Vermont dairy producers are recognized as national leaders in the adoption of new technology and management practices for the efficient production of high-quality milk. Investments in buildings, equipment and technical assistance support farms as they strive to adopt practices that address environmental conservation, animal care, and employee wellness. Despite the professionalism and success of a core group of Vermont dairies, the state ranks in the middle of US states for per cow production.
Vermont 2018 milk production represented 1.28% of the national total. The average annual per cow production of 21,102 pounds places Vermont at 18th in the nation. Average production for the eleven states in the northeast region is 21,935 pounds per cow with New York leading the region at 23,885 pounds of milk per cow per year (a full 12% more milk per cow than Vermont farms).
PRO-DAIRY, a program serving New York dairy farmers and supported by state funds, is a model that holds significant promise for Vermont’s dairy farmers. NEAFA, in collaboration with the leaders of Vermont’s dairy industry, has been advocating for a Vermont PRO-DAIRY program to serve Vermont dairy farmers and play a significant role in assuring economic sustainability of Vermont’s dairy industry.
For over 30 years PRO-DAIRY has linked New York dairy farmers and agribusiness professionals to critical research and resources, giving them information they need to build and manage robust businesses. PRO-DAIRY’s contributions to educational programming and applied research have helped farmers implement practices for efficient milk production. With support from PRO-DAIRY, New York has been a national leader in dairy growth for the past 10 years.
From 1992 through 1996 UVM Extension adopted some of the practices and educational programming created by PRO-DAIRY for dairy farmer education in Vermont. The format was highly regarded by Vermont farmers as evidenced by strong attendance and positive evaluations. Staffing changes led to adjustments in UVM Extension’s services and the PRO-DAIRY model was dropped from UVM Extension programming.
“An annual investment in professional resources for business management, facilities design, and animal management will position Vermont’s dairy industry to be the robust economic engine it has long been known for,” Stated Meg Nelson, NEAFA’s Montpelier Legislative Representative. “An economic development investment into Vermont’s largest industry is the right priority for the State that has developed a brand around its rural economic character. This investment would protect and grow this brand that is known worldwide.”
Executive Director Rick Zimmerman joined Meg Nelson on April 10th for a legislative reception, meetings with the Senate and House Agriculture Committees and coffee with the Governor. Governor Phil Scott met with Vermont Dairy Producers Alliance members where he heard first hand about the benefits New York’s PRO-DAIRY program was bringing to Vermont dairy farmers. On April 15th, Zimmerman presented before the Vermont Dairy Commission and emphasized that Vermont is a significant part of the northeast milk shed that is competing against other regions of the country and the world for the opportunity to serve consumers with high quality milk and dairy products. “Vermont dairy farmers must have access to all the latest tools and technologies if we are to compete successfully in local and global markets,” stated Zimmerman.
NEAFA is advocating for $1.3 million to support the salary, fringe benefits, administrative and operating expenses for four years to support three PRO-DAIRY professionals.