By Thatcher Moats, VERMONT PRESS BUREAU
MONTPELIER — A Vermont group hoping to revitalize the state’s rural economy and preserve its “working landscape” said the state should invest at least $15 million annually for grants, loans and other initiatives to boost agriculture and forest-product businesses.
The Vermont Council on Rural Development launched its Revitalizing Vermont’s Rural Economy campaign last week. Its goal: To grow the local economy and protect the character of a state beloved for its pastoral landscapes and recreational opportunities.
“It’s the small businesses and farms and forests that make Vermont what it is, and we know that without investment, without action, we won’t have it in the future,” said Paul Costello, the executive director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development.
The 32-page report the VCRD unveiled last week paints a familiar picture of a struggling dairy industry that has seen the number of farms shrink drastically and a timber industry “in a slow and unheralded decline.”
The implications are huge, according to Costello, and could result in Vermont looking more like formerly rural parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts or southern New Hampshire that have been developed.