State Agriculture officials announced October 1, 2002, that they have denied the
application by Vermont Egg Farm (VEF) for a proposed expansion that
would have more than doubled the size of its Highgate facility.
In an 8-page finding, the Department cited a number of concerns in denying
the expansion, primarily centering on manure management and its direct
relationship to the potential return of the fly problem that plagued
the facility in its early years of operation.
"I considered this decision very carefully," said Agriculture Commissioner
Leon Graves, "because a big part of my job is to encourage and support
all of the diversified agricultural interests of Vermont including small,
medium, large and expanding farming operations. In the end, however,
Vermont Egg Farm simply failed to meet the requirements for adequate
manure management as called for by the LFO (Large Farm Operation) law."
The expansion application has generated a great deal of controversy
since being deemed complete the first time in February of 2002. Just
over one month later, the application was rendered incomplete due to
revisions of the manure management plan. After more than five months
passed, an amended manure management plan was resubmitted to the Department
of Agriculture by Vermont Egg Farm. The application was recently deemed
complete again on September 10. In both cases, a 10-day public comment
period was offered.
Graves, who operated a small dairy farm in Fairfield for many years
prior to being named Commissioner of Agriculture, said public input
is a crucial part of the process. However, Graves said that for the
LFO process to have legitimacy it can't be subject to political concerns
or popular opinion and each application must be judged on its merits
on a case-by-case basis.
"It is the public policy of this state as expressed in law, and my own
personal belief as well, that diverse agricultural operations are essential
to our rural communities and character, that farming preserves the environmental
resources of the state, that farming furthers the economic self-sufficiency
of the state, and that agriculture provides a general benefit to the
health and welfare of the people of the state," Graves said.
"These policies do not equate this value to the relative size of an
agricultural operation, however," said Graves, "and it is for this very
reason we have the LFO law in Vermont. To remain economically viable
some farms may choose to expand and we have to allow them this option.
At the same time, we have to make sure that this is done in an agriculturally
"We have been hearing about the increase of large farms inVermont. The
truth is that only 17 farms in Vermont -- just slightly over 1.1 percent
of our approximately 1,500 dairy farms and less than 2/10 of one percent
of our 6,700 total farms -- are permitted as large farms."
"Furthermore," Graves added, "all but one of our large farms are family
owned and support not only the families that run them but as many as
20 other individuals and their families, not to mention the tax base
of their communities and the businesses that supply them."
Graves encouraged anyone with questions about large farms and the LFO
permit process to contact the Department of Agriculture in Montpelier.