MONTPELIER, VT – The Vermont House of Representatives gave initial approval for the Working Lands Enterprise Investment bill (H.496) on Thursday afternoon with a 131-5 vote. The bill includes a little more than a $2 million appropriation for a new fund to be directed toward economic development investment in agricultural and forest products enterprises. The bill will be considered for final passage in the House on Friday, and then will move on to the Senate for consideration.
The bill had overwhelming non-partisan support, with an 11-0 vote in the Agriculture Committee, and several members speaking for the bill on the floor. Rep. Duncan Kilmartin (R-Newport) said he thought the bill was “one of the best bills I’ve seen” during his years as a House Representative.
Rep. Paul Ralston (D-Middlebury) said the bill will support “an economy only Vermont can have.” Ralston was thanked by Rep. Carolyn Partridge (D-Windham) for sitting in on Agriculture Committee discussion “on loan” from his usual committee, Commerce and Economic Development.
Rep. Tess Taylor (D-Barre) noted that the bill strengthening the working lands economy is a way to help keep Vermonters here, and Vermont’s “land is an asset for resiliency.”
The bill was reported on the floor by Rep. Will Stevens (I-Shoreham), who celebrated a birthday on Thursday. He told his colleagues, “This is a bill you can take home.”
Rep. Dick Lawrence (R-Lyndon) added, “The Working Lands bill brings the agriculture and forest products sectors together.”
Paul Costello, Executive Director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development, celebrated after the vote, saying, “We are pleased with this strong support for the working lands economy and for the people who are part of that economy. This bill is a real jobs bill that will make Vermont stronger and keep our land open and productive.”
More information about the bill is available here: /programs/working-lands/bill