Auditor Releases Report on State Spending on Dairy

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Posted on June 28, 2022 in News

In 2021 my office released a new report which, for the first time, quantifies and describes all state spending in support of Vermont’s dairy industry. In total, from fiscal year 2010 to 2019, we estimate that Vermont spent more than $285 million on programs and policies that support the dairy industry and/or address the negative environmental impacts caused by some dairy practices. In fiscal year 2019, the most recent year of the analysis, spending totaled more than $35 million.

Every Vermonter knows the important historical contribution dairy farming has made to our state’s economy and identity. We also know the last few decades have been extremely challenging for small- and mid-sized dairy farms. Below-cost payments from milk processors, industry consolidation, water quality requirements – these and other pressures help explain why Vermont went from 4017 farms in 1969 to fewer than 650 today.
 

As the state’s accountability office, my team and I engaged in this analysis to provide a comprehensive look at how taxpayer funds are being used to support the dairy industry and increasingly, to address the impacts on water quality from dairy farming. We hope this report will serve as a baseline for State government leaders and the public as they consider the future of Vermont’s dairy industry and what role public funds should play.

The report describes and quantifies all State-funded programs that offer direct benefits to dairy farmers (Part I) and/or mitigate the adverse environmental impacts of some dairy farming practices (Part II). The largest financial benefits to dairy farmers come from tax policies and benefits, specifically exemptions to the Sales Tax and reductions in Property Taxes through the Current Use Program. While spread across many programs, grants related to dairy’s environmental impacts are also sizable and have grown in recent years, particularly with the implementation of Vermont’s Clean Water Initiative.

The Legislature and the Executive branches each recognize the challenges facing Vermont dairy, and have initiated a series of efforts to re-imagine the future of Vermont dairy. As they consider the state’s role in that future, it’s critical for them, and for the public, to know how much taxpayers expend today to support the industry. My office completed this important work to help inform the discourse moving forward.
 

To view the full report or a report summary, please click one of the links below.

Sincerely,

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© 2022 Doug Hoffer For Vermont State Auditor :
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