Congressman Peter Welch reported to our committee that a new five-year Farm Bill has finally passed into law after years of stalled negotiations. The Farm Bill is an enormous, trillion dollar piece of legislation that is packed full of good ideas and bad ideas. Too many to even begin to mention in this short column. But in a nutshell, there are provisions in this bill that are viewed favorably by Vermont dairy farmers because it includes programs that will provide price stability and protection in an unpredictable market that is largely driven by the larger dairy producing states. Milk prices in the coming year are also expected to be favorable. I learned recently that while the number of VT dairy farms has dropped considerably over the years, overall production of milk has actually increased.
Another interesting and welcomed provision in the Farm Bill is the authorization for educational institutions to conduct experiments on the cultivation and uses of hemp – the non-drug member of the cannabis family. Last year the Vermont House passed a bill legalizing the growing of hemp in-state by an overwhelming bi-partisan majority. It was then passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor, and the Agency of Agriculture has been processing applications from prospective hemp farmers who plan on growing it this year.