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UVM kicks in for farmers

By Tim Johnson | Burlington Free Press

A new campaign to aid struggling dairy farmers is getting a boost from students at the University of Vermont.

Beginning Tuesday, 10 cents of the $1.89 that students pay for a 14-ounce container of milk went into a fund to be distributed directly to farmers. The money will make up for only a tiny fraction of farmers' losses, but the hope is that more colleges will sign on and that the support fund will continue to grow.

Harvard students started paying into the program last month. UVM is the second university to participate, with support from the Student Government Association and Sodexho, UVM's dining services contractor.

"I think it sends a message that students can help in some capacity," SGA President Bryce Jones said in a UVM news release. Bryce said a survey of 300 students showed that about 80 percent would be willing to pay at least 10 cents more per milk serving to support farmers.

Melissa Zelazny, director of dining services, said retail milk sales annually amount to about 40,000 containers. That would amount to about $4,000, or roughly $500 a month, for Keep Local Farms, a New England initiative launched in Vermont in September.

Zelazny said milk prices have been falling, but rather than reduce the retail price, it's being kept the same, and what would have been a 10-cent saving will be passed on to farmers.

Dairy farmers are now receiving about $12 for a hundredweight of milk, said Kelly Loftus, spokeswoman for the Vermont Agency on Agriculture, compared with a production cost of $17 or $18. A hundredweight equals 11.6 gallons of raw milk.

Keep Local Farms -- a collaborative initiative of the New England Family Dairy Farm Cooperative, the New England Dairy Promotion Board and the Vermont Dairy Promotion Council -- seeks to ease that financial shortfall. The campaign's Web site (www.keeplocalfarms.org) offers explanatory information and accepts donations to the fund.

Diane Bothfeld, deputy secretary of agriculture, said negotiations are under way with "a major retailer" to join the program in January. She said the proceeds would be distributed to cooperative members twice a year, spring and fall.

Contact Tim Johnson at 660-1808 or [email protected].

 

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