Dairy farmers concerned about future

02/19/09 7:04AM By John Dillon

(Host) About 300 farmers and their supporters packed the House chamber this week to testify about the future of farming in Vermont.

Many had a simple message. They said small, diversified farms are the future. And they argued that the state needs to help farmers sell directly to consumers.

David Hartshorn raises vegetables in the Mad River Valley.

(Hartshorn) Farmers and farms are now increasing in Vermont and there exists the possibility that Vermont may be the only state that can feed itself. There are small family farms, right now, here that are showing the way. Husbands, wives, sons, daughters all with a history of ingenuity, sustainability and self-reliance.

(Host) The legislature also heard from several dairy farmers who said their future is threatened by falling milk prices.

Ralph McNall has a dairy farm in Fairfax.

(McNall) ``The last few weeks have been devastating to us, right down brutal. However, we plan to survive this somehow. The state of Vermont has been kind and generous to us in the past. We aren't coming to the state to ask for money. I have different request for you people, which is to contact our respective people from the state of Vermont in Congress to ask for immediate help. This is an emergency request as farm milk prices have dropped 50 percent in the last few weeks.''

(Host) Farmers also urged lawmakers to ease state regulations. Some farmers want to be able to sell raw milk or other dairy products from their farm. They said rules designed for agribusiness are too burdensome and too expensive to follow.

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