UVM Extension’s Farm Viability Program partnered with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, agricultural lenders, Natural Resource Conservation Service and conservation districts to provide Water Quality Business Analysis assistance. Partners worked with farms assessing financial impacts of large infrastructure projects, identifying grant/funding sources, and implementing changes.
Vermont’s 2016 Clean Water Act mandates agricultural producers comply with Required Agricultural Practices regulations. Depending on the infrastructure needed to mitigate water quality threats, on-farm environmental upgrade projects to control non-point source pollution can cost $50,000 to $1.1 million. Over the last five years, farmers experienced severely depressed milk prices and reduced income, leaving many doubting their capacity to pay for improvements.
31 Vermont dairy farmers took advantage of the program between 2017 and 2018. Customized help included identifying agency personnel, and grant sources/applications; providing computer and Internet assistance; and developing farm balance sheets, cash flow data and budget projections. Management teams were convened on some farms to help develop strategic management plans to affect environmental improvements.
Seven farms received assistance completing Water Quality and Dairy Improvement grants, with a total of $233,650 awarded. Funds were instrumental in leveraging more than an estimated $1.5 million in federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and state Best Management Practice (BMP) funds. Some projects are still under construction.
More at go.uvm.edu/farm-biz.
This article originally appeared in the December 2018 Extension Quarterly (PDF).