US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vermont) announced today that USDA will be allotting $80 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to support innovation in the dairy industry.
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Each of the four Dairy Business Innovation Centers, including the Northeast Center, located at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Farms and Markets, will be able to draw on the newly available $80 million to access up to $20 million.

This funding is in addition to $18.4 million announced last fall which provided each of the three original centers, in Vermont, Tennessee and Wisconsin, with annual budgets of $6 million. The three original centers were also funded at $6 million each in 2020.

Leahy said: “This additional funding for the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center couldn’t arrive a better time, as organic farmers across the region, including here in Vermont, face the loss of a key market later this year. Farmers, processors, haulers and others in the dairy industry have good ideas about how to address the challenges the industry is facing in New England and the Northeast. This funding will make it possible to put some of those ideas into practice.

“Recently, I visited lu·ּlu, an ice cream shop in Vergennes, which has received two NE-DBIC grants to improve its marketing and create new products using goat milk. This is exactly the kind of innovation we need in dairy businesses of all sizes across the region in order to make sure consumers throughout New England have access to healthy milk and milk products from Vermont.”

Welch said: “This new funding for the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center is timely and critical to help strengthen the dairy industry here in Vermont and across the Northeast. These last two years have been challenging for all of us, but especially for Vermont’s dairy farmers. Organic farms are getting left behind by a major buyer and all producers continue to face significant economic challenges. There’s more work to be done to support dairy in Vermont, but this additional funding will help develop innovative strategies, expand markets, and build a resilient future for our region’s dairy industry.”

Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts said: “This investment is great news for Vermont’s dairy farmers and our rural economy. Our dairy farmers are facing incredible financial pressures but are resilient and these resources will help them navigate the future. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets is grateful for the leadership of Senators Leahy, Sanders and Congressman Welch who responded swiftly to the recommendations by a farmer focused task force. We look forward to working with farmers and all the dairy partners as this plan is developed.”

The dairy business overall has long been challenged by an imbalance between supply and demand that created instability for both farmers and processors, a situation which has been acerbated by the pandemic. Last year, Danone, owner of Horizon Organic, announced it will no longer be purchasing organic milk from 89 farms in the Northeast. NE-DBIC has led an effort to examine and identify options for that milk and ways to strengthen the dairy industry overall.

This funding will allow the industry in Vermont, the Northeast and nationally to make innovative changes in the areas of production, product development and marketing.

The marketers are at it again, breathlessly promoting “innovation” as a storm of startups gather, each hoping to cash out their venture capital before their business models crash and burn.

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