Press Release

DOUG HOFFER for AUDITOR

 

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: Contact Doug Hoffer at 864-5711

October 25, 2010

 

Auditor Candidate Doug Hoffer Questions Tom Salmon’s Judgment and Priorities

In a recent newspaper article State Auditor Tom Salmon stated that he has spent time working on a project about the dairy industry.[1]  When asked about this Doug Hoffer said, “Mr. Salmon should know that agriculture policy is the responsibility of the legislature and the Agency of Agriculture, not the State Auditor.  This is not the first time Auditor Salmon has interjected himself into policy debates that are outside of his job description and beyond his expertise.”[2]

Because this undertaking is not part of the State Auditor’s job, time given over to this effort by Mr. Salmon and his Deputy represents time not devoted to their statutory responsibilities. Hoffer said, “We can only wonder what didn’t get done because the Auditor and his Deputy were pretending to be policymakers. By doing so, the Auditor and his Deputy have wasted taxpayer dollars (the cost of their combined salaries and benefits exceeds $200,000 per year). And it is especially curious why Auditor Salmon would take this on so soon after learning about the $500,000 embezzlement that his office failed to detect.”

Auditor Salmon has repeatedly spoken of his interest in performance audits. Hoffer wondered “With so much work to be done, why has the Auditor chosen to dabble in agriculture policy? Where are his priorities?”

Mr. Salmon is reported to have convened a “group of non agricultural successful business people [to come] up with three ideas of what might be done to address the loss of working landscape of which the dairy is a major activity.”[3]  It is curious why Mr. Salmon convened a group of non-experts without consulting those who are actively working on agriculture issues. Hoffer wondered whether Mr. Salmon is even aware of the Farm-to-Plate project[4] being managed by the Sustainable Jobs Fund (SJF) in cooperation with the Agency of Agriculture and the state’s Sustainable Agriculture Council?[5] 

Farm-to-Plate is the state’s ambitious planning effort dealing with all aspects of agriculture, food manufacturing, and land use and has been underway for over a year with substantial funding from the legislature. Mr. Hoffer said, “If Mr. Salmon is aware of Farm-to-Plate, why was no effort made to communicate with the principals to determine what has been done so as not to reinvent the wheel (and waste time and money)?  If Mr. Salmon was not aware of the Farm-to-Plate project, it suggests poor preparation and raises questions about the seriousness of his interest in this issue. Mr. Salmon often characterizes himself as a team player who enjoys bringing people together. In this case, it appears that Mr. Salmon is less interested in solving problems than being a gadfly and getting some media attention.”

As to the group and its activities, Hoffer asked, “Who chose the members of the group? They appear to consist primarily of prominent Republicans. Were the meetings warned? Was the public invited? Were minutes taken? Mr. Salmon talks about inclusiveness and transparency, but this process was anything but.

The memorandum from the “group of non agricultural successful business people” contained a number of recommendations (see Appendix B). After reviewing them, Hoffer said, “It seems as though the group has no knowledge of what the legislature has been doing on this subject for years.”  For example:

ü The group called for the establishment of an Agricultural Business Development Cabinet to “gather, coordinate, and implement the ‘good ideas’ that emerge from various segments of our working landscape – agriculture, dairy, agri-tourism…”

Over the years, the legislature has created

  • The sustainable agriculture research and education program (6 V.S.A. § 4701);
  • The farm-to-plate investment program (10 V.S.A. § 330)
  • The agricultural development board (6 V.S.A. § 2966); and
    • The agricultural innovation center (6 V.S.A. §§ 2961, 2962, and §§ 2962a and 2962b). 

 

Hoffer noted that “Unlike Mr. Salmon’s hand-picked group, these organizations and projects are overseen by boards and advisory groups comprised of Vermonters with expertise in a variety of related fields (see Appendices C – E for lists of the members). I cannot imagine why Mr. Salmon would limit himself to a handful of non-experts when there are so many knowledgeable people available.”

ü The memo suggested that “The cabinet could encourage work toward FOOD independence and marketing our products through their use at hospitals, schools, prisons [and] colleges…”

Hoffer said, “As the author of The Leaky Bucket[6] (July 2000), I’m pleased that Mr. Salmon understands the importance of buying locally. However, it is not clear why we need an Agricultural Business Development Cabinet to address these issues because we already have Vermont FEED (Farm to School Education Every Day[7]), the Farm-to-Hospital program at Fletcher Allen Health Care,[8] Middlebury College’s longstanding commitment to local purchasing, and a growing interest at UVM.” 

ü The memo recommended conducting “a full scale evaluation of assets of the working landscape and analysis of existing markets and products.”

Here again, had Mr. Salmon consulted people active in the field, he would have known that the Farm-to-Plate project has been doing exactly this for over a year.[9]  Indeed, Mr. Hoffer is a paid contractor on the F2P research team (see Appendix D). 

APPENDIX A:  Allbee e-mail


From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 2010 15:05:11 -0400
Subject: FW: AG Business Advisory Project


INTRODUCTION:  Several months ago I read in a New York newspaper that the auditor of accounts in that state had made a statement on how important the dairy industry was in that state.  I approached our State Auditor with the question of what did he think about Vermont and the importance of our dairy industry?  As a result of a further discussion with him, it was suggested that a group of non agricultural successful business people be assembled with the challenge of  coming up with three ideas of what might be done to address the loss of working landscape of which the dairy is a major activity.  The group was briefed on a number of issues and reached the following conclusions relative to what might be done going forward.  What follows was presented to me yesterday at the St. Pierre Farm.

Roger Allbee

APPENDIX B:

To: Mr. Roger Allbee, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture

From: Kent Anderson, Bruce Lisman, Angelo Pizzagalli, Ernie Pomerleau, Amanda St. Pierre, Michael K. Smith, William Stenger, Jerry Tarrant, Joe Juhasz, Tom Salmon 

Re: Secretary of Agriculture Business Advisory Project

Date: October 19, 2010

Following your lead and initiative to approach the State Auditor’s office in March to help with the crisis in the dairy industry, State Auditor Tom Salmon assembled this group with a basic charge to “unearth three ideas, concepts or strategies to preserve the working landscape and increase agricultural related profits by $500 million by 2016.”

The results of this project and work from June to September 2010 indicate that Vermont could benefit from the following:

l. Establish an Agricultural Business Development Cabinet. The system in state government is comprised of too many silos. If we expect to foster true synergy, it has to happen beyond agriculture. Good ideas need the ability for implementation (energy, agriculture, economy, tourism, food, capital, marketing, research, employment, image) and sustained attention. The purpose of this cabinet will be to gather, coordinate, and implement the “good ideas” that emerge from various segments of our working landscape – agriculture, dairy, agri-tourism – with the effort of economic development and labor force training to enable a unified team approach to development in Vermont.

Structure: Create a body of individuals with diverse experience including agriculture, business, and energy, along with the academic and political communities, to gather ideas from farmers and others and evaluate them in a manner similar to that of a venture capital company. Simultaneously creating a relationship with UVM/VTC, creating idea teams of college students to do the necessary due diligence, and creating business plans for those ideas, the cabinet believes has the greatest potential for success.
Farmers are thinking of ideas to improve their operations every day, and to have the cabinet or even the micro-business development programs of the community action agencies, that can contribute their business experience, horsepower and sustained attention to do feasibility assessments and crystallize business plans for public and ideally private investment for worthy ideas. This sustained effort may be what is required to sustain Vermont’s working landscape. This may be how we can help the mini-entrepreneurs find a place in the market place when they come to the next idea or “next big leap.”
The cabinet can create a common purpose and plan for Vermont. The agricultural development cabinet could be established to foster a synergy and linkage between economic development projects, tourism, capital, energy with a fully funded marketing and advertising plan to promote the BRAND as well as the BUSINESS.
Perhaps the cabinet can foster a strong synergy and role clarification between UVM and its R&D, Vermont Tech and its raw talent and hands-on approach, and the untapped potential of high schools as an ag feeder system and workforce change agent.

  • The cabinet could pursue discussions with Dr. Ming Goo (UVM) and the potential of the Asian markets.
  • The cabinet can help fill the hole in marketing, distribution and website/retailing for the specialty products made in Vermont. What can we do to fill this hole to help farmers who want to open retail for delicious cheeses and yogurts while working 16 hours a day to keep afloat?
  • The cabinet could encourage agri-tourism as an intentional investment. Study the Swiss model of painting farms and clean cows. It could review programs like the Bells pilot program with work camps (West Danville farm).
  • The cabinet could explore using Housing and Human Services dollars to pay farmers for alternative, sober living work camps (regeneration stations), study “Brand Marketing” PROMOTED from travel/tourism budget.
  • The cabinet could promote cow power, green living, Vermont’s image, digesters, algae, and other new energy technologies.
  • The cabinet can help address issues around the difficulty of transition planning for Farmers and Children that want to take over the farm.
  • The cabinet could work to increase profit margins for farmers by looking into the feasibility of another try at an in-state large processor for round the clock operations with its products lined up and its marketing and distribution better thought out. It could seek federal workforce funds (WIA) to pay students to work on farms for credit.
  • The cabinet could encourage work toward FOOD independence and marketing our products through their use at hospitals, schools, prisons, colleges, which would also promote the Vermont brand.
  • The cabinet could review the cooperative structure in Vermont. Determine if it can be revised to enable farmers to retain a greater share of the retail price of their products. Can we create conditions for the cooperatives mission and role to be modified?
  • The cabinet could also consider legislation to modify the provision of the current use program concerning farm income – non-farm income criteria.

 

One final point to stress on the cabinet: In developing this Cabinet we are not proposing to add any more costs to an already strapped state budget. Dollars needed will have to come from other budget line items or it will have no monetary costs associated with its creation. Hate to have Vermonters read about another “do nothing state committee costing taxpayers more money.”

2. Conduct a full scale evaluation of assets of the working landscape and analysis of existing markets and products. Engage the land trust.
We need to know what the playing field is. An inventory/analysis of all markets we now supply and those we do not now supply. This is critical information for any decision making process, and should include:

  • All present and potential markets for products made from milk, including both eatable and non-eatable products.
  • How large are those markets?
  • Who are the consumers?
  • Who supplies those markets?
  • What are the economics of those markets?
  • Is there an opportunity for Vermont farms to compete in those markets?
  • What is the profile of Vermont farm assets?

3. As a pilot program, assemble a group of people with expertise in marketing/online/distribution and retail and roll up their sleeves to attack a situation (at 1-3 farms) and report back to the Ag secretary or Development Cabinet. There are examples Dr. Kent mentioned: drinkable yogurt company and Blue Spruce – going toward retail sites, etc.
An immediate intervention of a group into a farm will evaluate markets and assets and inform the discussion as the cabinet takes shape. “Some things could start right away that could move all the other points forward in a positive direction; both an immediate and long-term benefit.” – Dr. Kent Anderson.

4. Target investments by the federal government. Approach our federal delegation to:

  • Seek an opportunity to participate in a federal waiver program to allow Vermont to run its own show. Good for the farmers, good for the co-ops, good for profits, good for all. “Third time is the charm” is too simplistic to say, though. [This phrase to a business person, as one warns, screams of “pouring good money after bad.” I agree it should be looked at and evaluated for better understanding of the market. But this reference to me implies that, “we’ll try it again and maybe this time we’ll get lucky and it will work”… which is obviously not the approach this Cabinet or any focused business strategy would take.]
  • Determine if the federal subsidy directed to Vermont could be more strategically used. Could it be the financial incentive to help change the Co-op situation to help align the missions of producers and processors?

 

Additional Comments by members of the committee:

I will risk political incorrectness to suggest that all dairy farms are not created equal. We should be careful not to assume all farms are salvageable.

1.       Efforts will need to be led by a bright, highly motivated individual.
2.       Clear early goals need to be established and results measured.
3.       Much of the investigative work has been done. It should be used – not re-done.
4.       We must be aware that the bottom line is to get money in the farmers’ pockets soon.
5.       Some recognition should be given to the fact that there is a limit to how much we can do to increase the value of our farm products beyond the value of similar products from other parts of the country.  To keep Vermont pastoral may require direct payment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


APPENDIX C:  Sustainable Agriculture Council

  • Roger Albee, Secretary, VT Agency of Agriculture
  • Philip Ackerman-Leist, Green Mountain College
  • Brent Beidler, Beidler Family Farm
  • Linda Berlin, Director, UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture
  • Diane Bothfeld, Deputy Secretary, VT Agency of Agriculture
  • Megan Camp, Vice President, Shelburne Farms
  • Ela Chapin, VT Farm Viability Enhancement Program
  • Jed Davis, Cabot Creamery Cooperative
  • Edward Delhagen, Verdana Ventures
  • Chris Dutton, Vermont Technical College
  • Ted Foster, Foster Brothers Farm Inc.
  • Vern Grubinger, Northeast Director, USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Program
    • Gail Hall, Department of Education
    • Ellen Kahler, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund
    • Jane Kolodinski, Co-Director, UVM Center for Rural Studies
    • Doug Lantagne, Dean and Director, University of Vermont Extension
    • Jack Lazor, Butterworks Farm
    • Glenn McRae, Intervale Center
    • Allen Matthews, UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture
    • Meghan Sheradin, Vermont Fresh Network
    • Will Stevens, Golden Russet Farm
    • Ryan Torres, Philanthropic Advisor, The Vermont Community Foundation
    • Thomas Vogelmann, Dean, University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
    • Enid Wonnacott, Director, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont
    • Jim Wood, Natural Resources Conservation Service


APPENDIX D: Farm-to-Plate

Process Team: F2P Process Team members meet monthly and assist VSJF staff in developing the strategic planning process we are employing.  Members include:

  • Roger Allbee (Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets)
  • Marie Audet (Blue Spruce Farm)
  • Stacy Burnstein (Castanea Foundation)
  • Megan Camp (VT-FEED and Shelburne Farms)
  • Guy Choiniere (Choiniere Family Farm)
  • Eric Clifford (Clifford Dairy Farm)
  • Paul Costello (VT Council on Rural Development);
  • Brian Dunkiel (Shems Dunkiel Raubvogel & Saunders)
  • Amanda Ellis-Thurber (Lilac Ridge Farm)
  • Bill Schubart (formerly of Resolution, Inc.)
  • Will Stevens (Golden Russet Farm)
  • Ryan Torres (VT Community Foundation)
  • Steve Voigt (King Arthur Flour)
  • Tom Vogelmann (UVM College of Agriculture & Life Sciences)
  • Enid Wonnacott (NOFA-Vermont)

 

Farm to Plate Researchers / Writers

  • Louise Calderwood (Everything Agriculture)
  • Linda Berlin (UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture)
  • Sam Fuller (NOFA-VT)
  • Greg Georgaklis (Verdant Valley, LLC)
  • Doug Hoffer (independent policy analyst)
  • Virginia Nickerson (Nickerson Consulting)
  • Rachel Schattman (UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture)
  • Helen Labun Jordan

 

Farm to Plate Funders

  • ARRA – State Stimulus Funds
  • VT Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
  • Vermont Community Foundation
  • High Meadows Fund
  • Jane B. Cook 1983 Charitable Trust
  • John Merck Fund
  • Growald Family Fund
  • Eagleridge Fund
  • Cabot Creamery Cooperative
  • Gardeners’ Supply Company
  • Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
  • Burlington City Market
  • Vermont Health & Nutrition Fund of the VT Community Foundation


APPENDIX E:  Agricultural Development Board

Governor’s Appointees:

  • Len Bull, retired Professor North Carolina State University and former head of Animal Science at University of Vermont, now lives in Addison County.
    • Cynthia Belliveau, Director of Continuing Ed., UVM
    • Sam Cutting Jr., Dakin Farm
    • George Putnam, CEO Yankee Farm Credit

 

Speaker Appointees:

  • Paul Harlow, Westminster, Organic Farmer
  • Andy Kehler, Jasper Hill
  • Mark Curran, Black River Produce
  • Bob Rathbun, Manager of Seedway Facility, Shoreham

 

Committee on Committees Appointees

  • Jonathan Rooney, Monument Farms, Weybridge
  • Darby Bradley, Vt. Land Trust
  • Robert Poomykala, President VT Veg and Berry Association, Grand Isle
  • Lynn Coale, Middlebury, Director Hannaford Career Center Middlebury

 


[1]     Addison County Independent, Oct. 14, 2010 http://addisonindependent.com/201010salmon-tries-shine-light-vt-finances.

[2]     Unsolicited letter to the legislature regarding the VT Yankee decommissioning fund (April 22, 2008) that was not supported by any work from the Auditor’s office and which followed a meeting with the President of Entergy that was not disclosed to legislators.  “Testimony” (more a speech) to the Unemployment Insurance Task Force in Nov. 2009 that consisted of personal opinions not reflecting any work from the Auditor’s office.

[3]               From a 10-20-10 e-mail sent by Roger Albee (see Appendix A).

[4]               http://www.vsjf.org/project-details/5/farm-to-plate-initiative

[5]               http://www.uvm.edu/~susagctr/?Page=susagcl.html

[6]               http://www.vtlivablewage.org/JOBGAP6a.pdf

[7]               http://www.vtfeed.org/

[8]               http://www.fletcherallen.org/about/green_initiatives/

[9]               See the Table of Contents for the upcoming report at http://www.vsjf.org/project-details/5/farm-to-plate-initiative

© 2022 Doug Hoffer For Vermont State Auditor :
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