Dairy Industry

Kathleen Masterson / VPR

Protesters with Migrant Justice confronted Ben & Jerry's board members outside the South Burlington office Tuesday morning, aiming to pressure the company to wrap up negotiations on an agreement that would outline minimum wages and labor conditions for dairy workers.

Bob Kinzel / VPR

Gov. Phil Scott says the Legislature needs to act soon to blunt the impact of a new Trump Administration policy on immigration.

Cows on the Orr family's dairy farm, in Orwell, are pictured in this 2015 file photo. Anson Tebbetts, Vermont's agriculture secretary, spoke to VPR recently about Vermont's dairy industry and about challenges faced by the state's farmers.
Kathleen Masterson / VPR file

A Burlington-based company working on climate change solutions has won a federal grant to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Vermont farms. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is buying 11 million pounds of surplus cheese in an effort to feed the hungry and bolster milk prices paid to farmers.

The latest version of the federal Farm Bill created an insurance program for dairy farmers that takes milk prices and prevailing feed costs into account.

About 500 of the state's 874 registered dairy farms have enrolled in a new price protection program as of Friday afternoon. Federal and state officials are urging the remainder to take advantage of an extended deadline to sign up.

Val Dalcini, administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency, says high milk prices have probably kept some farmers from enrolling. But Dalcini says the program offers a relatively inexpensive way to protect farm income if milk prices head down.

Ric Cengeri / VPR

The latest iteration of the Farm Bill created an insurance program for dairy farmers that takes milk prices and the prevailing feed costs into account. And the deadline to sign up for the insurance is just a few weeks away.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

Next time you pour a nice cold glass of milk, you could have a robot to thank. That's because automated milking machines are showing up at more and more dairy farms in Vermont and New Hampshire.

The technology is cutting down on labor costs, increasing yield and teaching farmers more about the health and productivity of their herds.

Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

On a table in the front room of the milking barn here at Nordic Farms in Charlotte, you can hear the murky liquids bubbling inside a series of foot-tall Erlenmeyer flasks.

The scene seems more like a 1970s-era chemistry set than a cutting edge research facility. And in fact the set-up here is mostly for show – a larger version of the experiment is being run out of a high-tech laboratory in Burlington.

Ric Cengeri / VPR

Dairy farming is hard work. Understanding how milk prices are calculated isn’t much easier.

You have to take into consideration things like the cost of cheese, yogurt, nonfat dry milk and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Then run numbers through a formula that looks like this: Milk Price = (price of product) – (make allowance) / yield.

It’s been more than a year since the previous Farm Bill expired and the outlook for a new bill is now very uncertain.

House Republican leaders were hoping that at least 50 Democrats would support the bill, but in the end, only 24 did largely because the legislation cut the Food Stamp program by $20 billion.

GOP leaders also overestimated how many Republicans would support the bill. In the final vote, 62 Republicans opposed it primarily because they felt the bill was too expensive.

Congress has been unable to agree on the provisions of a new Farm Bill for more than a year.

The Farm Bill, which has passed the Senate and will be taken up by the House of Representatives this month, reduces federal spending on agriculture by $23 billion over the next five years by goal by eliminating most commodity subsidy programs and cutting the Food Stamp program by $4 billion.

Senator Patrick Leahy says the bill includes an important new pricing system for dairy farmers.

VPR/Kirk Carapezza

At the Statehouse this week, some Vermont farm owners are raising public safety and liability concerns about a bill that would grant driver identification cards to Vermont residents who are in this country illegally.

It’s the latest effort to stall the legislation, which easily cleared the Senate earlier this month. But migrant workers and their advocates say some of the farmers’ arguments and allegations sound offensive and discriminatory.