Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) Friday announced a $278,631 federal grant under the new Farm Bill to support specialty crops in Vermont. The grant will support maple producers, organic specialty crop farmers and herb growers among others and is a 33 percent increase in investment in specialty crops in Vermont from the previous year.
In a joint statement, Leahy, Sanders and Welch said: "This investment will leverage a wide range of improvements that will give Vermont farmers access to new resources and tools to promote their products, to learn to implement important new food safety standards, and to upgrade improved farming practices. Vermont's ability to produce a wide diversity of crops, including many fruits and vegetables, is a valued asset of our economy and an economic engine for many Vermont communities. Support for these specialty crop producers helps to bring more local and healthy foods to market."
The grant was released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as part of $118 million Specialty Crop Block Grant investment nationwide. The funds are a direct result of the 2014 Farm Bill's significant investment in locally grown food and will support nine projects across Vermont. These projects include support for maple producers, organic specialty crop farmers, herb growers, increased traceability for specialty crops, and education for food safety training. Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, pushed for strong Farm Bill provisions for farmers of specialty crops, which were also strongly supported by Sanders and Welch.
The 2014 Farm Bill increased the mandatory funding for Specialty Crop Block Grants, which are administered by state departments of agriculture and serves a wide variety of goals and interests. The increased investment in the 2014 Farm Bill is part of its commitment to strengthening the specialty crop industry.
This is the latest in a series of grants released to Vermont and Vermont farmers as the new 2014 Farm Bill is being implemented. Recent announcements have topped $4.4 million to Vermont, not including other Farm Bill features such as a new insurance plan to protect dairy farmers.