Author Archives: Mollie

Rural Vermont’s 2013 Annual Celebration Raffle:

The Best Five Bucks You Can Spend!

Thanks to everyone who played! The raffle raised over $1600 for Rural Vermont’s work to build strong and resilient community-based food systems.

And the winners are … (drum roll please):

Cheesemaking Weekend Trevin Farm goat
CONGRATULATIONS LAUREN WALKER!
Spend a glorious and unforgettable weekend at the scenic and serene Trevin Farms Bed & Breakfast in Sudbury (15 minutes from Middlebury). This farm stay package includes 2 nights, 2 breakfasts, 1 dinner, an informative and fun cheese-making lesson, and lots of time to explore the farm and get to know the chickens, goats, and gracious chef-owners Troy and Kevin. Restrictions apply. Thank you Trevin Farms!

Black Market Basket
CONGRATULATIONS DEB HEALEY!

Andrea showing off the Contraband Cooler at the Montpelier Farmers' Market

Andrea showing off the Contraband Cooler at the Montpelier Farmers’ Market

Enjoy a sampling of the best food you can’t buy! Vermont farmers are serving their families some of the most wholesome and nutrient-dense food available, and yet the minute they put a price tag on it and offer this same food to their friends and neighbors, it becomes illegal. Find out what you’re missing out on! Basket might include farm-slaughtered meats; lard; raw milk cheese, butter, and yogurt; chicken stock; tallow, and plenty of surprises!


Edible Landscape

CONGRATULATIONS MONICA SMITH!
Who doesn’t dream of having their very own fruit grove?! Win two plum trees and three hardy raspberry bushes from Elmore Roots (“if it grows there, it will grow where you are”)! And get them in the ground with Gardener’s Supply brand new Gold Leaf Tough Touch gloves, which are guaranteed to stand up to tough tasks yet remain soft and pliable – like planting trees and thorny bushes! Thanks Elmore Roots and Gardener’s Supply!


Food for Thought

CONGRATULATIONS JOHN POLLARD!
Add an autographed collection of books to your food library including the New York Times bestseller The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World by Sandor Katz, Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing & Cooking Sustainable Meat by VT author Deborah Krasner, and the newly released Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems by Philip Ackerman-Leist.


03/20 Legislative Update

Dear Members and Friends:

Well, I do find it somewhat comforting that we’re crossing over into Spring this year in fine Vermont fashion – with almost a foot of snow on the ground.

This week we’re also crossing over to the second half of the Legislative session when the pace picks up and the priorities proliferate to the point where pondering any public policy proposal, for more than a minute, becomes almost impossible.

Word play aside, this is the time in the legislative process when words matter most as our elected representatives scrutinize amendments and make deals with each other. They seek to balance the greater good against what the state can afford and they honestly try – I believe – to make good decisions.

This is also the time when advocates like Rural Vermont, and you, the people, can play a crucial role in influencing those decisions.

A lot has happened in the past few weeks on the GMO Labeling campaign, our Raw Milk campaign, and the Hemp campaign is really hot! Read on for detailed updates and ways you can get involved.

Thanks in advance for all that you do to support our work!

Andrea

P.S. Jump to the bottom for details about Rural Vermont’s Annual Celebration on Wednesday, April 10th at 6:30pm at the Vergennes Opera House.

LabelGMOs

GMO LABELING CAMPAIGN UPDATE

On March 1, after weeks of testimony, the House Ag Committee passed H.112 (this year’s labeling bill) with a vote of 8-3. Read more about the passage here.

Passage of the bill followed five highly successful Grassroots Action Forums. Activists around the state brought the issue of GE labeling to lawmakers during Town Meeting Week, effectively demonstrating Vermonters’ desire to know what’s in their food. If you missed the forums, you can watch a video of the Burlington event here, or join us for two additional forums in Bennington and St. Johnsbury next week.

When the legislature reconvened last week, the labeling bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, where it will compete for time with a number of other bills. If your legislator serves on the Judiciary Committee, please contact them and encourage a speedy passage of this bill. Call your representative at 802-828-2228, tell them to take the bill up for immediate consideration. Please leave your name, phone number, and ask for a call back (important to ensure your message is delivered).

HOUSE COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY-Members

Lippert of Hinesburg, Chair      Grad of Moretown, Vice Chair

Koch of Barre Town                  Conquest of Newbury

Donaghy of Poultney                Fay of St. Johnsbury

Goodwin of Weston                  Marek of Newfane

Strong of Albany                       Waite-Simpson of Essex

Wizowaty of Burlington, Clerk

All committee schedules are posted weekly on the legislative web site, click here to search committee schedules.

If you need help identifying or contacting your legislator, or if you have any contact with your legislators regarding GMOs, please contact Robb or Andrea.

For those into legislative insider baseball, another key success came this week when we learned that H.112 has been granted an exemption from the “crossover deadline” last Friday, thereby giving the Judiciary Committee enough time to consider the bill.

Another way you can help build the campaign is to bolster the list of food producers who are supporting it. Find out more here. As part of their support for the labeling campaign, Ben & Jerry’s is organizing a forum for specialty food producers to share what B&J has learned as they make the transition to non-GMO ingredients, and what the labeling law will mean for producers. The forum will be Wed. April 3, 10AM-Noon at B&J headquarters in Williston. Please invite food producers in your area.

Finally, if you haven’t already, be sure to add your name and please share this link widely – we’re trying to reach 10,000 signatures!

 RawMilk
RAW MILK CAMPAIGN UPDATE

This Saturday, Rural Vermont will wrap up a series of five regional “Milk Meetings” in Townshend. These meetings, combined with our annual Raw Milk Survey, have enabled us to gather a lot of data, and more importantly, personal stories about how the raw milk law is and isn’t working around Vermont.  

Last week we delivered our 2013 Raw Milk Report and testified on it to the Senate Ag Committee. Our testimony was requested in conjunction with the Committee’s consideration of S.70. This bill, which was introduced by Sen. John Rodgers on behalf of his constituent Frank Huard, was originally limited to giving Tier Two raw milk producers the ability to sell their milk at farmers’ markets.

However, following substantial testimony by Frank, his customers, and staff from the Agency of Ag and Health Dept., the bill became more complicated and picked up a lot of provisions that would place additional restrictions on all raw milk producers. Because this bill is not one that Rural Vermont initiated, we have simply been monitoring it. When it became clear last week that the Senate Ag committee intended to pass the bill with the increased restrictions, we raised concerns with members of the Committee. The Committee did pass the bill, as it was, last Thursday, but today it was amended before a Senate floor vote where it was passed on a voice vote. The amendment removed the most troubling provision which would have required ALL raw milk producers to register with the Agency of Ag.

Although the bill does not provide the kind of comprehensive reform that Rural Vermont is seeking, we hope that when it gets over to the House we may be able to improve it.  As soon as we can, we’ll post the version of the bill passed by the Senate.

To get the latest updates or get involved with our Raw Milk campaign, please contact Robb.

HempUpdate

HEMP CAMPAIGN UPDATE 

Following several sessions of testimony from the Agency of Agriculture, the Attorney General’s office, and from the Department of Public Safety , the Senate Ag Committee drafted a new bill, S.157, which dramatically revises and simplifies Vermont’s existing industrial hemp law. Furthermore, this bill authorizes the Agency of Agriculture to issue hemp permits starting July 1, 2013, not relying on federal law changes as is the current law. We expect that this bill will be passed by the Senate next week and referred to the House.
Please contact members of the Senate Ag Committee and thank them for their bold action to make hemp available again as a legal crop for Vermont farmers.

A House bill, H.490, introduced by Rep. Teo Zagar along with 15 co-sponsors, which has been referred to the House Ag Committee, is also being considered. It is not as comprehensive as the Senate bill, but we expect that the House will take up the Senate bill when it is referred to them.

Although Vermont’s law is still impacted by the lack of action by the Feds to remove hemp from the definition of controlled substances, Rural Vermont, The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, and Vote Hemp have been working with Senator Leahy to prompt positive action by the DEA and/or Congress.

Be sure to check out the hemp article published in the current issue of Local Banquet, written by Rural Vermont Organizer Robb Kidd. Thanks to Local Banquet for providing readers with stimulating subject matter (and for being a media sponsor of our upcoming Annual Celebration!).

For more information on this campaign or to get involved, please contact Robb.
CelebrationYOU’RE INVITED!
RURAL VERMONT ANNUAL CELEBRATION

Wed. April 10, 6:30PM
Join Rural Vermont for our biggest and best party of the year featuring keynote speaker Philip Ackerman-Leist of Green Mountain College, finger food potluck, wine & beer cash bar, unique raffle prizes, and best of all – great company and conversation!
Stay tuned for more details next week. In the meantime,
check out the Facebook event and spread the word!

This FREE event is made possible by our sponsors Healthy Living, NOFA-VT, and Vermont Compost Company.

And thanks to our media sponsors

Would you or someone you know like to sponsor? It’s not too late! Be in touch with Shelby for details.

ps: Can you help ensure the event is a huge success by to volunteering your time and energy? Please email Robb to sign up.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CALL US:

(802) 223-7222

JoinWe Need YOU

At its heart, Rural Vermont is a grassroots advocacy organization. That means our ability to get things done that you care about is directly tied to the number of members who support our work.

Our credibility and power comes directly from you – the people who share our values and our vision for a community-based food system that enables family farms to be economically viable and offers everyone access to locally-produced foods of their choice.

To make this vision a reality,
we need you.
THANKS!

P.S. If you THINK you’re already a member but aren’t 100% sure (and just because you’re receiving this email does NOT necessarily mean you’re a member), please contact Mollie  to confirm your membership status.


03/27-03/28 Additional Grassroots Action Forums Scheduled!

Bennington
March 27, Wednesday, 6:30-8:30
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 108 School Street
St. Johnsbury
March 28, Thursday, 6:30-8:30
St. Johnsbury House, 1207 Main St # 101

It’s time to ramp up the grassroots action! Let’s show our legislature and our Governor that there has never been a better to time to stand up for Vermont and protect the interests of its citizens. Let’s make 2013 the year we pass a GMO labeling law in Vermont!

Last month, VT Right to Know visited White River Junction, Brattleboro, Montpelier, Middlebury, and Burlington to speak to crowds of concerned citizens about GMO Labeling. Almost 6000 Vermonters have signed the petition to require labels on GMO’s and hundreds have contacted their legislators. The Vermont food coops, Ben & Jerry’s, VBSR, Lake Champlain chocolates, and a growing list of specialty food producers and grocers have announced their support of the campaign.

To find out more, join VT Right to Know for a second round of forums across the state. Speakers will provide information about the issue of GE labeling, updates on the legislative process, avenues for citizen activism, and, of course, GE-free refreshments. Sign up for the forum closest to you here: http://bit.ly/GMOActionMTG

Sponsors: Spice -n- Nice Natural Foods, St. Johnsbury Food Coop, Natural Provisions Market

Questions? Contact:
Cat Buxton at Cedar Circle Farm – 802-359-3330 cat@cedarcirclefarm.org


Captial Press: Whole Foods: Products will carry GMO labeling

By CANDICE CHOI
3/8/13
Full Article

NEW YORK (AP) — Whole Foods says all products in its North American stores will have labels disclosing if they contain genetically modified ingredients by 2018.

The company says it’s the first national grocery chain to set such a deadline for labeling foods that contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. A spokeswoman for Whole Foods said organic foods will not have to carry the labels since they do not contain GMOs by definition. Although Whole Foods is known as an organic grocer, it also sells a wide array of non-organic products.

Whole Foods Market Inc. notes that it has been working with suppliers for years to source products that don’t have GMO ingredients. It says it currently sells more than 3,000 products have gone through the non-GMO verification process, more than any other retailer in North America.

The use of GMOs has been a growing issue in recent years, with health advocates pushing for mandatory labeling. Last year, California voters shot down an initiative that would have required such labels. As various efforts continue for GMO labeling, Whole Foods said it would move ahead with its own plans.

A spokeswoman for Whole Foods noted that its stores in the United Kingdom already have GMO labeling, in compliance with national regulations.

Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods, said the issue was about “the consumer’s right to know.”

Patty Lovera of Food and Water Watch, a consumer and environmental advocacy group, called the Whole Foods announcement a “smart move.” Her group and others have been pushing for a federal law requiring labeling on all genetically modified foods.

“We’re continuing to work to make this label mandatory because everyone deserves to have that label, not just Whole Food shoppers,” Lovera said. “But I think it’s smart on their part to start giving consumers what they want, which is more information.”


Examiner: CT lawmakers consider taking more action to label genetically engineered food

March 15, 2013
By:
Full Article and Video

Connecticut lawmakers are at the Capitol today considering a bill that would require the labeling of genetically engineered food. A public hearing was being held this morning on House Bill 6519, which would mandate the labeling of all processed foods, animals, fruits and vegetables that have been genetically engineered.

More than 150 Connecticut-based organizations and businesses have already endorsed this bill along with national organizations including Food Democracy Now!, Organic Consumers Association, and Institute for Responsible Technology. Jerry Greenfield, the Jerry of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, is also in the state for the hearing.

On Wednesday, March 13, the Committee on Children helped set the stage by voting 11 to 1 in favor of HB 6527, an Act Concerning Genetically Engineered Baby Food, which would require the labeling of foods containing GE ingredients fed to infants.

“We are thrilled that the legislative members of the Children’s Committee have overwhelmingly voted to support our right to know what is in our food,” Tara Cook-Littman, leader of GMO Free CT and mother of three, said in an interview. “This is one step toward giving mothers in CT the ability to make informed choices about what they feed their children.”

GMO Free CT is a grass roots organization educating consumers, farmers, and the government of CT about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOS) and advocating for our right to know what is in our food.

The bill to label genetically engineered baby food was introduced by State Rep. Diana Urban (D-North Stonington), Chair of the Children’s Committee and mother of one.

“More and more we are coming to realize that GMOs represent a possible human health concern for adults and our children. With the real potential threat to human health, we must make sure to provide basic information to mothers trying to make healthy choices for their families,” said State Rep. Kim Fawcett (D-Fairfield), vice chair of the Children’s Committee. “The work we’re doing here in Connecticut is just part of the voice of a national movement that is demanding more information and transparency about what’s in our food.”

The introduction of this bill and HB 6519 comes after Prop. 37 this past November in California narrowly failed to pass. The measure would have required foods made with GE ingredients to be labeled.

Last year, Connecticut’s own labeling bill failed to pass earlier in 2012. “It was disappointing that the bill didn’t pass here in Connecticut, but we knew it would take time,” Littman said in a December interview. “There will be more momentum [in 2013], and we will have more friends on our side in the legislature.”

The sponsor of HB 6519, Representative Phil Miller said prior to Friday’s public hearing, “This is great progress. We are answering the falsehoods being spread by opponents of labeling with a totality, which more than meets the requirement of proving a legitimate state interest in this legislation.”


Times Argus Op-ed: Open letter to Gov. Shumlin

March 09, 2013
Michael Feiner
Full Article

Open letter to Gov. Shumlin:

I’m sure if I asked you mano a mano how you felt about having products containing genetically engineered ingredients labeled as such, you’d probably be all for it. I’m sure if I doubled down and asked you how you felt about the risks of planting these crops in the first place, you’d say you weren’t really sure it’s a good idea. You’re a guy who likes to have all the facts, and what “facts” there are about GMOs have been engineered by the corporations profiting from their proliferation. I think you’re practical enough to know that just doesn’t fly.

Wenonah Hauter reminds us in her recent book “Foodopoly” that “science has been allowed to run amok; the biotechnology industry has become so powerful that it can literally buy public policy. Scientists have been allowed to move forward without adequate regulation, and they are now manipulating the genomes of all living things — microorganisms, seeds, fish, and animals. This has enabled corporations to gain control over the basic building blocks of life, threatening the integrity of our global genetic commons and our collective food security.”

Now, I may be going out on a limb here, but deep down I think you agree; and not because you’re an activist, or a politician, or a scientist, but because you’re not stupid.

Frankly, labeling these products may do very little to turn back the tide of corporate control of our food supply or the devastation of our environment. That said, Vermonters don’t get into the ring based on the odds of winning, we get into the ring because we’re fighting for what’s right.

There’s a lot of talk about being sued, and legal precedent (although the reality is that in this case, legal precedence is on our side), and probably a lot of back room talk about your political ambitions and your future. Well, here’s a wake-up call: Your political ambitions rest in the hands of Vermont voters, because if we decide you turned your back on us or took the wrong side of any issue because of its political risks or threats from corporations, you can be sure we will let you and the rest of the world know in no uncertain terms as you pander for votes in the next election.

Monsanto wants to sue, bring it on! You want to show what kind of politician you can be, start by showing what kind of man you can be and tell Monsanto exactly what they can do with their GE experiments.

You can start by sticking it to them on labeling. You deserve to know what’s in the food you eat. If you don’t know, call me, and I’ll take you on a tour of the Statehouse cafeteria and show you all the GMO crap you’ve been consuming over the years; right now you need someone to point it out because Monsanto would very much rather you didn’t know.

So, sure, this is about Monsanto, and it’s about Vermonters, and it’s about me, and farming, and fish, and freedom (if that’s your thing), but mostly, it’s about you.

You may be the governor, but when Monsanto bulldozes its way onto your dinner table and decides what you can, and cannot, know about the food you’re eating, that’s when things get really, really personal.

Michael Feiner
Roxbury


Rural Vermont Releases 2013 Raw Milk Report to the Legislature

Read the report here.


VT Digger: House committee backs labeling law for genetically modified foods

by Andrew Stein
March 1, 2013

Vermont is one step closer to becoming the first state in the nation to enact a labeling law for genetically engineered foods.

The legislation, H.112, would give consumers access to information about what food products have been genetically modified.

The House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products voted 8-3 in favor of the bill.

Rep. John Bartholomew, D-Hartland, said after three weeks of “annoyingly contradictory” testimony, the committee was unable to determine whether there are “serious health consequences to these products.”

“We are only able to say there were … some unanswered questions about the safety of these foods,” he said. “A consumer needs to know so that he or she can make an informed decision about what products they are going to buy. If they know it’s in there, and they’re going to buy it, OK.”

The proposed bill defines genetically engineered foods as those created from organisms in which the genetic material has been changed via in vitro nucleic acid techniques or cellular fusion. Foods for sale in the retail marketplace that are produced “entirely or partially” using these methods, must be labeled under the proposed legislation.

Raw GE foods would require a label that says: “produced with genetic engineering” or “genetically engineered.” Processed foods that contain one or many GE ingredients would be labeled “partially produced with genetic engineering” or “may be partially produced with genetic engineering.”

Under the legislation, GE foods could not be advertised as: “natural,” “naturally made,” “naturally grown,” “all natural,” or use any similar descriptions that “have a tendency to mislead a consumer.”

The statewide trade organization Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility fully supports the bill.

Dan Barlow, a lobbyist for VBSR, said, “Vermonters have a right to know what’s in their food, and right now GMOs are a threat to the Vermont brand. I think this move can only strengthen the Vermont brand going forward.”

Others have reservations about the bill. Margaret Laggis, who lobbies for the biotech industry, represents the groups Dairy Farmers Working Together and United Dairy Farmers of Vermont.

Many dairy and livestock products, however, would not be subject to GE labeling, as the legislation exempts “food consisting entirely of or derived entirely from an animal which has not itself been produced with genetic engineering.”

The bill exempts a range of other foods, and Laggis questions the bill’s purpose.

“This bill has an ice cream truck size exemption for probably 60 percent to 70 percent of the foods Vermonters eat because meat, dairy, alcohol are not included, no restaurant foods,” she said. “We kind of feel like this is the largest, state-sponsored, consumer-deception bill we’ve ever seen.”

Falko Schilling, an advocate with Vermont Public Interest Research Group, says the exemptions are similar to proposals now under consideration in 20 other states and laws now in effect in dozens of countries around the world.

“What we’re trying to do is play catch-up with the rest of the world,” he said. “Look at Europe: They don’t require labeling of meat or milk from cows that have been fed GE feed. It’s also the language that’s been incorporated in the Washington initiative and in a number of states across the country, so (the committee) is just trying to be as consistent as possible.”

The bill, Schilling said, is based on Proposition 37, the California labeling law that was defeated by voters last November.

The Vermont bill would take effect 18 months after two other states enact similar legislation on July 1, 2015, or whichever date comes first.

But before that day arrives, the legislation is likely to hit a legal hurdle.

That’s why the law includes a severability clause. If any part of the legislation violates the Vermont or U.S. constitutions, “the violation shall not affect other provisions” of the law.

Seven Days reporter Katie Flagg reported earlier this week that leading advocates of the bill and Democratic Rep. Carolyn Partridge, who chairs the Agriculture Committee, anticipate a lawsuit. Partridge is a strong supporter of the legislation.

“I’m not intimidated at all,” she told Flagg.


WPTZ: Committee to vote on GMO labeling

Vt. would become first state with law if passed
Mar 01, 2013
Full Article and Video

BURLINGTON, Vt. —The House Agriculture committee will vote Friday on whether to move ahead with a bill placing labels on genetically modified food products.

“It’s really just to give people a choice,” said Andrea Stander, director of Rural Vermont. “Right now, you can’t know whether what you’re buying, what you’re eating, what you’re feeding your family has been genetically engineered.”

They’re called genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Stander is part of a Vermont coalition that wants you to know when you’re eating them, just like products now are labeled organic.

“We believe that’s a significant piece of information,” Stander said. “Similar to some of the other things we have information about on our food labels.”

We already know how much sodium, fat and calories are in what we eat, nutrition labels are required by law. The Right To Know coalition wants to add a sticker to every piece of food sold in Vermont made with GMOs.

If passed, Vermont would become the first state requiring the labels. A similar bill, passed on to California voters in November failed.

Much of the opposition toward GMOs is directed toward the Monsanto Company, the market leader in genetically-engineered seeds and herbicides.

Officials at Monsanto could not be reached Thursday, but on its website, the company says, “Requiring labeling for ingredients that don’t pose a health issue would undermine both our labeling laws and consumer confidence.”

The coalition is pushing for a state law because the FDA and USDA have not stepped in, Stander said. She adds more research needs to be performed on these foods.

“Essentially, we’ve all been lab rats for the last 20 years since this food was introduced into our food system,” she said.

If passed in committee, the bill would move on to another House committee. Similar legislation is also in committee in the Senate.

The Assistant Attorney General told the committee in a hearing that Vermont would likely be sued if such legislation became law.


Local Banquet: Hopeful on Hemp

Some Vermont farmers are eager to grow hemp—once they’re allowed
By Rural Vermont Organizer Robb Kidd
Full Article

“Hemp For Victory!” the poster reads.

Hanging in the House Agriculture Committee’s hearing room in the Vermont Statehouse, and put there by who knows who, it’s a poster that to some would be more appropriate in a college dorm room 30 years ago. In reality, it’s from 1942 and was produced by the United States Department of Agriculture to promote a film encouraging U.S. farmers to grow hemp to support the war effort.

But it’s a poster that has relevance today, as Vermont farmers who believe in the economic and agricultural benefits of growing hemp seek a victory in their longstanding push to grow industrial hemp.

In 2008, advocates led by Rural Vermont and the national organization Vote Hemp celebrated the tri-partisan passage of Vermont’s Industrial Hemp Bill, Act 212. The bill calls for a regulatory framework for growing industrial hemp in Vermont. However, it can only take effect once the federal government—either Congress or the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration—takes an active step in the permitting of hemp. In the meantime, the hemp export industry is thriving in Canada and China, primarily supplying the U.S. demand for hemp products.

Why the prohibition in America? Hemp’s cousin is the marijuana plant. The two plants look similar; however the hemp plant contains minimal traces of the psychoactive drug associated with the marijuana plant, tetrahydracannabinol (THC). The hemp plant contains .3 percent THC concentration as compared to marijuana, which contains anywhere from 2 percent THC to the modern levels of 20 percent THC. If a person were to smoke hemp they would most likely achieve a bad headache rather than obtain any intoxicating effects.

There are many theories as to why the hemp plant became illegal to grow in the U.S., including allegations that it was competing with the Hearst family’s newspaper interests, as hemp can be turned into paper very efficiently compared to wood. But today, the biggest resistance to hemp comes from the law enforcement community, concerned by its association with marijuana.

So it is still illegal for Vermont farmers to grow hemp, but that is not stopping some from planning on it.

Will Allen, of Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, wants to grow hemp because “it’s a miraculous crop that can provide wood, cordage, high-protein seeds, fabric, medicines, large amounts of organic matter, bio plastics, animal feed….” In an interview with WCAX-TV last August, Will commented on its prohibition: “Yeah, it’s related to marijuana, but poppies are related to opium poppies—it’s the same issue. We don’t stop growing poppies because they are related to opium poppies. We grow poppies because they are beautiful, and we should grow hemp because it’s useful.” Should the federal government pave the way for Vermont’s law to take effect, Will plans on becoming one of the first Vermont farmers to grow hemp.

John Vitko, who runs a small-scale diversified farm in Warren, says hemp “is proven by our forefathers to be a very productive and manageable plant for a small farm, and denying farms this tool is a crime.” His farm provides eggs for his local ice cream business, and his “main reason to grow hemp is to supply a feed for my chickens that is high in omega 3-6, a complete protein, and loaded with amino acids; this feed will make my chickens healthier and in turn make healthier eggs and healthier humans.” Furthermore, John points out that “a farm could improve hard clay soil [common in Vermont] with its tap root, and it could be grown in areas where other crops have difficulty, feed and bed the livestock, fuel the tractor, warm the farmhouse, and clothe the farmer.” He acknowledges that hemp is not the “holy grail” but is quite versatile and “should be in every farmer’s fields.”

Aspiring farmer Ben Brown of South Burlington envisions growing hemp on land he is looking to purchase. “I intend to use hemp on my [future] homestead to feed animals, sequester carbon, fix nitrogen in the soil, and hopefully sell the residual byproducts of my uses to other local industries such as textiles, building materials, etc.”

Full Sun, a new Vermont startup in the midst of building a commercial oilseed processing facility in Addison County, is also hoping to one day source local hemp. At first, “our business model is to purchase non-GMO and organic specialty oil crops [such as canola, sunflower, and soybean] from Vermont farmers and others in the region, and market the oil and meal for food and feed ingredients,” says Netaka White, cofounder of Full Sun along with his business partner, David McManus. “We can’t wait to set contracts with our farmer/partners to grow hemp seed. Farm gate prices are around $1.00 per pound now, with 800 to 1,200 pounds of seed per acre, so it’s a solid cash crop for the grower, and the hemp oil, the meal, and the hulled seed are all going to be important products for Full Sun. But unfortunately, until the federal government reclassifies hemp, we’re forced to buy from Canadian growers.”

Hempfully Green of Poultney is planning on developing “sustainable, clean, carbon-reducing, fuel-reducing, fire-proof, mold-proof housing made from locally grown hemp.” Forming hemp into a concrete-like substance called “hempcrete” is highly efficient and is currently being used in Quebec. Tom Simon, a partner in the business, is working on a business proposal to sell the equipment, know-how, and building needed to grow and harvest—on 45 acres—all the seed stock to fulfill all the energy needs of a farm, from electric to auto/tractor fuel to home fuel.

Where does hemp stand, legislatively? Last year, Vermont Senator Vince Illuzi attached an amendment to a relatively minor bill that would have given the Vermont Agency of Agriculture the power to issue hemp permits and symbolically challenge current federal policy. Instead, a compromise was struck that authorized the agency to create rules for the permitting process and hold a public comment period (but the agency cannot issue a permit until the DEA or Congress acts on federal policy). Once this state-permitting process is developed by the agency, Vermont farmers would be a step closer to being able to plant hemp; they’d be “shovel ready” should the federal government act, and would not have to be delayed while Vermont engaged in a rule-making process.

On the national level, Vermont is not in a bubble. Vote Hemp, a national hemp advocacy organization, notes that “to date, thirty-one states have introduced pro-hemp legislation and nineteen have passed pro-hemp legislation.” Rural Vermont and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund have collaborated on a public education campaign to drive the Vermont Congressional delegation to action, which they have taken. Vermont Rep. Peter Welch was a co-sponsor of Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2010, which gives authority to the states to regulate hemp as they see fit. And this past summer, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders joined Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley in co-sponsoring Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden’s Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2012, which would do the same as the House bill. Neither bill has come up for a vote yet.

In late January of this year, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, sent a letter to DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart declaring that the “Senate Judiciary Committee has an interest in the DEA’s regulation of industrial hemp and its effect on the ability of hemp producers to operate in states like Vermont.” The Senator’s letter questions why there has been no progress in the agency’s evaluation of hemp. “Has the DEA reconsidered any aspect of its regulation of hemp in light of these developments?” Sen. Leahy wrote, using his power as the Judiciary Committee chair to address these concerns. But he was not alone, and not simply acting within his own party. A week after Sen. Leahy’s letter was sent to the DEA, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, senator from Kentucky, issued a statement declaring his support of the industrial hemp movement, to allow hemp farming in his home state.

In the near future, Vermont farmers such as Will, John, and Ben may be allowed to grow hemp, and businesses such as Full Sun and Hempfully Green may be able to source hemp locally and create an added economic opportunity for farmers and entrepreneurs. When might this happen? It’s hard to be sure, for watching the political process unfold is like watching grass grow. However, given our country’s divisive political climate, hemp could become a unifying force for nonpartisan politics. As the USDA stated in 1942, hemp could mean victory.

Robb Kidd is an activist based in Montpelier and the organizer for Rural Vermont, a statewide farmers’ advocacy organization.