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Vermont Housing & Conservation Board Announces $384,000 in Grants for Infrastructure Improvements on Vermont Dairy Farms

http://www.vhcb.org/press/commonwealth2.html

ST ALBANS – Gov. Peter Shumlin joined members of the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program (VFFVP) on the Sizen Farm on July 17 to announce $384,831 in grant awards to 17 farmers for projects to construct, expand, repair or upgrade facilities to improve herd management, working conditions, and cow health.

“These Dairy Improvement Grants are aimed at improving both milk production and the financial viability of Vermont dairy farms,” the Governor said. “With support from Ehrmann Commonwealth Dairy and the assistance and cooperation of the funding entities in securing tax credit equity, this public/private partnership is providing assistance that our farmers can use to improve the bottom line in the very competitive world of dairy farming.”

Funding for the Dairy Improvement Grants comes from Ehrmann Commonwealth Dairy, LLC, with some matching funds from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) and a private foundation.

In 2010, Ehrmann Commonwealth Dairy worked with Housing Vermont, the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation and CEI Capital Management to use New Markets Tax Credit financing to construct a yogurt processing plant in Brattleboro. Ehrmann Commonwealth Dairy has pledged to reinvest 5 percent of their annual profits to support Vermont’s dairy industry.

VHCB’s Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program managed the competitive Dairy Improvement Grant process. Program Director Ela Chapin said, “We are pleased to see this new funding opportunity for Vermont dairy farmer members of the St. Albans Co-op or Dairy Farmers of America. We received 57 grant requests totaling $1.8 million, showing that there is a strong demand for this type of funding.”

The projects included repairing barn floors, upgrading existing milking parlors, adding robotic milking parlors or second milking parlors, replacing bulk cooling tanks, replacing stall mats, addressing energy inefficiency, and general facility repairs. Many of the funded projects will have secondary impacts, resulting in improvements in water quality or inter-generational transfers of farms to new owners, for example.

Grant recipient Laura Sizen of Georgia said, “We want to thank Commonwealth Dairy for providing this grant opportunity so we can make changes on our farm that help our farm business remain viable. This funding will help us build a new barn with robotic milkers to improve our herd productivity and in turn, hopefully, the bottom line, so we can remain a highly productive farm now and for the future generations.”

The Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program provides business planning, technical assistance, and ownership transfer planning to farm, food, forestry and forest products businesses throughout the state. It also makes implementation grants available on a competitive basis to businesses that have completed their two-year business planning program.

list of the grant awards is available on the VFFVP website (www.vhcb.org/viability). A second round of Dairy Improvement Grants will be held this fall, with applications available in September and due in December. Later this summer, specific information for the second round of grants will be posted on the VFFVP website.

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