Inflation, Ukraine partly to blame for dozens of dairy farms closing this year

As of August, 22 Vermont dairy farms had closed this year

VT Agency of Agriculture & Food Markets photo

By Dave Fidlin | The Center Square contributor

A Vermont legislative task force focusing on the state’s dairy industry capped off the calendar year with a list of recommendations that will be taken up in 2023 by the General Assembly.

The Task Force to Revitalize the Vermont Dairy Industry proposed a series of recommendations, which will be sent by way of a report to the state Senate Agriculture Committee in January before potentially advancing to other channels in state government.

The recommendations come at a time when Vermont’s dairy industry has been reeling in the face of outside pressures, which were exacerbated this past year as the cost of fertilizer skyrocketed amid inflation and the war in Ukraine.

Final numbers are still pending, but dozens of dairy farms within Vermont have closed in 2022. At the time of the task force’s first meeting in late August, the number was pegged at 22 operations.

Many of the proposed changes focus on the Vermont Milk Commission, an entity within the state’s Department of Agriculture.

The task force has recommended a series of tweaks aimed at giving the commission more flexibility in adjusting pricing mechanisms within Vermont to bring balance to dairy farmers and consumers alike.

During deliberations of the proposed changes, Michael O’Grady, deputy chief counsel with the Vermont Office of Legislative Counsel, discussed the state’s minimum producer price regulation.

“It’s discretionary for the commission,” O’Grady said of language in the list of recommendations. “What is being changed is guidelines for setting the price. It’s not just about production, it’s about processing and manufacture of dairy products as well.”

The Vermont Milk Commission is a long-established entity within state government, though there are efforts to provide it with more tools to respond to pressures facing the state’s dairy industry.

The commission, for instance, could have the ability to hire people to address a range of issues as they arise – a proposal that raised logistical questions about oversight of the task at the recent meeting.

“There’s options,” O’Grady said. “The agency can use its own staff, which is currently authorized. If they want to contract for outside services, they can. The General Assembly can appropriate money for that.”

While the task force’s work has wrapped, state Sen. Robert Starr, who serves as co-chair, said the process of implementing changes to help the state’s struggling dairy industry has actually just been formalized.

“I think it’s very important that we remember that what we’re doing is proposed legislation that we would be moving forward with,” Starr, D-Essex, said. “The meetings and the hearings and getting the people in – once the Ag Committee goes over this – will start all over again.”

Speaking to the next steps, Starr said, “We’ll be taking testimony. I feel that we’ve done a pretty good job of getting the legal aspects of this.”

Categories: Agriculture

15 replies »

  1. Perhaps if our government would stop giving armaments and billions of $$$ to Ukraine in order to escalate the conflict with Russia, we could use those $$$ in VT and other agricultural areas to help the farmers. The politicians are throwing our money into a lost cause.

    • If you check your history in 2008 Obama (still a senator at this point) and McCain lobbied the house to give Ukraine $48,000,000 if they destroyed all their armament and ammo. Yes tax payer money ($48,000,000) was given to Ukraine after they made themselves vulnerable. Now we want to engage Russia by giving Ukraine Patriot Missiles.

  2. Take a look in the weeds…… grandfather closed his dairy farm due to State regulations, guessing Vt. has some high hurdles to leap for dairy farmers.

    • Agricultural practices used to be off limits to most of Vermont’s regulatory punishment and farmers used to be respected by the VT legislature. They are no longer “sacred cows” with the majority of those of marxist hypocrites. If you look in the parking lot of the statehouse when they are in session you will still no doubt see plenty of “no farms, no food” bumper stickers though.

  3. Don’t blame the war in Ukraine. Sadly, the decline of Vermont dairy farms comes largely as a result in a lower demand for milk products as many people, myself NOT included, have moved away from dairy over the past few years, especially younger people.

    As unfortunate as it is, this decline is being accelerated by wider market forces in the greater economy including the increased growth of corporate farming. I think farmers are among the hardest working people there are but times change. This trend was accelerating long before the war in Ukraine if it ended tomorrow it would not make any difference. One more example of mis placed blame.

  4. The appropriate word here is obfuscation. Blame the problem on something most readers do not understand, something out of government control. Then they can justify their future stupid actions such as the Not-so Clean Heat Whatever.

  5. Let me fix that headline for you….

    Vermont, US Energy and Economic policies wreak economic havoc on Vermont Farms- Force Bankruptcy for Family Farms

  6. Rather than blaming the war in Ukraine and inflation, I would suggest the root of the problem can be found in the following “commission”, “agency”, “outside services”, “Legislative Counsel”, “task force”, “taking testimony”‘ etc. A bunch of talking heads creating problems rather than farmers trying to solve them.

  7. I guess the author failed to clearly articulate that Ukraine is one of the worlds largest producers of urea, the source of nitrogen in commercial fertilizer which is used to grow dairy feed. The shortage of urea caused an insurmountable spike in fertilizer cost for many farmers. No fertilizer, no feed, and no feed, no milk, regardless of markets.
    But the headline did state that Ukraine was only part of, not the entire reason.

    • Sounds pretty good, but if your hypothesis were true, how did VT dairy farms survive before imported urea? Seems to me they were OK for a couple hundred years. So there’s a big hole in your argument.

      Fact is, VT dairy farms have been closing steadily for at least 80 years now. Why? In no particular order, Big Ag, state and federal red tape, and the next generation not willing to do the work involved or take on the cost.

      As someone mentioned above, and I agree 100%, if we stopped sending Ukraine all this money and put it to work here, we’d be far better off.

      Truth is, Ukraine is simply a money-laundering operation. Ever see an accounting of where those billions actually go? No, me neither, but I bet a sizable chunk ends up in Democrat coffers. And then there’s the matter of the ~40 US-funded biolabs in Ukraine. They simply can’t let the truth about that get out. Whatever you might think of Putin, I’m glad he brought this issue to the forefront and I hope he cleans it all out. Ukraine is a cesspool and a dumpster fire.

      And just to be clear, I have no problem with the Ukrainian people.They’re caught in the middle and trying to survive just like we are. And to remind everyone, had we not fomented a revolution there in 2014, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in today.



  10. It all started with the Northeast Dairy Compact. From there, New England dairy farms were forced into an unfair, unbalanced disadvantage against their counter-parts in Wisconsin, Minnesota and California. If a New England farm didn’t sell out to HP Hood aka Agri-mart or some other corporate goon, they had no choice but to fold. Developers entered into the picture to buy up acres for development – just as the energy goons are doing now with their solar fields. Remember what Williston looked like before Taft Corners was developed? More lies and deception – decades down the road they did nothing to change the course. They are certainly not going to do anything now except lie some more.

  11. Wake Up , and Thank Brandon for This . The Price of Fuel is all on Biden . Not Ukraine . The Inflation is all on Biden . that’s what is Driving Farmers Out . Bunch of Clucking Hens in the Legislaure do not have one Complete Brain between all of them

  12. looks like almost all the commenters know that goverment is the biggest threat to national security and brandon is just a little above the average dc grifter

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