2.3.2017 – An Election Resolution, Local Folks Visit, and the Farm Show

The big debate on the Floor of the House this week centered on a resolution, H.R. 8, which requires a recount for the election in the Orange-1 House District. This situation stemmed from an election in the two-member district where the candidate who came in second, Bob Frenier, won by only eight votes. The candidate who came in third, Rep. Susan Hatch Davis, who is the incumbent, requested a recount, which was done and as a result, three questionable ballots were submitted to the Superior Court for a final decision, which later found that Mr. Frenier had won by seven votes.

At a similar time, another recount was being done in the Windsor-Orange-1 District where it was revealed that ballots could be viewed differently by a human set of eyes than by a tabulator. Certain markings that indicated the voter’s intent were not picked up by the tabulator – human eyes were much more discerning. Ultimately, David Ainsworth of Royalton defeated Rep. Sarah Buxton of Tunbridge by one vote. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your vote doesn’t count!

Meanwhile, Rep. Davis asked the Superior Court for a hearing and a second recount to be done by hand, which was referred to the House Government Operations Committee. J.R.8 is the result of the work of the committee, which has laid out a process for doing that recount.

There are those who think that this is somehow a sign of disrespect for Town Clerks. That is not the case at all – this is a process that has been done many times in the past. It is a process to make sure that every vote gets counted properly. In races with a greater winning margin, the tabulator issue would not be a concern; it is only a factor in a very close race.

What is important is that Vermonters know that their votes are being counted properly regardless of politics, which may have played a role in and generated the long debate on the Floor of the House. It seems there may be a concern on the part of the minority party to maintain its veto-sustaining numbers in the House.

The Vermont Housing and Conservation Coalition visited the State House this week. We heard from folks with the Vermont Land Trust, Vermont Natural Resources Council, and Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as farmers who have benefited from the programs offered by these organizations.

It is always good to hear from Vermonters with their boots on the ground. Every one of our visitors spoke about how important the Vermont Land Trust and/or the Vermont Housing Conservation Board were to their ability to purchase their land and build a successful farm. One man, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and his wife from Tunbridge had an inspiring story of their hard work and sweat equity as they built up their organic 60-cow dairy.

A week ago, the Farm Bureau had its day at the State House. It’s always good to see friendly faces from this neck of the woods in Montpelier so it was great to have Dr. Stephen Major, a large animal veterinarian from Westminster, visit with us and bring to light the story of one of our guest workers who may be affected by our new president’s executive order regarding immigrants. If it wasn’t for these workers, many of the dairy farms in the State would be lacking the labor they need to milk their cows.

Kate and Mark Bowen of Meadowdale Farm in Putney told of their efforts to establish a viable business with fresh, seasonal vegetables; pasture-raised meats; eggs; hay; maple sap; and other forest products and some of the challenges they have encountered. Mark is a veteran and Meadowdale Farm is part of the Homegrown by Heroes Program, which is part of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The Farmer Veteran Coalition’s (www.farmvetco.org) mission is to “mobilize veterans to feed America”.

I became interested in this subject when I attended a State Agriculture and Rural Leaders Ag Chairs Summit in 2015. James McCormick from Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture, which is part of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (www.agriculture.wv.gov) spoke about the important work that was being done to help struggling vets find their way. At the time, the Vermont state budget was tight, as it still is, and we were cautioned not to try to start any new programs that required funding. It gives me great pleasure to know that something like that is going on in Vermont.

Continuing the local theme, Kim Nace and Abe Noe-Hays of the Rich Earth Institute in Brattleboro (info@RichEarthInstitute.org) gave us an update on their work diverting human urine from the waste stream and turning it into fertilizer. Some of you may have used their port-a-potties at the Strolling of the Heifers. They have made great progress and have discovered that pharmaceuticals do not go through our systems and make it into urine in any problematic way. One of our committee members, inspired by Rich Earth, spoke of using her own urine on her tomato plants and having fantastic results!

Roger Allbee, former Secretary of Agriculture, Food, and Markets visited with us to talk about regenerative agriculture and the importance of soil health. When regenerative practices are put in place, additional benefits such as carbon sequestration, clean water, and drought resistance can be a result.

Finally, we paid our annual visit to the Vermont Farm Show at the Champlain Exposition Center. We attended a Dairy Meeting where we heard that milk prices are predicted to rise by $3.00 a hundredweight. That’s good news for the farmers but more would be better due to the cost of feed.

My favorite part of the Farm Show is the forage competition. Basketsful of hay are on display and I can’t resist burying my face in them and smelling that wondrous scent of summer. Forget the groundhog, I know that spring is on its way!