As a neutral policy and community development convener, VCRD is rarely directly connected to legislative matters but we are excited today about two important developments!
First, as the dust settles on the 2013 Vermont legislative session, we are pleased to report that the Working Lands Enterprise Fund has been allocated $1,425,000 for the FY14 budget year. This is a slight increase from last year's seed funding, and it means that the good work of the Working Lands Enterprise Board can continue. Act 142 establishing the board came out of the Working Lands Council and was promoted by the Working Lands Coalition and Partnership with coordination from VCRD.
The hard work of these teams kept this important appropriation on the front burner in this tough budget year. Even in the face of $10 million in cuts, legislators and the administration saw the value of this important investment in our working landscape.
The Working Lands Enterprise Board continues the good work begun last year. Recently, the Board announced the first round of awards to 20 working lands enterprises. You can watch the videos from the awards presentation and see the list of awardees on our website.
The Working Lands Renaissance is growing in Vermont. In his speech to the legislature late Tuesday evening as they finished their work, Governor Shumlin said that the investment Vermont is making in its working lands enterprises means that our best years for agriculture and forest products are ahead of us, and not behind us.
We want to thank Governor Shumlin, the Legislature and, especially, each of the members of the Coalition and the Partners for lending their voices and leadership to make this so. Of course, we're not done, but we can be proud of our work together as partners supporting the farm, forest and value-added entrepreneurs whose work is so vital to the future of Vermont!
At the Federal level we are also proud of the support of Senator Patrick Leahy in the development of the 2013 Farm Bill last week. Senator Leahy's office has been active in building a number of provisions to benefit Vermont farmers and communities, but we are especially grateful for his leadership in advancing the statutory authorization for VCRD and other State Rural Development Councils. Section 3707 of the senate draft of the bill provides an authority and charge to these councils to build unity and coordination among state, federal and non-profits, and to convene key leadership to advance collective solutions to challenges facing rural communities.
Senator Leahy was the last recipient of the Partners for Rural America national Rural Champion Award. With help from Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch, he has been the national leader in advancing rural development policy and coordination, and the indispensable defender and champion of our work and that of our colleagues across the country.
We are so lucky to have the opportunity to do our work here in Vermont!