s organic farmers receive considerably more for their milk than other farmers. Willie Gibson of the Northeast Organic Farmers Association says that’s largely because demand is outstripping supply.

(Gibson) “The market continues to increase, around twenty percent on an annual basis and our supply is so far behind that it’s going to take a lot of milk to meet that.”

(Host) Gibson says this year the number of certified organic dairy farms in Vermont is expected to grow by more than thirty percent.

The dairy meeting will begin tomorrow morning at 10 at the State House in Montpelier.

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