Action Steps

HOW DO WE GET THERE? 

The list of action steps below is organized through a framework of equity, aimed at supporting people and land long-term. 


SHORT TERM (this year)

In direct response to the COVID-19 crisis, the following actions are needed immediately to support our most vulnerable, provide just and equitable relief to those who need it, and set the stage for a transition to a more resilient food system that ensures all may be fed on the other side of the pandemic. 

  • Create a Vermont Coronavirus Relief Fund to administer direct payments to all Vermonters who have been excluded from the federal stimulus and other benefits because of immigration status. Additional protections should include:
    • Expand the state quarantine housing for essential workers to include VT farmworkers
    • Expanding access to unemployment insurance to all workers
    • Ensure that all communities are able to access the free COVID-19 testing provided by the state, as well as treatments funding for the uninsured through local hospitals
  • Allocate $930,000 of Vermont’s CARES Act funding to support school meal programs and economic recovery for local producers and farms through local food purchasing.
     
  • Support Vermont farmers and access to nutritious food for all simultaneously by investing in the following programs:
  • Provide direct payments to Vermont farms of all types and scales suffering from lost markets, and resilience grants to allow them to expand and adapt, in the form of: 
  • Continue to invest in universal school meals — During the COVID-19 crisis, the Vermont Agency of Education and school nutrition professionals have swiftly and skillfully pivoted to providing universal meals to children 18 and under statewide. This support has been critical to families who, as a result of the pandemic, are facing increasing food insecurity. It has been particularly beneficial for migrant families living in isolation in rural parts of the state. The need for this support will persist beyond the end of the immediate health emergency. The state should invest in universal school meals statewide and set ambitious targets to purchase more food from local farmers, in addition to the immediate financial support for local purchasing suggested above. As soon as possible, we urge the legislature to refocus on the Universal Meals Bill S.223/H.812, along with the local purchasing incentive bill S.273. 

MID-TERM (in the next 5 years/by 2025)

  • Set short and long-term targets for local, organic food purchasing through schools and other state funded institutions
    • S. 273 would mandate that at least 20% of all school food purchases by 2022 come from local/Vermont sources, and that 20% of food purchases for corrections facilities would come from local/Vermont sources by 2023
    • The Vermont Farm to School Network’s goal is 50% from local, state, and regional (northeast) sources by 2025
  • Enact policies to support food sovereignty at all levels and allow farms of all sizes to thrive by:
  • Invest in and enact policies that support land access for the next generation of farmers, including:
  • Expand Health Care Share program to all hospitals and health centers in Vermont
     
  • Support transition to organic practices by:
    • Investing in a holistic payment for ecosystems services program that compensates farmers for a range of environmental outcomes including increased soil organic matter, carbon sequestration, pollinator and other wildlife habitat, and water holding capacity
    • Including stipulations in state-funded conservation easements
    • Mandating the use of organic methods to maintain state owned lands
  • Phase out the use of chemicals toxic to pollinator, aquatic, wildlife, and human health by:
    • Setting specific target dates for phase-out of neonicotinoids, atrazine, glyphosate along with significant support for transition to IPM and organic practices
    • Establishing fees on pesticides, imported nutrients in feed, and synthetic fertilizers contributing to declining biodiversity, water quality problems, and climate crisis
  • Increase incentives for the production and use of clean renewable energy on farms
    • Ensure that siting of solar and other renewable energy happens in conjunction with, rather than displacing, farming activities like rotational grazing and pollinator habitat.
  • Land access for beginning farmers and farmers of color
    • Tax credits/incentives for landowners who sell or lease land to beginning farmers/farmers of color
    • No interest sales of transitioning farms to farmers of color and beginning farmers 
  • Legislate a minimum of 15 paid sick days per year, additional paid sick days in public health emergencies, and paid family leave, regardless of size of workplace

LONG TERM (6+ years)

  • Transition from an export-based agricultural economy to one that prioritizes feeding all Vermonters first with the products grown and produced here. Elements of such a transition include: 
    • Investment in and coordination of regional “food hubs” to support the aggregation, storage, and distribution of food within communities around the state
    • Increased capacity for long term statewide food system planning and supply chain management
    • Long term investment in training and hiring a substantial number of qualified farm business advisors and technical service providers to support farm business planning, succession, transition, specialization and diversification
  • Support the development of community funds for farms, through which community members contribute to local farms as compensation for the provision of ecosystem services
     
  • Create a study to calculate the size of the organic market in Vermont and the percentage of organic imports from other states and abroad, and then develop a program to enable VT organic farmers to replace imports and satisfy Vermont market demand
     
  • Build out capacity to meet the Food Solutions New England goal of producing 50% of food for the region, within the region by 2060
     
  • Expand the social safety net through the provision of: 
    • Universal health care
    • Access to high quality, affordable child care
    • Universal basic income/$15 minimum wage
    • Paid sick leave and family leave for ALL 
  • Federally, create a path to citizenship for immigrant farm workers
     
  • Improve agricultural literacy, by including curriculum about growing food, gardening, cooking, food and nutrition at all public schools and colleges, including medical schools