VT Meat Inspection Cancellation

My wife heard on the radio that Governor Douglas is going to be shutting down the Vermont Meat Inspection program. This is a most unfortunate and ill-advised move. That is a very good department. I’ve worked with them a lot as a farmer. If Douglas shuts them down it will be very hard to restart. This is short sighted to close them completely. A better alternative would be some reduction that would keep the program active and alive through these tough economic times.

Without processors, VT farmers can’t get meat to the plate. Since we’ve been losing USDA inspect processing facilities for years this means it will be harder and harder for consumers to buy locally produced meats. That will then shut down local farms and cause farm infrastructure such as feed stores to lose business. This is a short sighted, ill-advised move that will worsen the current situation.

I appeal to you to contact Governor Douglas to let him know what you think. Drop him a short note in support of the VT Meat Inspection department. Without them we will lose local slaughter houses – something already in very short supply.

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About Walter Jeffries

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13 Responses to VT Meat Inspection Cancellation

  1. Anonymous says:

    Well. For What it is worth I wrot the gov…..

    I am disappointed Mr. Douglas that you would put our food in jepordey and hamper the local food movement by canceling the vermont meat inspection program. You are hrtin farmers and consumers like myself. Our state is already bleeding slaughter houses. You are making the situation worse.

    Instead you should be help ing to setup new slaughter houses and butchers to serve vermont livestock owners. We need more. Make loans and grants with all this federal money. I know of two farmers and one non farmer who are ready to move on buildng facilities. Act now. Shovel ready.

  2. Bruce King says:

    Welcome to my world. Washington state doesn’t have a state program at all, and the USDA slaughter has been narrowing as well. So we’re limited to whole or half, which is a big stretch for most consumers.

  3. Oh, I’m aware of your world, Bruce. NH, where I’ve lived, has no state meat inspection program. They also are sorely lacking in processing and have been desperately trying to setup a department from what I’ve heard. Vermont is making a dramatic mistake to follow in their shoes. e.g., get rid of the department and then waste ten times as much reestablishing it later. So, Bruce, please write to Vermont Governor Douglas, even though you are out of state, because you have the experience, and let him know the error of his ways.

  4. Eileen says:

    Thanks for letting us know, Walter. I wrote a note to the governor. I realized while writing it that except for chickens (which I raise and slaughter myself), ALL of the meat we eat comes from Vermont! Pork from you, beef from Badger Brook, goat from a friend in Barnet, and last week I bought a duck at Buffalo Mountain that was raised in VT as well! So obviously VT slaughterhouses are an important part of my food chain.

  5. It’s going to be hard for farmers both in Vermont and for those from other states that bring their livestock to Vermont for processing. We take our pigs to one of three very small USDA processors (slaughter/butcher/smoke) which are about an hour from us. Then we have to go to pickup the meat on another day. Round trip it comes out to be about six hours a week of driving plus about two hours a week of sorting. Then we can deliver. What I foresee happening with the Governor’s move is that the state inspected processors will be eliminated, since making the jump to USDA is fairly hard. This will put more pressure on the already over burdened small number of USDA processors in Vermont. As it is, getting processing slots in their schedule is already extremely difficult six months of the year. This will just make it that much harder for local farmers to get their meat to consumers.

  6. treemd_99@yahoo.com says:

    Dear Governor Douglas,

    I am writing you at the request of Walter Jeffries of West Topsham, VT. It is my understanding that you intend to cancel the meat inspection program in the State of VT.

    Please reconsider, as a Republican Farmer and small business person, I can tell you that meat inspection is one of those state agencies that deserve your support from the perspective that it allows small farm businesses to flourish. State meat inspection works in a supportive role that that cannot be adequately filled by the USDA which is not supportive of small agricultural business that are starting to thrive in our New England States.Governor please look more closely from a cost/benefit and potential benefit before you make a costly error.

    Mike Snow

  7. Sarah says:

    Walter, here is a related story from the Times Argus. The relevant quote is: “This includes the elimination of the red meat inspection program in the Vermont Department of Agriculture, which administration officials say is the responsibility of the federal government.”

    Just wanted to clarify that for you and the other readers. I don’t quite understand if the “red meat inspection program” is the same as the VT Meat Inspection Department but I do plan to write to Governor Douglas to urge him NOT to cut the program. Thanks for the news!

  8. Sarah, I spoke via e-mail with one of the legislators on the Ag Committee who said that it is the meat inspection program and they will be taking a close look at the Governor’s proposal which is not final. The legislator opposes the cuts as it will take Vermont backwards and lose local sustainability among other issues. More news to come in the future weeks no doubt.

  9. Walter,
    You're right – that's bad news and I'm surprised that Vermont would do that.
    I always think of VT as very independent minded and ignoring the pressures from Washington & special interests.

    Is there a grassroots protest campaign in the works yet?
    Nothing like angry local foodies marching on the State House.

    Surely VT monies can be allotted and cut from somewhere else to fund clean, local food.
    Good Luck

  10. Rosalyn says:

    Walter – good luck with your campaign… Can I ask you a questions completely off topic? What are your thoughts/experience in feeding suet to chickens? We just butchered our beef and rendered the fat down. I was thinking about saving the suet for the chickens this winter as a protein/fat source.

  11. The suet is high in fat but low in protein. We give some to our chickens – they love it and it is a good source of lipids for them over the winter while insects are not available out in the pastures. For protein I give red meat.

    We keep chickens primarily for their ability to naturally balance the insect pest population. The fact that they also make delicious eggs is a nice side benefit but we have a lot more than we need for that purpose. The chickens also weed our gardens, break up poop patties and smooth the soil in the fields where pigs root a little.

    The easy way to keep them laying over the winter is commercial layer feed but with attention to detail meat, fat and compost veggies work for most of the winter.

  12. Dan says:

    Dear Governor Douglas,
    I am writing as I have recently heard Vermont is considering eliminating the Vermont Meat Inspection Program. As a former rural policy analyst in Nebraska, I can say with certainty that small and mid-sized diversified farms contribute mightily to the economic health of their communities and states. Small and mid-sized processing facilities are crucial to the health of those farms.

    Due to the onerous bureaucratic requirements (which have little or nothing to do with food safety), investing in state meat inspection programs is critical to maintaining the vital contributions of agriculture to every state’s economy. Please do not eliminate the Vermont Meat Inspection program; it provides a service that is incredibly important to Vermont farmers, consumers and all citizens.

    Thank You,
    Daniel Owens

  13. Update:

    I have been in contact with the department heads and our legislators, written the governor, heard back from the Lt. Governor and several legislators as well. They opposed the Governor’s plans for cutting this important food safety program.

    The people at the meat inspection department are in favor of voluntary salary cuts in their own salaries in order to keep the program going. A lot of brainstorming is going on to make sure Vermont continues to have a meat inspection program. It is very worthwhile for people to write to the Governor and the meat inspection department to show their support.

    On an interesting note, someone pointed out that the USDA already pays for about 76% of the Vermont program so the state won’t really save much but will lose a lot – all the small butcher shops and slaughterhouses. The Governor, on the other hand, does not call, he doesn’t write, what’s a farmer to think.

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