From the office of non-binding resolutions:
Last Thursday, the Vermont Legislature issued a Joint Senate Resolution on the matter of the Morses Line border port of entry expansion plan (see "Crossing the Line," 9/30/09). Basically, the folks in Montpelier don't like the idea of a family farm being destroyed in the name of homeland security.
Quick synopsis of the border issue: the Department of Homeland Security wants to expand and upgrade the border port of entry at Morses Line, a tiny crossing that sees about two and a half cars an hour and about 14,000 cars a year. The expansion would require the acquisition of five acres of property owned by the Rainville family, whose 240-acre dairy farm abuts the border.
The Rainvilles argue that losing five acres of hay for their 75-milker herd would be so financially devastating that it would likely put the farm out of business. The feds argue that the $5 million port expansion (down from $15 million) is essential for border security.
The government has proposed to pay the family $39,500 for the five acres, but the family won't sell. In mid-April, they received a letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informing them that the corps will likely file a condemnation notice within 60 days of the letter, meaning that their property could be taken by eminent domain for the purpose of "securing our borders."
The Vermont Legislature doesn't like this at all. Here's what they had to say about it last week (just the highlights):
J.R.S. 64. Joint resolution relating to the future of the international port of entry at Morses
Line and the proposed federal acquisition of land belonging to the Rainville family farm...
Whereas, every one of those 130 acres is integral to this Vermont farm’s economic viability,
Whereas, the Rainville farm is exactly the type of dairy farm that is all too rapidly vanishing
and that the state of Vermont is making every effort to preserve as an ongoing agricultural
Whereas, Vermont’s farmland attracts tourists who travel to the state to view the state’s
picturesque open spaces, and
Whereas, according to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM), the
total number of dairy farms in January stood at 11,206 in 1947, 9,512 in 1957, 4,729 in 1967,
3,531 in 1977, 2,771 in 1987, 1,908 in 1997, 1,168 in 2007, and 1,055 in 2010, and
Whereas, the VAAFM has projected that Vermont may lose up to 200 farms in 2010,
lowering the number to below 1,000 for the first time since the state of Vermont has conducted a
farm count survey, and
Whereas, from an economic perspective, the Sustainable Agriculture Council has estimated
that Vermont’s agricultural worth has now grown to nearly $3.7 billion, and
Whereas, the United States Department of Homeland Security (the Department) and United
States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is under the Department’s jurisdiction, have
announced their intention to acquire land — by means of eminent domain proceedings if
necessary — from the Rainville farm for use in the construction of a new international border
port-of-entry facility at Morses Line, and
Whereas, the Department and CBP are justifying this project on grounds of both national
security and economic stimulation, and
Whereas, the Rainville family has stated that were it to lose any of its land used for cultivating
hay, this small farm’s self-sufficiency would be lost, and
Whereas, a loss in the available hay would force the Rainvilles to purchase commercial feed
for their herd, adding an expense they do not currently incur, and
Whereas, in the federal Farmland Protection Policy Act of 1981 (Pub. L. 97-89) (the act),
Congress found that “the Nation’s farmland is a unique natural resource and provides food and
fiber necessary for the continued welfare of the people of the United States” and further stated
that the law’s purpose was “to minimize the extent to which Federal programs contribute to the
unnecessary and irreversible conversion of farmland to nonagricultural uses,” and
Whereas, this proposed land acquisition is clearly contrary to Congress’s express intent as
stated in the act, and...
Whereas, although the department’s proposed new border-crossing facility has been reduced
in size, there remains concern that it may be larger than needed for the amount of traffic that
crosses at Morses Line, and
Whereas, there have been suggestions that federal funds would be better directed at further
improvements to the heavily used port of entry at nearby Highgate, and...
Whereas, reducing the economic viability of a small Vermont dairy farm should not be
equated with economic stimulation, now therefore be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:
That the General Assembly strongly urges the United States Department of Homeland
Security to assess carefully the comments offered at the forthcoming public meeting on the
future of the port of entry facility at Morses Line and to re-evaluate the need to condemn any
land belonging to the Rainville farm in the town of Franklin...
The public meeting referred to in the resolution is happening 10 a.m., Saturday, May 22 at the Franklin Town Hall. Representatives from Customs and Border Protection will be in attendance, including Trent Frazier, CBP Land Port Modernization Program Management Office Director. Representatives from Vermont's Congressional Delegation will also be at the meeting. If you have an opinion on northern border security, the preservation of Vermont farms, small business, stimulus funds, etc., let your feelings be known at the meeting.