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Study notes Vt. trends over two decades


COLCHESTER -- Agriculture in Vermont depends more heavily on a single commodity -- dairy -- than in any other state. Yet despite efforts to diversify the farm sector, sales of most nondairy products have remained relatively flat since 1991.

These are among the findings of "Vermont in Transition," a 156-page book filled with data on everything from population and affordability to education, crime and energy use over the past two decades. The report suggests that popular fears of Vermont's youth brain drain might be exaggerated, and that Vermonters no longer fall far beyond the rest of the country in median family income -- thanks in part to an above-average employment rate for women -- but that Vermont still has a cost of living well above the national norm.

...Vermonters value the working landscape, poll results show, so one of the key challenges over the next 20 years will be to promote the growth of new agriculture, said Paul Costello, executive director of the Council on Rural Development. Yet in the face of a dairy-dependent sector accounting for about 77 percent of the state's agricultural sales, Kessel said, agricultural diversification still has a long way to go. Meanwhile, Vermont's dairy farms are dwindling, and those that remain are getting bigger on average, the data indicate.