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Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., is joined by USDA Undersecretary Jennifer Moffitt for a press conference at Corse Farm Dairy, a sixth-generation organic dairy farm in Whitingham, on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, to talk about strengthening the regulations and relief for organic farmers.

WHITINGHAM — Long- and short-term solutions to the current crises facing both Vermont and the country’s organic dairy farms were outlined by Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., Friday at the picturesque and wind-swept Corse Farm.

Welch brought Jenny Lester Moffitt, an under secretary of U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and an organic walnut farmer from California, to the Corse Farm Dairy, a small organic dairy that has survived and thrived for 155 years — six generations of dairy farmers.

Welch and Moffitt said that the U.S. government is taking steps to enforce the country’s organic standards, and that there is $100 million in the pipeline for struggling organic dairies as well.

On Thursday, it was announced that Welch, who was elected last November, had landed on the Senate Agriculture Committee, a position also held by Welch’s predecessor, retired Sen. Patrick Leahy. Welch said his priority while on the committee would be nutrition, in particular childhood nutrition.

The skyrocketing prices of diesel fuel and grain and other feed, affected by the war in Ukraine and weather disturbances — fire, flood and drought — have had a profound effect on dairy farmers.

“Our farms are at the core of Vermont’s rural communities — but they have faced unprecedented obstacles over the last few years, including high feed costs, supply chain disruptions, and a changing climate,” said Welch. “These steps from USDA will support our farms and help them meet the challenges ahead.”

“USDA is committed to supporting organic farmers, like those in Vermont, and growing the industry, creating new and better markets to keep people on the farm,” said Moffitt. “With the new Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule, USDA has significantly greater oversight and enforcement authority to help ensure consumers and farmers can have confidence in the integrity of the organic label. And with the Organic Dairy Marketing Assistance program, we will help producers with anticipated higher marketing costs as they face a variety of challenges from weather to supply chain disruptions.”

Organic farmers are particularly hard hit because they are locked in to contracts with dairy processing firms, said Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts, who accompanied Welch and Moffitt. Traditional farmers have seen their prices for milk rise in recent months, Tebbetts said.

Guilford organic dairy farmer David Franklin had some pointed questions for Moffitt and Welch, after the state and federal agriculture officials spoke in the Corse Farm’s heifer barn, with the smell of pungent silage in the air. “We could really use it,” said Franklin of the federal aid. Franklin said last summer’s drought meant less of a hay harvest than normal, and it means he will have to buy feed this spring for his herd.

Moffitt did not have a definite timetable for when payments would be coming to farmers, but she said the regulations were being drawn up.

“The money will be coming,” she said.

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Increasing enforcement, in particular “buttoning up imports,” should help American farmers, she said, as well as those US farms gaming the organic system.

Franklin, who along with his son John, send their milk to Organic Valley, asked Moffitt how soon he could expect to see his share of the $100 million aid.

Franklin said the dairy newsletters he was reading this week would translate about $2 per hundredweight, which would translate to about $12,000 for his farm. Franklin said that he and his son milk 48, “although we dried off 12 this morning,” a normal part of their management plan. The Franklins have been with Organic Valley since 2004.

It wouldn’t wipe out his financial problems, he said, but it would be a big help.

The Corse Farm, the host of the event, has been shipping its milk to Organic Valley since 2008, said Abby Corse, who partners with her parents Leon and Linda Corse to run the farm.

The Corses are lucky because they don’t feed as much grain, said Abby Corse, and they are coping with the other skyrocketing costs. The Corse Farm is a huge proponent of rotational grazing, she said, and relying on native grasses, and has been for decades. The last time the Corses had to plow a field was 40 years ago, she said.

The Corse farm is not facing a financial crisis, she said. “Most are,” she said of other organic dairies.

Vermont currently has 540 dairy farms, according to Tebbetts, and 140 of those farms are organic.

Tebbetts said the move in the Vermont Legislature that appropriated $9 million in the pending budget adjustment act was being evaluated by the Scott administration.

Tebbetts said House committees took testimony on the proposal on Thursday and again on Friday.

On January 18, USDA announced the Strengthening Organic Enforcement Rule, the largest revision to the organic standards since they were first published in 1990.

A week later, on January 23, USDA announced the creation of a new Organic Dairy Marketing Assistance Program, which will enable USDA to better support small- and medium-sized dairy farms coping with the ongoing effects of the global pandemic.

This program was established in response in part to requests for relief from the Vermont congressional delegation and Vermont dairy farmers.

Contact Susan Smallheer at