It looks as though today will be the last day of the 2011 legislative session. Everyone in the building is exhausted, and ready to go home. But the successes of this session are many, and I feel most grateful to have had the privilege of bearing witness to them. I have spent countless hours in the Senate and House Agriculture committee rooms, hours more conversing with lawmakers, and hours still observing the floor. Each and every hour has been worth it. I would like to take this blog to wrap up the various legislation we have been tracking, and let you readers know the status of things. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Vermont legislature, and the town of Montpelier for the edification they have provided me this semester. This summer, I will be working as an agricultural liaison intern to the Governor of Vermont- a job I never would have gotten without the help of others. Thank you!
Raw Milk Cheese Classes
Our long labored-over, S.105 passed the Senate on Monday. After extensive testimony in the House and Senate Ag committees, following initial negotiations between the Agency of Agriculture and Rural Vermont, it was determined that the language we agreed upon with the Agency should be removed. Instead, regarding raw milk processing classes, the House asked the Agency to simply interpret the statute differently, rather than to include language in the Misc. Agriculture Bill (S.105.) This news was well-taken by Rural Vermont, although it did make us feel that we had wasted some time. S.105 did, however, include language that clarified the definition of raw milk, which should prove helpful to farmers. For now, we can put the raw milk classes issue to bed, and our organization can resume instruction!
The Plum Creek language for retroactive exemption and further tax breaks, was also abandoned. This was at the request of leadership and I am very pleased to see that we are not codling these environmental criminals in our state.
The Jobs Bill
The jobs bill (H.287) is still in conference committee and it is unclear how much of the language pertaining to improving agricultural infrastructure will remain upon passage. We are continuing to watch H.287. H.287 also included the econometric model, which at the request of BGS, will likely be removed (much to my, and that of Senator Pollina's chagrin.) From what I now understand, much of the agricultural language is being shifted into the Budget bill to ensure its passage. Either way, the language will promote agriculture within the state and is surely a step in the right direction.
Seed- Saving Resolution (Representative French)
At the caucus on Monday, Representative French introduced a resolution that would protect the right of Vermonters to save their seeds. This resolution was signed on to by many, and when it came to the floor was directed to House Agriculture. There it will sit until January 2012, and I hope that Rural Vermont campaigns to promote its passage. This resolution is a perfect building block for bigger, broader legislation regarding seed politics, and I look forward to further developments in its wake.
Well, we never did get Baruth (or anyone else for that matter) to present our on-farm slaughter resolution. We know that this legislation needs Agency support to move forward, and it is my hope that Rural Vermont will meet directly with the Agency to negotiate the issue. Several Representatives have also displayed interest in getting involved with on-farm slaughter resolutions or bills, which presents yet another opportunity to make this much-needed change here in Vermont.
It seems that my blogging days have almost come to a close. This semester has been invaluable. I have witnessed the shift in leadership- from Douglas to Shumlin, and the difference that has made. I have seen the monumental health care bill pass the House, Senate and conference committee. I have had the privilege of sitting in on countless committee meetings, hearing testimony from tens of people from around the state, working directly with the Agency and discussing a wide-array of topics within agriculture. I have gotten to know some of our lawmakers, and they have been generous with their advice, and their time. Each day at work this session was a good day at work (even when we got bad news.)
In Vermont, we are lucky to have agriculture protected and encouraged by our Senators and Representatives, but it is our job to push for the positive changes we want. Our working landscape is one of our greatest assets in the state, and working to protect it means promoting the livelihood of small farmers. I am honored to have been a part of the Rural Vermont staff and could not overstate my appreciation of my supervisor, Jared Carter. Finally, I want to thank you to my blog readers.
I leave you with this quote that is posted on the wall in the House Agriculture Committee Room:
There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth
The first is war. This is robbery.
The second is by commerce, which is generally cheating.
The third is by agriculture, the only honest way.