Editorial: Newport City Council missed the boat

The Newport City Council missed the boat last week when approached about the possibility of putting a tar sands resolution on the agenda for the annual City Meeting in March.  The council could have welcomed city residents who want to talk about an important local issue.  Instead they snubbed them.

The council told residents and an environmental organizer who wants to put a question about tar sands on the ballot that they might accept a petition from 5 percent of the city’s voters and put it on the ballot.  Or they might not.

Traditionally, the city council has turned down items that are not strictly city business, aldermen told the voters.

In this discussion, they told voters and a representative of the Sierra Club that they should not put anything “politicized” on the ballot.

Isn’t the whole idea of Town Meeting Day about local politics?  How strange for the city’s leading political figures to say they want to avoid politics at their city meeting.

Beyond that, just whose city is Newport anyway?  If 5 percent of city voters want to talk about something, what harm is that going to do?

The city council seems to be saying that tar sands is not a local issue.

City Manager John Ward called the Sierra Club, “just one more lobbying group coming here to tell us how to live.”

But tar sands is definitely a local issue.  The Portland Pipeline goes through Newport Center, which borders the city.  The pipeline goes through a number of towns further south where the rivers drain into Lake Memphremagog.

Does the council believe that an oil spill into rivers and streams leading to Lake Memphremagog would not harm the city’s economy, not to mention the environment?  If there were a spill, we wouldn’t be eating bass, walleye, trout or perch for years to come.

Newport City’s annual meeting is typically a brief, perfunctory affair where almost no one comes and almost nothing is discussed.  The city’s business is done by paper ballot.

Certainly this works well in terms of getting a good number of people to vote on municipal and school budgets and elections.  It’s more convenient for working people to choose their voting time.

But the lack of discussion is unfortunate, and here is an opportunity to allow city residents to have a debate about an issue that could affect the city drastically.  What is the problem with allowing that discussion and even a vote on a resolution?

There is such a thing as being too provincial.  The Northeast Kingdom sometimes has that reputation, and it’s time for that to change.

The city council could have taken a step to welcome discussion on an important regional topic, but instead they mostly closed the door on it.  Why?  Tradition?  Maybe it’s time for a new tradition. — B.M.D.

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Chris Braithwaite will be in NENPA Hall of Fame

chris hall fame web

Chris Braithwaite, hard at work at the Chronicle office working on this week’s newspaper, in Barton Tuesday. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle 1-15-2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

BARTON — Chronicle founder and publisher Chris Braithwaite will be inducted into the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA) Hall of Fame in February.

Mr. Braithwaite and five other newspaper professionals will be honored at the NENPA winter convention and annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, on February 7. Continue reading

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Hill Farmstead’s expansion is open to the public

Shaun Hill takes a break to enjoy a beer while looking around at his new space.  The retail part of the business is in this space for now.  Photos by Bethany M. Dunbar

Shaun Hill takes a break to enjoy a beer while looking around at his new space. The retail part of the business is in this space for now. Photos by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle January 8, 2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

GREENSBORO — Hill Farmstead Brewery’s expanded space is open to the public for retail sales.

The expansion is not completed, but the space allows customers to wait inside for tastes of beer, to buy bottled beer, and to buy or fill up growlers, which are big, reusable beer bottles.  Waiting lines will probably be just as long as before because the new space has the same number of taps as before, six.

An ell off the new space is so far just a foundation, but eventually it will hold a new brewery with a mezzanine area and windows so people can see production.  Once the expansion is finished, which is expected to be in October, retail space will exist in the end of the ell.  It will include a rest room for the public.

“The plan is to serve bread and cheese,” Mr. Hill said.

Meanwhile, a portable toilet is available outside. Continue reading

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Circus Smirkus zoning permit is appealed

Brin Schoellkopf hovers above the tight wire.

Brin Schoellkopf hovers above the tight wire, in a Circus Smirkus show.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle November 20, 2013

GREENSBORO — Circus Smirkus’ local zoning permit, which allows it to move its camp to Greensboro Village, has been appealed to Vermont Environmental Court.

No trial or hearing dates were set after a telephone conference Monday because the project will also need an Act 250 permit.

Once that permit application is filed, the Act 250 case and the local zoning case will most likely move forward in a bundle, according to Mark Hall, the lawyer representing the circus.

Meanwhile, the show must go on — and so must the camp.  It will, in Burke. Continue reading

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Roger Pion shown competent for trial

Attorney David Sleigh (left) represents Roger Pion in Orleans Superior Court.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Attorney David Sleigh (left) represents Roger Pion in Orleans Superior Court. Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Bethany M. Dunbar

NEWPORT — A new examination of Roger Pion’s mental health shows that he is currently competent to stand trial, attorneys and Judge Howard Van Benthuysen heard in the criminal division of Orleans Superior Court Tuesday.

His new lawyer, Chandler Matson, asked for some time to prepare for a trial.  He is the third attorney on the case and said he does not have all the records yet.  He said he is 60 to 70 percent up to speed.

Continue reading

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Everybody wins at the Lowell FOLK festival

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Ed Newton of Newport restored this 1947 Masse Harris tractor, with which his grandfather farmed.

Ed Newton of Newport restored this 1947 Masse Harris tractor, with which his grandfather farmed. Photos by Bethany M. Dunbar

by Bethany M. Dunbar

LOWELL — “There’s no losers in this kind of a deal.  Everybody wins,” said Ed Newton as he held up his first place ribbon for his 1947 Massey Harris tractor.  Identical ribbons went to each participant in the Lowell FOLK festival parade on Saturday, and his comment seemed like a pretty good summary of the day as a whole.

The FOLK festival is a benefit for projects at the Lowell Graded School.  FOLK stands for Friends of Lowell Kids.

“Our original mission was to build a playground,” sai

Left to right:  Kevin Hodgman and Ben and Keri Willey visit while looking over auction items at the Lowell FOLK festival Saturday.

Left to right: Kevin Hodgman and Ben and Keri Willey visit while looking over auction items at the Lowell FOLK festival Saturday.

d Amy Olsen, an organizer of the festival.  She said the group managed to raise enough money to build the playground, and now that the original mission has been accomplished, the group decided to keep going to fund other school-related projects, such as field trips, special visitors coming in, and a picnic at the end of the school year.

The FOLK festival parade Saturday featured churches, tractors (restored and new), fire trucks, horses and lots of candy being thrown from floats and picked up by kids along the parade route.

Mr. Newton drives a truck for Blue Flame gas, and his grandfather was a farmer in Brownington.

Katherine Pion takes advantage of a huge inflatable slide for kids during the Lowell FOLK festival.

Katherine Pion takes advantage of a huge inflatable slide for kids during the Lowell FOLK festival.

“My grandfather bought it brand new,” Mr. Newton said about his tractor.  His grandfather’s name was Glenn Newton, and when he stopped using the tractor he parked it.

“I found it in the woods, in the mud,” Mr. Newton said, and two trees were growing up in the middle of it.  He cut the trees, dragged it out of the mud, and fixed the tractor back up for going in parades.  He said it has earned its keep, so now it’s retired.

He pointed to all the array of other tractors in the parade Saturday and said, the restored ones that are shiny with fresh paint are said to be in their Sunday best, while the others are in their work clothes.

After the parade, townspeople headed to the Lowell Graded School where booths were set up with crafts, baked goods, games for kids, a bouncy house, and more.  Karen Colburn and Amanda Atwood had a table with products from Celebrating Home and Penelope Ann, a company that offers jewelry and bake ware, personalized items such as plaques, cutting boards, backpacks and handbags.

Lyse McAllister rode her horse Cheyenne's Dandy Mac, who is part Morgan, part pinto and part quarter horse, in the parade.

Lyse McAllister rode her horse Cheyenne’s Dandy Mac, who is part Morgan, part pinto and part quarter horse, in the parade.

These items are for sale by local sales people, who can either hold parties, sell through a catalogue, or through the company’s website.

Inside the gym were more booths, and auction items were on display for the auction to be held in the afternoon.  Among them were a mini-bar and a new wooden wishing well.

contact Bethany M. Dunbar at bethany@bartonchronicle.com

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Sterling College hosts Governor’s Institute on Farms, Food and Your Future

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High school student Toby Marx-Dunn of Jericho attempts to plow a straight furrow under the guidance of Sterling College draft horse manager Rick Thomas (at left), while Sterling students Lee Droste (at right) and Dave Martorana (immediately to the right of Mr. Marx-Dunn) help with the animals.  Sterling hosted the first Governor’s Institute on Farms, Food, and Your Future.  Photos by Bethany M. Dunbar

High school student Toby Marx-Dunn of Jericho attempts to plow a straight furrow under the guidance of Sterling College draft horse manager Rick Thomas (at left), while Sterling students Lee Droste (at right) and Dave Martorana (immediately to the right of Mr. Marx-Dunn) help with the animals. Sterling hosted the first Governor’s Institute on Farms, Food, and Your Future. Photos by Bethany M. Dunbar

by Bethany M. Dunbar

CRAFTSBURY COMMON — Toby Marx-Dunn, a high school student from Jericho, was listening to National Public Radio one day, and it got him thinking about the food he eats.  He decided he wanted to know more and get better, healthier food.  This impulse led him to sign up for a brand new summer Governor’s Institutes of Vermont — one called Farms, Food and Your Future.

Last week the impulse left him standing behind the back ends of a pair of large, patient workhorses in a farm field at Sterling College.

Sterling was one of the hosts of this year’s institute, the first one to focus on these subjects.  Mr. Marx-Dunn seems to be not alone in his impulse, judging by admissions numbers at Sterling.  Last year the college — which teaches sustainable agriculture and food-related topics — had about 90 students.  This fall the doors will open to a full class of 110.  Tim Patterson, director of admissions and financial aid, said the dorms are full.

The Governor’s institutes are residencies for high school students with accelerated learning on college campuses in specific subject areas.  This year’s institutes included ones on the arts, engineering, information technology, mathematics, and Asian cultures.

On Wednesday, July 31, Toby Marx-Dunn picked up the handles of a plow behind two big horses named Daisy and Rexi.  His new job was to try to make the thing go straight.

“It doesn’t go straight by itself,” he reported shortly after plowing his very first two furrows.  Asked if it was fun, he said vehemently, “No.”

Not fun, Mr. Marx-Dunn explained, because it’s much harder than it looks.

Even so, Mr. Marx-Dunn and a dozen other high schoolers did get the basics on how fields are plowed, and why good soil is important, and how Sterling plans to enrich the soil on the particular field they were plowing that day.  Draft horse manager Rick Thomas explained that plows can only dig so deep, and the soil was hard below the furrow.  In order to loosen it up and add some organic matter to the hardpan, they would plant daikon radishes as a cover crop.  These radishes grow fast and have deep roots.

High school students at the Governor’s Institute on Farms, Food and Your Future walk through the turkey pen to see the pasture at Sterling College in Craftsbury.

High school students at the Governor’s Institute on Farms, Food and Your Future walk through the turkey pen to see the pasture at Sterling College in Craftsbury.

Also that day, the students met a flock of young turkeys destined for a flock of Thanksgiving tables, and they learned about the difficulty of growing turkeys to the right weight, why pasture is good for them and why they are good for pasture, and a little about heritage breeds.

Sterling raises 1,000 birds a year on its farm.  The young turkey poults the students saw that day had already grown 12 pounds in a month and a half, so the farm manager explained they would have to be processed and frozen well before Thanksgiving, so they would not be too big to fit into a regular oven.

In between these outdoor adventures, the students heard about how the cafeteria works at Sterling College.

The college grows 20 percent of its own food, and 44 percent of the food in the cafeteria is grown on local farms.  Faculty, staff, and students all eat together and each helps with the work of putting that food onto the tables.

Anne Obelnicki, director of food systems, explained to the group that last year the college grew 760 pounds of rutabagas and because of the skill of cooks at Sterling, no one got sick of rutabaga.  She said they used it in all sorts of unusual ways, even mashed as an ingredient in cake.

“I think that deliciousness is part of sustainability,” she said.  If the food doesn’t taste good, people won’t keep eating it.

She said another part of sustainability is making the food affordable.

“The food at Sterling doesn’t cost any more than at any other college,” she said.  She said people are always saying local food is more expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.  Sterling has great cooks, she said, who can make a delicious meal out of rice and beans, for example.

Ms. Obelnicki passed out free samples of salami made at Sterling, which she explained is made with raw meat and bacteria so it will ferment.

At Sterling, she said, “We don’t just eat to eat.  We eat because we’re trying to live our education here.”

Ms. Obelnicki said students at some colleges have started a “real food” challenge.  They go into their college cafeterias and start asking questions about how much of the food is local, organic, and fair trade.  If a series of questions can be answered in the affirmative, she said, the food can be called real.  The students who came up with the idea set a goal, she said, “Let’s get real food into our college — 20 percent by 2020.”

Under these guidelines, Sterling’s cafeteria has about 70 percent real food, one of the highest percentages in the country.

Jonathan Kaplan, lead faculty for the Governor’s Institute on Farms, Food, and Your Future, teaches biology and history at Lyndon State College.  He is a former state advisor for the Future Farmers of America (FFA).  Lyndon State is also a participant in the real food challenge.

After hearing Ms. Obelnicki’s discussion of Sterling’s food system, he told the students they might want to take that real food challenge back home with them.

“There’s nothing stopping you from going back to your high school and making this happen,” he said.

Christian Feuerstein, director of communications for Sterling, noted the college now offers minors in draft horse management, climate justice, and sustainable food systems.

contact Bethany M. Dunbar at bethany@bartonchronicle.com

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Tough Mudder is a challenge, not a race

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For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Sports pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital editions.

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Sports pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital editions.

by Bethany M. Dunbar

If obstacles with names such as the Arctic Enema and the Boa Constrictor — which involves muddy water, barbed wire, and culverts — sound like fun, then maybe the Tough Mudder is for you.

On Saturday at Mount Snow in Dover, a team from the Fortitude Fitness Systems of Derby and Lyndonville, and an individual local competitor, joined throngs of thousands to see what they were made of.

The Tough Mudder credo says it’s not a race; it’s a personal challenge.  People are challenged to put other competitors — teammates or otherwise — ahead of a desire to complete the course in a particular time.

Still, anyone who does Tough Mudder is likely to have at least some competitive streak and is probably thinking about how long it’s taking.

Tyler Gosley of Barton completed the course in four hours and ten minutes.  He had done it the year before with a big team in six hours.

“It’s really not a race,” he said.  “It’s about leaving no one behind.”

He said random people helped him through some of the obstacles, and he helped others.  It’s just part of the dynamic of the event.

Logan Perron of Glover (front) and Eric Hastings of Newport Center crawl out of the Electric Eel.  The wires hanging down are live wires, so if you touch them you get zapped, which is definite motivation to crawl through as fast and stealthily as possible.  Mr. Perron was the one person on the Fortitude Fitness Team to cross the Funky Monkey (monkey bars over a mud pool) successfully.  Photo by Lisa Cordeau

Logan Perron of Glover (front) and Eric Hastings of Newport Center crawl out of the Electric Eel. The wires hanging down are live wires, so if you touch them you get zapped, which is definite motivation to crawl through as fast and stealthily as possible. Mr. Perron was the one person on the Fortitude Fitness Team to cross the Funky Monkey (monkey bars over a mud pool) successfully. Photo by Lisa Cordeau

Tough Mudder raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project, which Mr. Gosley said helps disabled veterans.  He knows of one case where the project built a house for a veteran.  It was set up with amenities that particular veteran needed.

The course goes up and down on Mount Snow.  Parts of it have water, some parts have wires providing electrical shocks.  The Arctic Enema is an obstacle with ice water and boards the competitors must swim under.  One obstacle requires climbing hand over hand over a muddy pool of water with the use of monkey bars.  Competitors must carry logs and climb curved walls, running up and down the mountainous trail in the meantime.

The Fortitude Fitness Systems team celebrates its accomplishment after completing the course.  In the back row, left to right, are Logan Perron of Glover, Angie Marquis of Newport Center, Lisa Cordeau of Newport (team photographer and support person), Eric Hastings and Hailey Gentile of Newport Center (recently engaged), and Mark Tucker.  In the front row are Carole Ricard of Derby, Sylvie Corriveau of Stanstead, Quebec, Kim Swett of Derby Line, and Deb Weber of East Haven.  Photo courtesy of Lisa Cordeau

The Fortitude Fitness Systems team celebrates its accomplishment after completing the course. In the back row, left to right, are Logan Perron of Glover, Angie Marquis of Newport Center, Lisa Cordeau of Newport (team photographer and support person), Eric Hastings and Hailey Gentile of Newport Center (recently engaged), and Mark Tucker. In the front row are Carole Ricard of Derby, Sylvie Corriveau of Stanstead, Quebec, Kim Swett of Derby Line, and Deb Weber of East Haven. Photo courtesy of Lisa Cordeau

Mr. Gosley, who is a certified personal trainer, said he did not know how many people participated this year, but last year he heard it was 14,000 in one day.  Competitors were started in waves of 600 each.

“It was awesome.  The crowd, the energy was top notch.  The weather — you couldn’t have asked for a better day.”

Kim Swett of Derby Line, a member of the Fortitude Fitness Systems team, did the Tough Mudder for the first time and wrote about her efforts in a blog:  onemoosersjourney.blogspot.com.

Here is an excerpt:

Saturday morning dawned and the butterflies fluttering in my stomach ramped up the fluttering to break dancing.  It got worse as I registered, had someone write my number on my forehead and my forearm, pinned on my number and approached the start.  Luckily Carole had thought to tell me that before we got to the start we had to go over a wall.  With help from Logan, Eric and Tyler I made it over.  Hailey and Carole were waiting on the other side to remind me to lower myself with my arms before I jumped so it wouldn’t be as far.

The fear let up a little at this point and I got into the spirit at the start.  The MC led us through, “The Star Spangled Banner,” ten seconds of silence for military personnel and then we all recited the “Mudder Pledge.”  Everyone was pumped up, it was infectious. Suddenly for the first time I didn’t want to cry:  I wanted to put my training and hard work to the test.

It wasn’t easy, and she describes her successes and attempts in some detail.  In the end, she is glad she took the challenge:

We made it to the top of the mountain near a chair lift and Hailey led me through some yoga stretches, though honestly in extended child’s pose I mostly hunched over and sobbed.  My back hurt, I was exhausted and I was afraid I was going to fail.  At that point I reminded myself where I started, I reminded myself of my training and I heard my coach’s voice in my head.  “Do it! You can do it!  Dominate this!” echoed and I pushed back to my feet.  My team believed in me, my coach believed in me:  I had to believe in myself too.

Hailey Gentile of Newport Center peeks up after sliding through the Boa Constrictor obstacle during Tough Mudder competition at Mount Snow on Saturday.  She was a member of the Fortitude Fitness Systems team.  For a story and more photos, please turn to page eighteen.  Photo by Lisa Cordeau

Hailey Gentile of Newport Center peeks up after sliding through the Boa Constrictor obstacle during Tough Mudder competition at Mount Snow on Saturday. She was a member of the Fortitude Fitness Systems team. For a story and more photos, please turn to page eighteen. Photo by Lisa Cordeau

I’d love to tell you the rest of the course was a breeze, that I did it with no more tears and no more moments of wanting to admit defeat and ask for a medic.  That was not the case, but every time I wanted to quit, my friends were there to coax one more step.

To make a long story a little shorter:  I finished Tough Mudder.  I have the T-shirt and orange headband to prove it.  A friend who completed Tough Mudder last year told me it was life changing.  She was right.  I hurt when I finished, I won’t lie about that, but I felt better.  I found the mental and physical stamina to go on when it would have been easier (possibly even wiser) to stop.

The little voice that belittles and berates me was silent and has been silent since a Tough Mudder volunteer put that orange headband on me.  I know that voice probably is not gone for good, it will sneak back in at some point, but now I will silence it.  I’m strong, I’ve always been strong I suppose, but I didn’t believe it before now.

 contact Bethany M. Dunbar at bethany@bartonchronicle.com

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In Barton: Chronicle reporter watches car get stolen

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by Bethany M. Dunbar

BARTON — A veteran reporter for the Chronicle had his car stolen from the office as he was working inside on Tuesday.  But about three hours later, the vehicle was found in Orleans, and the person who took it was caught.

About 3:30 p.m., Assistant Editor Natalie Hormilla Gordon arrived for her evening shift job and noticed a young man in a hooded sweatshirt sitting in Paul Lefebvre’s car, holding the steering wheel.

She did not recognize him, thought it was odd, and when she went inside, she told Mr. Lefebvre, who went outside to take a look.  By then the car was being driven from the scene, badly.  It’s a Honda CRV with standard shift, and the driver was stalling as he made his getaway, down Water Street and north on Route 5, as Mr. Lefebvre watched.

Thinking he might be able to head it off on foot, Mr. Lefebvre cut through the schoolyard at a run to try to get his car back.

The attempt proved unfruitful, so he came back to the office where he called the State Police to report the theft.  Chronicle staffers also decided to post the car’s theft on Facebook.  Trooper Erika Liss came to the Chronicle office and interviewed Mr. Lefebvre and Ms. Gordon, who had got a good look at the robber.  She described him as a white male in his twenties, average size, with blue eyes, wearing a Navy blue hoodie.

“He had his hands on the wheel, looking kind of intense,” she said.  “He was just sitting there, and I thought, maybe he knows Paul.”

Mr. Lefebvre said his first thought was, “How am I going to get home tonight?”

His car had been in an accident about a week and a half before, and the back window was smashed out and covered with a green tarp and duct tape.  It also had problems with the door, created in the accident.

Mr. Lefebvre said it has not been a very lucky car for him, as he has had to put in a new motor, water pump, and clutch.

“I think that car has a hex on it,” he said.

But Mr. Lefebvre’s luck was apparently turning a few hours later, when people started calling the office to say they had seen the car in Orleans Village.  They were aware of the theft due to the Facebook post.  Mr. Lefebvre called the police back to say the car had been spotted in Orleans, and Lieutenant Kirk Cooper went to the village, spotted the car and found out the driver was in the bathroom at the Sunoco station.  The driver, who said he is from Enosburg and had no wallet with him, was cited after he came out of the bathroom.

Mr. Lefebvre had his car back, and nothing seemed to be missing from the vehicle.

contact Bethany M. Dunbar at bethany@bartonchronicle.com

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House votes down farm bill

A group of heifers hang out in Brownington.  Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

A group of heifers hang out in Brownington. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

by Bethany M. Dunbar

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives has rejected the five-year farm bill, 234 to 195.

Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont was among the no votes.

Mr. Welch supported the bill as it was passed by the House Agriculture Committee, but in a telephone interview Tuesday he said he was among the Democrats who voted against the bill on the floor on Thursday, June 20.

An amendment supported by House Speaker John Boehner was just too drastic, he said.  The speaker encouraged several changes, including stripping out a dairy insurance and supply management plan for farmers.  Also, cuts to nutrition programs to help low-income families were severe, Mr. Welch said.

He said some Republicans wanted to drastically cut nutrition spending, and people who received help with food costs would be required to take drug tests and go into a work program.

“You had to go into a work program that didn’t exist,” Mr. Welch said.

States would also get financial benefits for getting people off the programs.  In other words, the provisions were designed to get rid of nutrition programs, Mr. Welch said.  He said he just couldn’t vote yes in good conscience.  He hopes a new version of the bill will be developed.

“I’m more disappointed about the farm bill going down than just about anything I’ve done in Congress,” he said.

The House Agriculture Committee bill had bipartisan support, he said, and would have included cuts to food programs that were more severe than the Senate’s version.  But Mr. Welch said he supported the committee bill because he was confident it could be repaired in a conference committee.

Asked what now, Congressman Welch said, “It’s really Mr. Boehner’s decision.”  He added,  “America needs a farm bill.  It’s outrageous, basically, to give rural America the back of our hand.”

A letter Mr. Boehner wrote to his colleagues asks them to support an amendment called the Goodlatte/Scott amendment to cut dairy programs and get rid of supply management.

“Taxpayers have shelled out $5.44-billion for dairy programs since the 2002 Farm Bill (which I voted against),” says the letter.

Mr. Welch said the dairy program in the committee bill was a good plan, spearheaded by Vermont farmers.  It would have gotten rid of subsidies, replacing them with a margin insurance plan and supply management.

The Senate version of the bill, as outlined by Senator Pat Leahy last year, reduced spending by more than $23-billion.  Dairy farmers would have the option to buy margin insurance to protect their prices when the federal milk price drops below the cost of production.  The supply management provision would discourage overproduction of milk by paying less if a farmer increases production at times when the price is down.  The insurance would be available at a lower price for the first four million pounds of milk, about the annual production of 200 to 250 cows.

The U.S. Senate has passed a farm bill twice.  After the no vote on Thursday, Senator Patrick Leahy issued a press release saying the House Republican leaders “trumped practicality with ideology, at the expense of farmers and consumers and millions of families who constantly struggle to keep hunger and malnutrition at bay.”

The farm bill covers dairy policy and nutrition programs.  The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is an $80-billion program.  The House version of the farm bill would have cut it by $20-billion while the Senate version would have cut it by $4-billion.

In the past, the farm bill has also helped create jobs in rural areas through a program called the REAP zone.  It has funded environmental protection programs.  The Senate version of the bill included these provisions and others to help farmers get organic certification and to expand farmers markets.

Some of Mr. Welch’s priorities for the farm bill are disaster insurance for vegetable growers, promoting local fruits and vegetables in school lunches, and helping pay for efficiency improvements for maple sugarmakers, grants for maple research, and opening state lands to maple sugaring.

contact Bethany M. Dunbar at bethany@bartonchronicle.com

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