Full list: Agriculture in the News

Agri-Pulse: USDA stumped in probe into unauthorized GE wheat found in Oregon

By Sarah Gonzalez
Sept. 26, 2014
Full Article

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2014 – After a 16-month investigation, USDA says it’s been unable to determine how unapproved genetically-engineered wheat made its way into a farm field in Oregon last year.

The 12,842-page report, released today by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), offers no conclusions as to how the plants, which contained a trait developed by Monsanto that makes them resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, came to grow in the field.

“We were not able to make a conclusion as to how it happened,” Bernadette Juarez, the director of investigation and enforcement services at APHIS and the chief investigator for the Oregon incident, said in a conference call with reporters.

The report, however, said the detection, which came to USDA’s attention in May 2013, appears to have been an isolated incident and there is no evidence GE wheat found its way into commercial channels.

Juarez said the theory that the wheat was planted intentionally — to undermine the acceptance of GE products — was explored, but could not be ruled out or confirmed.

She said the investigation was “one of the most thorough and scientifically detailed investigations ever conducted” through APHIS. She said her team closed the investigation that began on May 3, 2013, after exhausting all leads.

APHIS said it conducted 291 interviews with wheat growers, grain elevator operators, crop consultants, and wheat researchers. Investigators also collected more than 100 samples from businesses that sold or purchased the same certified seed planted in the field in Oregon, as well as from businesses that purchased the harvested grain from the grower.

“After exhausting all leads, APHIS was unable to determine exactly how the GE wheat came to grow in the farmer’s field,” the agency concluded.

Juarez also discussed a new investigation of GE wheat found growing in July at a Montana State University research center. Authorized field trials of GE wheat had been conducted at the site from 2000 to 2003.

Juarez said genetic testing shows that the GE wheat recently found at this research facility was similar to the wheat tested more than a decade earlier. It contains the same Monsanto trait that makes it resistant to glyphosate, and but she said the variety of the plant is “significantly different from the GE wheat found growing at the Oregon farm last year.”

The Montana incident affected between 1-3 acres in total. About 125 acres were investigated in the Oregon GE wheat discovery. APHIS said the investigation into the Montana incident is continuing, and emphasized that this event is not related to the event in Oregon.

Capital Press: Unauthorized GMO wheat in Montana

Mateusz Perkowski
USDA said more biotech wheat was found at a former field trial site in Montana but it’s unrelated to a 2013 unauthorized release in Oregon. The agency has ended its investigation into the Oregon incident without firm conclusions as to its source.

Unauthorized biotech wheat was found growing this summer in Montana but it’s not the source of an earlier unauthorized release in Oregon, according to USDA.

Several acres of wheat volunteers genetically engineered by the Monsanto Co. to withstand glyphosate herbicides were found growing at a Montana State University research center in July, an agency official said Friday.

The site was used for field trials of “Roundup Ready” wheat between 2000 and 2003, said Bernadette Juarez, director of investigative and enforcement services at USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The “Roundup Ready” genetic trait is the same as the one discovered by an Eastern Oregon farmer in the spring of 2013, but the wheat is otherwise genetically different, she said. The agency has closed its investigation into that incident without reaching firm conclusions as to its source.

The Oregon biotech wheat volunteers were not found near a previous field trial site and show genetic characteristics associated with a wheat breeding program, Juarez said.

Biotech wheat at MSU’s Southern Agricultural Research Center near Huntley, Mont., is less genetically diverse, she said. Its discovery was similar, however: a field was sprayed with glyphosate but the volunteers persisted.

Juarez said the agency has launched an investigation into the Montana incident but isn’t ready to say whether the biotech wheat volunteers are the offspring of several generations of the crop that repeatedly sprouted for more than a decade after the field trials.

The volunteers were growing on several acres but at a low density, she said. The acreage is smaller than in Oregon, where the biotech wheat grew on a portion of the farmer’s 125-acre field.

Because the Montana incident occurred at the site of a previous field trial, the USDA does not expect that foreign wheat buyers will stop imports of U.S. wheat, said Juarez.

In 2013, exports to Japan and South Korea were temporarily halted until a genetic testing protocol was established to screen for genetically engineered wheat.

“We remain confident wheat exports will continue without disruption,” she said.

The investigation into the unauthorized release in Oregon has ended without any determinations about the source of the biotech wheat, though USDA continues to believe it was an isolated incident and none of the crop entered commerce.

Testing has not found any genetically engineered traits in the U.S. wheat supply, Juarez said.

Investigators from APHIS followed numerous leads and were able to rule out several possible sources for the escape, she said. Their investigation generated about 13,000 pages of paperwork, which will be released to the public with names and other personal information redacted.

No enforcement action against Monsanto or any other party will be taken in connection with the Oregon incident, Juarez said.

The agency will be examining other field trial sites in multiple states and reviewing its policies for keeping biotech crops contained, she said.

The Center for Food Safety, a non-profit group that’s critical of the USDA’s biotech oversight, sees the new discovery in Montana as “alarming,” said George Kimbrell, an attorney for the group.

“I don’t know if it’s worse or better if they’re unrelated,” he said. “It indicates either two escapes or a bigger escape.”

VT Digger: Raw milk producers say new rules hurt business

By Morgan True
Oct. 1 2014
Full Article

Raw milk producers held a news conference Wednesday to say new Agency of Agriculture policies are making an otherwise friendly law more burdensome.

The agency is simply implementing changes to the state’s raw milk regulations that became law this year, responded Diane Bothfeld, deputy secretary of dairy policy.

Those changes allow Tier 2 raw milk producers, or farmers generating more than 50 quarts per day, to deliver their product to customers’ homes or farmers markets.

Previously, raw milk could only be sold at the farm where it was produced. Since the new point of delivery rules became law, the number of Tier 2 producers has grown from two to eight with several more slated to increase production to that level soon, said Andrea Stander, director of Rural Vermont.

But the way the Agency is implementing the law change threatens that growth, Stander said.

The original raw milk law, passed in 2009, required producers to regularly send milk samples to certified labs to check bacteria levels. A new policy requires that samples be sent to labs in the containers in which the milk will be sold.

That requirement is wasteful and will make it costly to have their milk tested, milk producer Rich Larson said.

The new regulations took effect Wednesday, and Stander said despite a formal letter to the Agency of Agriculture, producers were not given an opportunity weigh in on how the rules would be implemented.

Rich and Cynthia Larson, Tier 2 producers from Wells, said the regulations were implemented “suddenly,” and caught them off guard.

The agency contacted all Tier 2 producers registered at the end of August and delayed implementation by a month, Bothfeld said, adding that the regulations were originally set to take effect in September.

The agency is implementing new laws, not going through a formal rulemaking process, Bothfeld said, and no public comment period was required.

However, Bothfeld said the agency is willing to take input from producers and Rural Vermont, but that can’t happen until early November because the agency needs time to review its own policies.

Farmers expressed concern that during the interim their businesses could suffer and they could face fines if they’re unable to comply with the new regulations.

Labs only need a two-ounce sample to test for bacteria, said Nick Zigelbaum, director of Bob-White Systems Inc., an FDA certified laboratory in South Royalton. Farmers typically sell their milk in half-gallon or quart containers.

Zigelbaum joined the producers and advocates Wednesday, because he said the state should be making it easier for farmers to have their products tested, not create barriers to testing.

Bothfeld said the new law requires that sale containers be tested in addition to the milk to ensure there’s no bacteria in the containers that’s not also in the milk.

Her agency, charged with implementing the change, decided that requiring samples to be sent in the sale container was the best way to do that.

In addition to Bob-White Systems, farmers can send their samples to the state-run lab, which is temporarily housed at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

Testing is free at the state lab, but Bothfeld acknowledged that for some producers, sending their samples to Burlington could be costly.

The agency is willing to see if there is another way to check sales containers for bacteria, Bothfeld said.

Producers must notify all delivery customers if a sample exceeds the bacteria threshold for raw milk.

Vermont’s raw milk law is based on the informed consent of consumers, Bothfeld said, and producers were previously able to meet that requirement by posting bacteria levels at the farm.

But now with additional points of delivery, consumers must be notified of the most recent bacteria counts at that place.

It’s not uncommon for producers to have milk retested to ensure accurate results, Larson said, but with the increased cost of testing, he’s worried he might lose customers or face fines.

Gov. Peter Shumlin walked passed the news conference on his way from the Statehouse, and took a moment to chat with farmers.

Shumlin voiced support for the fledgling raw milk industry, and said he drinks raw milk occasionally, but didn’t wade into the discussion.

WCAX: Vt. farmers cry foul over new raw milk rules

Oct 01, 2014
Full Article & Video

MONTPELIER, Vt. – New policies on the sale of raw milk in Vermont started Oct. 1, and dairy farmers who sell the unpasteurized milk are crying foul.

At a press conference Wednesday, they said the new testing procedures will add unreasonable costs for farmers and will not produce a better product for consumers.

“We had a successful amendment to the raw milk law last spring from the Legislature which allow these tier two farmers to deliver their milk to their customers at farmers markets, which has opened up some economic opportunity for this part of the agricultural economy. This policy goes exactly in the opposite direction,” said Andrea Stander of the group Rural Vermont.

WCAX: Raw milk producers protest new Vt. rules

Sep 30, 2014
Full Article

MONTPELIER, Vt. – The Vermont Legislature passed a law to make it easier for farmers to sell raw milk, but raw milk producers don’t like the new rules.

Rural Vermont, a farm advocacy group, is sending a formal letter of protest to the Agency of Agriculture, saying the new rules burden farmers with unjustified costs and discriminate against producers and consumers.

Denver Post: GMO labeling measure in Colorado triggers heated debate

By Colleen O’Connor
Full Article

With the Nov. 4 ballot measure, Colorado is at the forefront of a fierce food fight raging across the nation: whether or not to label foods made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, so consumers can easily see if the food they buy is a product of genetic engineering.

Similar ballot initiatives failed in California and Washington in the past two years.

This spring, Vermont became the first state to approve GMO labeling. But then a group of national organizations — led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association — filed a lawsuit in federal court that challenges the new law. This could be the first of many lawsuits to block mandatory GMO labeling, experts say, and now Colorado jumps into the high-stakes debate.

“It will be a hot issue for quite a while in this state,” said Katie Abrams, an assistant professor at Colorado State University who researches consumer understanding of food labels. “And it’s going on in more places than just Colorado.”

GMO labeling will also be on the ballot in Oregon, and this year about 35 similar bills were introduced in 20 states.

If the measure passes in Colorado, by 2016 packaged or raw foods made with GMOs that are sold in retail outlets must be labeled with the phrase “produced with genetic engineering.” Exemptions include processed food intended for immediate human consumption, like at restaurants and delis.

Supporters of the Colorado measure — including Natural Grocers and Eco-Justice Ministries — say mandatory labeling would create transparency for consumers, allowing them to choose what they want to serve at their family tables.

But opponents — including the Colorado Farm Bureau and the Rocky Mountain Agribusiness Association — say the measure would cost Colorado taxpayers millions of dollars, increase grocery costs for families, and create expensive new bureaucratic requirements that would hurt the state’s farmers.

As the vote nears, events that explore GMOs are popping up around the metro area, such as the Seeds of Doubt conference in Broomfield on Oct. 11, featuring researchers who’ve studied GMOs and their impact on health and environment.

GMO opponents believe that the process is harmful to health, pointing to studies that connect GMO with 65 health risks, from allergies to infertility. GMO supporters point to hundreds of peer-reviewed studies they say show the safety of genetically engineered foods. Both sides agree that no long-term human health studies have been conducted.

“It’s about education,” said Cheryl Gray, a registered dietitian who helped organize Seeds of Doubt. “We’re bringing in people involved in this world to tell their stories and bring their research forward. … Being consumers, we want to know, and we want transparency.”

Whole Foods, which supports the measure, will hold a tasting of non-GMO foods on Oct. 18 from noon to 3 p.m. at all of its Colorado stores.

And Monday at the sixth annual Chefs Collaborative Sustainable Food Summit in Boulder, there are two workshops on GMOs featuring such national experts as Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm and chairman of Just Label It campaign.

“A lot of chefs are trying to practice a more natural and organic philosophy in cooking food,” said Michael Scott, lead chef instructor at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder. “If I have ingredients that I can’t find out are GMO produced or not, I can’t make a proper decision whether to use them or not.”

Supporters hope, and opponents fear, that labeling will lead to an economic boycott of GMO food products.

But experts aren’t so sure.

“Most research on consumer buying shows that people act on taste, price, convenience and other factors,” said Abrams of CSU. “They usually do what’s best for the wallet.”

Whole Foods isn’t waiting to find out. Last year, the company made the decision to label all food products if they contain GMOs, a massive project that should be complete by 2018. But small businesses like Denver Urban Homesteading say the costs created by mandatory labeling would put small markets out of business.

As the debate plays out in Colorado, Bradford Heap has already forged ahead, converting his two restaurants — Salt in Boulder and Colterra in Niwot — into GMO-free eateries.

It took six months to source all the products, from meat down to vinegar, making sure it wasn’t produced with corn.

What is a GMO?

Genetically modified foods are derived from organisms whose DNA has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, according to the World Health Organization. Most genetically modified crops have been developed to resist plant diseases or better tolerate herbicides. The most important GMO crops are corn, soy, cotton and canola. According to the FDA, most processed foods include some of these ingredients, like cornstarch in soups and sauces and corn syrup as a general purpose sweetener. Sugar is also included, because the sugar Americans consume either comes from cane or genetically engineered sugar beets.

On the ballot

Voters will be asked to vote on whether food that has been genetically modified or treated with genetically modified material should be labeled “Produced with Genetic Engineering” starting July 1, 2016. Foods that would be exempt include food from animals that are not genetically modified but have been fed or injected with genetically modified food or drugs; certain food not packaged for retail sale and intended for immediate human consumption; alcoholic beverages; and medically prescribed foods.


Watchdog.org: GMO labeling not about money for organics, says Vermont organic farmer-senator

By Bruce Parker
Full Article

Mandatory GMO labeling laws are a break-even bet at best for supporters of the policy, typically organic activists, a Vermont senator and organic farmer says.

“Right now organic is benefiting from there not being labeling,” state Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, told Vermont Watchdog.

If the organic industry loses or merely breaks even from GMO labeling, it would present a rarity in politics: interest groups spending massive money but expecting no financial benefit in return.

Zuckerman, the sponsor behind Vermont’s GMO labeling law and a farmer who owns the Full Moon “certified organic” farm in Hinesburg, Vt., argues that the state’s mandatory labeling of genetically engineered ingredients might actually harm the sale of organics.

“The only way consumers can reliably avoid GMOs is to buy organic food,” Zuckerman said. “But if all products are labeled, the products that are not organic and not GMO will become more apparent to the consumer. So for consumers who are buying organic specifically to avoid GMOs, they will have a wider range of options, not a narrower one.”

Once GMO-averse consumers are able to buy non-organic products marked GMO-free, they will, and the organics industry will lose sales, Zuckerman said.

“I’m not saying it will be negative to organic, but it certainly should dispel the notion that it will be helpful to organic,” he said.

This summer, pro-organic special interests have been spending lavishly defending Vermont’s new GMO labeling law.

Ceres Trust, a foundation billing itself as “an organic agriculture research initiative,” donated $50,000 to Food Fight Fund, Vermont’s legal defense fund for GMO labeling.

The foundation, which lists operations in Northfield, Minn. and Milwaukee and Middleton, Wis., is run by philanthropists Judith Kern and Kent Whealy. Kern and Whealy give hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to the Center for Food Safety led by renowned organic activist Andrew Kimbrell.

With solid funding from Ceres Trust, the Center for Food Safety presently seeks to intervene as a defendant in Vermont’s court battle with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a move supported by Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell.

Corporate watchdog SumOfUs and liberal political policy non-profit MoveOn.org have joined Ceres Trust, donating $78,000 and $53,000 respectively to Food Fight Fund Vermont.

Unlike Zuckerman, Will Allen, an organic grower who owns Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, Vt., thinks labeling spells the end for foods that contain GMOs.

“What’s going to happen is there won’t be very much genetically modified food on the shelves,” Allen told Vermont Watchdog. “If you look at the EU, you have a tough time finding any food that says genetic modification on it. The companies there realize we can’t sell this. As soon as you label it (as containing GMOs), you can’t sell it.

Allen says labeling will force the elimination of all GMOs in the United States, in contrast to Zuckerman, who sees a future where consumers read labels and choose whether they want to buy food with genetically modified ingredients.

“There won’t be this scare on the part of people being afraid of genetically modified food, because it won’t be out there,” Allen said.

Companies like General Foods, Kraft and Kellogg’s will avoid genetically modified foods out of fear of labeling, Allen said. The top seed companies, however, will continue to put up a fight.

“So it’s like DuPont, Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta – it’s not a big club, but they control most of the seed supply. They also are the genetic engineers. They would like to keep as much genetic engineering seed on the market as possible because they are the only ones providing it,” he says.”

WCAX: Fall hearing could determine fate of Vt. GMO labeling law

Sep 15, 2014
By Kyle Midura
Full Article & Video

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Late last week lawyers for the Grocery Manufacturers Association asked a federal judge to shelve the state’s GMO labeling law.

It’s the latest turn in the challenge to Vermont’s first-in-the-nation law, and responds to the Attorney General’s call for the case to be thrown out.

“Our hope is that the court will schedule a hearing for oral arguments sometime in October or November,” said Attorney General Bill Sorrell, D-Vermont.

“What they’ve done is try to pass through this in such a way that it gets resolved sooner rather than later,” said Daniel Richardson, Vermont Bar Association president-elect.

Richardson says both sides benefit from a speedy resolution.

The state could be saved costly legal fees, while the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association could be spared from the court of public opinion.

Richardson says if the court does not rule against requests from both sides, the legal battle will likely be won before it even begins.

“We feel good about the arguments that we’ve made both on the facts and the law,” said Sorrell.

Vermont-based attorneys for the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association did not respond to our interview request.

Richardson says whenever the hearing on the motions does occur, the longer it takes the judge to rule; the greater the chances are that it effectively determines the outcome.

FDA releases updated proposals to improve food safety and help prevent foodborne illness in response to public comments

September 19, 2014
Full Press Release

Based on extensive outreach and public comment, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today proposed revisions to four proposed rules designed to help prevent food-borne illness. When finalized, the proposed rules will implement portions of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which aims to strengthen food safety by shifting the focus to preventing food safety problems rather than responding to problems after the fact.

Since FSMA was signed into law in January 2011, the FDA has proposed seven rules to implement FSMA. The four updated proposed rules include: produce-safety; preventive controls for human food; preventive controls for animal food; and the foreign supplier verification program.

The FDA is making changes to key provisions of the four proposed rules based on feedback received from the public during meetings and thousands of comments submitted to the agency on the proposed rules.

In response to public comments, the FDA is proposing to revise the water quality testing provisions in the proposed produce safety rule to account for natural variations in water sources and to adjust its approach to manure and compost used in crop production pending further research on this issue.

The FDA also is proposing, based on feedback received to date, a new definition of which farms would be subject to the produce-safety rule. The proposed rule would not apply to farms with $25,000 or less in produce sales, rather than setting the threshold based on sales of all foods produced on the farm. The updated proposed rules also propose to simplify which entities are covered by the produce safety rule and which would be covered by the preventive controls rules.

The revisions also address the issue of the use of spent grains, which are by-products of alcoholic beverage brewing and distilling that are commonly used as animal food. Concerns were raised that the proposed rules would require brewers and distillers to comply with the full human food and animal food rules if they made their wet spent grains available for animal feed. The updated proposed rule would clarify that human food processors that create by-products used as animal food and are already complying with FDA human food safety requirements — such as producers of wet spent grains — would not need to comply with the full animal food rule if they are already complying with the human-food rule.

Revisions to the foreign-supplier verification proposed rule give importers more flexibility to determine appropriate supplier verification measures based on risk and previous experience with their suppliers.

The FDA will accept comments on the proposed revisions of the four proposed rules for 75 days while continuing to review comments already received on the sections of the proposed rules that are staying the same. The agency will consider both sets of comments before issuing final rules in 2015.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

How to comment

To comment on the proposed revisions of the four proposed rules,

  1. Read the proposed revisions (see Proposed Revisions to FSMA Proposed Rules below).
  2. Starting Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, go to Regulations.gov to submit comments.

VT Digger: In This State: Vermont’s largest fresh foods network is flavored with strong principles

Andrew Nemethy
Sep. 14 2014
Full Article

Mark Curran was a ski bum “banging nails” and sliding the slopes of Okemo in the freewheeling 1970s when he and fellow ski bum Steve Birge had an offbeat epiphany – inspired by iceberg lettuce, wilted broccoli and canned peas.

“People in Ludlow were always complaining about the vegetables in the supermarket,” he recalls. Though it was the heyday of the back-to-the-land movement and whole-grain was the chewy buzzword, mesclun and fresh spinach were a far-off dream in produce aisles, and heritage tomatoes, chioggia beets and fresh snap peas were decades away from appearing on restaurant menus.

Cue the vision thing.

Curran and Birge decided to start a produce market by making runs to Boston to get fresh fruits and vegetables. With total capital of $600, they bought – what else – a used VW bus, painted the slogan “Give Peas A Chance” on it, and in 1978 started taking turns schlepping to Boston’s big wholesale market. To help fill the van, they got five chefs at local restaurants to agree to take some produce as well.

They had no intention then of entering the wholesale fresh- food business and running the huge company they now co-own, Black River Produce, let alone evolving into an essential cog in sustaining and fostering Vermont’s localvore, artisanal, farm-fresh cachet.

Those freewheeling days have provided Curran with tales to tell, which he unspools with relish. There’s the day he came into the farmstand to find a “40-pound raccoon” feasting on their supply of bananas (which they picked over and sold anyway). Or how the ramshackle barn had shaky old wiring and a scavenged décor. Or how produce trips south were always an adventure with “old dilapidated trucks whose drive shafts would fall out on the way.”

Fast-forward 38 years. That rickety bus has morphed into 50 refrigerated trucks distributing Vermont produce, cheeses, yogurt and meats, as well as vegetables and fruits, flowers and seafood that the company hauls from regional out-of-state markets. The partners often call their company “the FedEx of fresh food.”

Today, Black River Produce has some 180 employees and is on track to count $70 million in revenue. And the vision thing? In some ways it’s even more impressive. Black River Produce has become a critical behind-the-scenes hub bringing together around 200 Vermont producers with around 3,000 wholesale customers. Think of the company as the state’s prime farm-to-table enabler, the folks who get everything from Vermont blueberries and kale to coffee and quail, grass-fed beef and succulent pork to your plate, food tray, or co-op shelf.

For almost every Vermont college or university, for hospitals and big institutions, myriad restaurants and small grocers, Black River serves as “your fresh connection,” the motto emblazoned on its trucks.

That’s why Curran was just honored at Shelburne Farms by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility with its Terry Ehrich Award for excellence, an award based on a commitment to “the environment, workplace, progressive public policy and community.”

Curran says the award belongs just as much to his partner, Birge, and to his adopted state.

“Vermont is a special place. Nobody moves to Vermont to make a lot of money,” he says. “I think what Steve and I are most proud of, is we have 180-190 people, and they all have good jobs and benefits and are able to support their families.”

Touring the Black River headquarters in North Springfield with Curran is a head-spinning and mind-bending foray into a 24/7 operation whose extensive scope and impact few people in Vermont comprehend. The building is a classic example of green renovation and reuse, converted from an existing 63,000-square-foot former Idlenot dairy plant. Inside are four refrigerated warehouses, each with temperature zones specially tailored for what they house.

It’s a beehive of bustle on late-night shifts as employees load delivery trucks that depart at 6 a.m. Behind the plant and on every inch of roof are solar panels that can provide up to 80 percent of the plant’s energy. Buyers work their headsets and computers, arranging sales and pickups and taking hundreds of orders a day.

Up the road, Curran drives his visitor to a new $9 million investment in Vermont’s future, another green reuse, this time a derelict former Ben & Jerry’s Peace Pops plant totaling 40,000 square feet. Inside is a state-of-the-art FDA-inspected, humanely designed slaughterhouse that will greatly expand the market for raisers of local beef, pork, lamb and who knows what else in the future.

Already it provides the meat for gourmet prosciutto and salami, says Curran, and three smokers are now being installed in the new plant. It will handle as many as 80 beef cattle or 150 hogs a day, easing a critical bottleneck that will further Vermont’s farm-to-table meat industry.

Curran’s mind offers a never-ending brainstorm of what-if, value-added-for-Vermont possibilities and synergies. Watching through windows as the black hide of a hanging Angus is stripped, he wonders if sustainably raised and environmentally processed leather from Vermont might be a cachet or marketable item for car seats, the biggest market for leather.

He mentions how he’s working to entice farmers to boost hog production by connecting farmers with Vermont Creamery, whose booming yogurt production in Brattleboro produces a lot of whey byproduct – which could feed a lot of Vermont-grown hogs.

“We see the whole picture,” he explains. “… We have that sort of 50,000-foot view of things.”

At 60, is he thinking of retiring? Curran laughs. “We’re finally pretty good at this! Why quit now?” he asks.