House approves bill to promote viability of farms

by 5m Editor
23 March 2007, at 9:30am

VERMONT - A bill designed to promote the continued viability of the state's farms easily won preliminary House approval Thursday despite concerns about whether poultry slaughtered in uninspected facilities should be served in restaurants.

That provision was designed to help restaurants get more local chicken and turkey for their customers even though there's a severe shortage of slaughterhouses for all farmers, particularly those raising poultry.

But many lawmakers and Gov. Jim Douglas worried that the policy also could jeopardize public health because the birds could be slaughtered on the farm or in facilities where there are no health inspectors ensuring that the work was being done properly.

"I'm extremely scared to death of E. coli," said Rep. James Fitzgerald, D-St. Albans, referring to unhealthy bacteria.

The proposal called for farmers who slaughter without inspection fewer than 1,000 birds a year to be able to sell their chicken and turkey to restaurants and at farmers' markets. Current law permits them only to sell the poultry directly from the farm.

Another provision of the bill authorizes the state Agriculture Agency to purchase and operate a mobile slaughterhouse that poultry farmers can hire for their farms.

The problem for some farmers is there are not enough inspected poultry slaughterhouses to handle the demand. So it's difficult for people to buy locally produced poultry except by going directly to farms.

"Restaurant owners want to buy from local producers," said Amy Shollenberger of Rural Vermont. "There's a shortage of inspected facilities in the state. Even with a mobile unit, that won't serve all the producers."

Rep. Carol Hosford, D-Waitsfield, said there's a demand at local restaurants for local food, including poultry, and they would be willing to comply with a requirement in the bill that they label offerings on their menus if they were selling uninspected birds.


5m Editor