Vermont Public Radio ~ (Host) The House has given its strong support to legislation that's designed to provide opportunities to strengthen the state's agricultural sector.
The legislation allocates just over $2 million to help launch new businesses and to create a manufacturing and processing infrastructure to support those ventures.
VPR's Bob Kinzel has more:
(Kinzel) Backers of the bill said the legislation is needed if Vermont is going to maintain a working landscape for decades to come.
The plan provides just over $500,000 dollars in grants to help create new agriculture based businesses that add value to farm and forest commodities.
Another $800,000 will be used to develop the infrastructure to manufacture, process and distribute these products.
Shoreham Rep. Will Stevens said the bill is a way to ensure that Vermont's agriculture industry remains a vital part of the state's overall economy.
(Stevens) "This bill is important because it addresses areas of economic development over which we have a lot of control. Our people, our image, or our brand and our natural resource base. This is not primarily a bill about preserving our working landscape so much as it is about supporting the enterprises, the individuals and businesses that contribute to and perpetuate our working lands."
(Kinzel) And Stevens says the bill makes an important commitment to the future of Vermont.
(Stevens) "What we are targeting in this bill is Vermonters with roots in the ground from first generation start up farmers to foresters to fifth generation orchardists or sawmill operators. In other words the people willing to commit to make a life for themselves and their families from the abundance of our land based renewable natural resources."
(Kinzel) Barre City Rep. Tess Taylor is a co-sponsor of the legislation. She says the heart of Vermont is connected to the state's working landscape.
(Taylor) "This bill is an investment in the future of Vermont's economy. It benefits all Vermonters. It creates numerous job opportunities, opportunities for future generations. It helps keep Vermonters here."
(Kinzel) And Rep. Stevens thinks the real impact of the legislation will be felt years from now.
(Stevens) "In 50 years when your grandchildren are feeding their children Vermont raised food for breakfast lunch and dinner in homes built from Vermont lumber and heated with Vermont wood they will thank you."
(Kinzel) The bill passed on a roll call vote of 131 to 5. It will come up for final approval in the House on Friday and then be considered in the Senate.