Members of the Working Lands Coalition launched their “5-by-3” campaign on Wednesday, February 13, 2013, at the Vermont State House. The day included an early morning presentation to the Rural Economic Development Working Group (REDWG), testimony in front of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and a press conference in the Cedar Creek Room. The campaign calls for a bold state investment in Vermont’s working lands enterprises. Coalition members encouraged the legislature and the administration to commit to $5,000,000/year for three years to bolster farm and forest product businesses through the Working Lands Enterprise Fund that was created last year through Act 142.
The morning presentation featured representatives from the Farm to Plate initiative, the Green Mountain Dairy Cooperative, the Vermont Woodlands & Wood Manufacturers Associations, and the Vermont Natural Resources Council. Ellen Kahler, of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (Farm to Plate) noted, “We have this limited window of opportunity to make a big difference.”
Kathleen Wanner enthused, “The need is truly there. Forest products businesses are ready to grow.”
Kate McCarthy of Vermont Natural Resources Council summed up the group’s comments by saying, “All in all, the Working Lands Enterprise Fund reinforces our heritage as a state, while building on that heritage with today’s brand of innovation and entrepreneurship. It builds our resilience and our economic success, while giving us options in a changing world. And that’s a good investment.”
During the group’s press conference, three state legislators – a Democrat, a Republican, and Progressive – expressed their strong support for the “5-by-3” campaign.
Rep. Carolyn Branagan (R-Georgia) explained, “The 5-by-3 investment will attract entrepreneurs and youth to rural Vermont, galvanize economic development, create jobs, and though this might sound a bit lofty, I believe it will also unite Vermonters in an agricultural and natural resources Renaissance. A multi-year investment is critical; we need the three years. Only with this kind of bold, significant investment will we achieve the transformative, long-term potential of our working lands economy.”
Rep. Chip Conquest (D-Wells River) noted, “A budget – any budget – is a statement of values….this is one of those rare areas of state budget where not only are we supporting our values, but we can expect an economic return for that support.”
Senator David Zuckerman (P-Chittenden) celebrated last year’s Act 142 by observing, “I think this kind of thinking and three-tiered approach with supporting our working lands … is really going to allow our farmers and foresters to go to that next step, which is going to allow us to meet needs in our state. I think this is really just the beginning.”
The day resulted in several legislators expressing their support the Working Lands Coalition’s “5-by-3” initiative while members of the coalition organizations talked with them.
The Appropriations committees will consider this proposal during the next several weeks. The administration has included $1.5 million for the Working Lands Enterprise Fund in the governor’s proposed budget.
Members of the Working Lands Coalition include:
- The Center for Agricultural Economy
- Green Mountain Dairy Farmers Cooperative Association
- NOFA Vermont
- Preservation Trust of Vermont
- Riverledge Foundation
- Shelburne Farms
- Vermont Association of Planning and Development Agencies
- Vermont Council on Rural Development
- Vermont Farm Bureau
- Vermont Land Trust
- Vermont Natural Resources Council
- The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund
- Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association
- Vermont Woodlands Association
- The Woodstock Foundation
The Vermont Working Landscape Coalition is a non‐partisan and broad‐based effort to support local agriculture and forestry, grow and attract farm and forest entrepreneurs, and conserve Vermont’s Working Landscape far into the future. The members believe that all Vermonters benefit from the state’s working landscape and everyone should contribute to ensure its future.