Wednesday, May 18, 2011


History is full of federal actions that addressed problems and opportunities in rural America even prior to the New Deal period.  It was not until the late 1920’s, however, that the federal government took direct action relative to production controls in attempts to increase farm prices.  Passage of the New Deal Programs was considered to be a major change in the farm policy agenda.  “For 70 years, after passage of the Morrill Act which set up the Land Grant Colleges, the farm policy agenda had been agricultural development; the components of that policy were research, classroom teaching, on-farm education, and improvement of agricultural resources.”(See Paarlberg paper).

The 1920’s were a period of severe financial conditions in the farm sector.  After WW1 farm production increased but demand decreased as export markets declined.  This resulted in a sharp drop in farm prices( 56% decline from 1929-1932 in index of farm prices).  It is said that widespread government intervention in the farm economy began in 1929 when President Herbert Hoover created the Federal Farm Board as part of the Agricultural Marketing Act.  This Act helped to lay the groundwork for many of the later New Deal programs that dealt with crop production controls as a way to increase farm prices. 


Attempts were made in the 1920’s in New England to create one central marketing agency among the dairy farmer cooperatives as a way to better bargain with milk buyers for fair pricing (see last blog posting).  Congress had given farmer cooperatives explicit limited exemption from anti-trust with the passage of the Capper-Volstead Act in 1922.  This Act clarified the legal status of farmer cooperative marketing associations that had been challenged for anti-trust behavior before passage of this Act. Also, even though the Boston milk market had implemented a classified pricing system as early as the 1890’s(farmers receive a price based upon how the milk is used by handlers), no legal way existed for them or their cooperatives to audit to assure accuracy of use; no enforcement provisions required all handlers to abide by such a system; and there was no way to extend the system to non-farmer cooperative members.  Without a central marketing agency, pricing was inconsistent with inequity of bargaining power between buyers and sellers.  Since the Boston Market received about seventy-five percent of the milk and cream that was shipped out of the State of Vermont, there was a great deal of concern about fair pricing by farmers and their support organizations.  The 1929 stock market crash and depression only deepened this concern about adequate farm pricing, both in Vermont and throughout the United States.


While President Hoover recognized the need for intervention to bring about better farm pricing, the provisions of the Agricultural Marketing Act failed to achieve their desired purposes.  The AMA promoted cooperatives (in 1926 a division of cooperative marketing was created within USDA), and the federal board had eight members representing the major farm cooperatives in the U.S.   The intent of the law was to have the cooperatives control production of crops and to increase exports as a way to better pricing.  The Board had $500 million from the U.S. Treasury to carry out its activities.  To increase dairy pricing, for example, the Board made a loan to Land of Lakes Dairy Cooperative to withhold butter sales and to purchase additional product from the market.  The Board also organized a dairy program with five regional butter-marketing associations as a way to provide aid to dairy cooperatives on production controls and marketing.  Dairy farmers were angered when it was suggested that farmers would be paid by the government to reduce the size of their herds in order to cut surplus dairy products.  This voluntary effort by farmers to cut production implemented through the farmer cooperatives failed to produce the desired results.  Prices continued to decline and Treasury funds were depleted. This experiment on voluntary approaches through farm cooperatives to production controls set the stage for new farm legislation within the first 100 days of the Roosevelt Administration.


With the failure of voluntary approaches through cooperatives to address declining farm prices, there was an increased urgency among farm organizations for more direct federal intervention.  President Roosevelt asked Secretary of Agriculture Wallace to assemble farm leaders to reach a consensus on what could be done.  The centerpiece of the New Deal was developed by a well-organized farm-lobbying group, “and the statute was drafted largely by Frederick P. Lee, legislative counsel to the American Farm Bureau.” (see Libecap paper).  The aim of the Agricultural Adjustment Act was to raise agricultural prices relative to the purchasing power of farmers that had prevailed during the period 1909 to 1914.  The law allowed farmers to enter into agreements with the Secretary of Agriculture to reduce their acreage or production in what was deemed to be seven basic commodities; wheat, cotton, corn, rice, tobacco, hogs, and milk.  In return farmers would receive payments derived from taxes levied on processors.  Better compliance with classified pricing issue in markets like Boston was addressed through the issuance of federal licenses to milk dealers.

The Agricultural Adjustment Act was challenged immediately, and in the case of the U.S. vs. Butler, the Court found 6 to 3 that many provisions of the Act were unconstitutional based on the fact that they were an encroachment upon the rights of the States, and that it was illegal to tax one group (processors) to support another (farmers).  There were major divisions within the Court on the opinion.  Nevertheless, the Roosevelt Administration moved quickly to overcome these legal obstacles (later also trying to pack the Court with its supporters).  The Agricultural Marketing Act of 1937 provided clear authority for federal marketing orders and reaffirmed the marketing agreement provisions of the 1933 Act.  Instead of taxing processors to support farmers, general funds were used.


In June of 1937, a conference of dairy leaders from four of the New England States (including Vermont), organized by the Governors of those states, unanimously adopted a resolution approving the federal control of dairy pricing (see Lewiston Daily Sun, June 26, 1937).  The resolution described those states’ control of the milk shed as being impossible because of interstate commerce laws.  The majority of the milk and cream going to Boston and surrounding cities came from states outside Massachusetts and so controls could not be imposed.  This was due to the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  Governor George Aiken described the dire economic situation facing Vermont dairy farms (approximately 10,000 at that time), and said that federal control of milk pricing “would save hundred’s of dairy farmers in the State.”  In the same year, when Congress was debating the 1937 Agricultural Marketing Act, Governor George Aiken sent a terse telegram to Capitol Hill. “Informed that the Senate was stalled on a procedural issue, Governor Aiken wrote in true New England style: Dairy industry in peril, act without delay.” (See N.Y. Times Opinion on Milk Pricing, Oct. 3, 1994).    Prior to 1937, Aiken’s predecessor, Governor Charles Smith, had also expressed concern, saying that if action was not taken to overturn a Court injunction (in 1935, the federal government lost its case when it attempted to enforce the provisions of the federal license to milk dealers for classified pricing, but later over-turned on appeal), the Boston market would crumble and there would be a disastrous affect on interstate and intrastate commerce in milk and cream from Vermont (See Lewiston Daily Sun, May 5, 1936, Boston milk case). In his farewell address to the Vermont legislature, Governor Aiken said “state officials and several farmer cooperatives appealed for a federal marketing order.  As sufficient farmers voted, it went into effect and has led to the stabilization of milk prices in Boston and later New York milk shed.”

There has been discussion from the beginning and over a period of time whether the 1937 Act and the resulting marketing orders for dairy were intended to establish parity prices for farmers.  However, USDA from the beginning of the Act, has contended that the chief objective of marketing orders was to stabilize milk markets through orderly marketing, not to raise milk prices to artificially high levels.  This interpretation relative to dairy marketing orders exists to this day.


  • Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act:  In 1936 Congress passed this act as a result of the dust bowl that swept the West.  The Soil Conservation Service was established within USDA (now the National Resource and Conservation Service).  In 1937 President Roosevelt asked all State governors to promote state legislation to allow the formation of Soil Conservation Districts within the State as a partners with SCS.  These Districts were established by Vermont law and still exist.
  • Farm Credit Act of 1933: This Act provided funding to refinance one-fifth of farm mortgages over an eighteen-month period.  It also established local Production Credit Associations throughout the U.S. and twelve District Bank for Cooperatives with one Central Bank for Cooperatives (Federal Land Banks in the twelve Districts had been created by federal law in 1916).  The Farm Credit Administration was established as an independent agency by Executive Order.  (Henry Morgentheu, later Secretary of Treasury, a dairy farmer and fruit grower from Dutchess County, New York was appointed Chairman of the Federal Farm Credit Board and Governor of the Farm Credit Administration).  He had chaired the New York Agricultural Advisory Committee when Roosevelt was Governor of the State.  Major amendments to Farm Credit Act in 1987 have resulted in changes in the organizational structure of these farmer-owned institutions as originally established by Congress.  In Vermont, Yankee Farm Credit ACA exists to serve qualified farmers with production and farm mortgage loans. (Note: President Teddy Roosevelt’s Country Life Commission had recommended a cooperative credit system for farmers).
  • Rural Electric Administration:  In 1935 President Roosevelt signed an executive             order creating the REA.  At that time only twelve percent of U.S. farms had electric service.  As a point of interest, I asked my 95 year old mother if she remembered when they were provided electricity in Brookline, Vermont.  She said, “Yes, the year was 1938 and your father was farming with his father and they brought one line into the house and we had one 15 watt bulb.  I said to your father, that is awfully bright and we will never need anything brighter.”  Electricity helped to transform rural America and Vermont.  


  • Resettlement Administration:  This was created in 1935 with three major purposes: 1) loans and grants to needy farmers; 2) erosion, flood control and land retirement, and 3) resettlement programs.  One of the proposals for Vermont was the retirement of 20,000 acres of marginal “hill country” land and permanent placement into forestry.  Then Governor Wilson appointed a committee to select the land for retirement.  There was a great deal of division on the subject with George Aiken opposed (loss of local control and would hinder development of the State), and others like Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Commissioner of Agriculture Ed Jones, leaders of the State Grange and Chamber of Commerce in support.  The goal was to turn under productive farms into tree farms and parks.  The conditions laid down by the Committee for an agreement were too onerous for the federal government, and it withdrew its offer.  The Resettlement Administration was replaced by the Farm Security Administration, which became the Farmers’ Home Administration in 1946.  Federal farm lending and federal crop support programs are now handled in Vermont and the rest of the U.S. through the Farm Service Agency.  This was created through the reorganization of USDA agencies in the 1990’s.
  • Green Mountain Parkway:  This parkway that was planned to run the length of the state would be a sister to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  While the legislation passed in the Vermont Senate, it failed in the House.   A referendum was held on Town Meeting Day in 1936.  42,873 were opposed to the Parkway, and 30,895 supported the construction.

The New Deal established new USDA Agency Programs.  Many of these programs still exist today.  A very well organized farm lobby advocated several of these initiatives. While there still are dairy market orders to assure “orderly marketing,” the majority of Vermont dairy farms today still face economic challenges due to wide pricing swings as a result of changes in markets, periodic supply and demand imbalances, and a federal price support structure way below their cost of production.   Methods to provide better financial returns to dairy farmers in Vermont and in the Northeast have been a continuing challenge to farm leaders and policy makers over time. A minimum dairy parity pricing system was introduced into federal law in 1949 following WWII.  This law could not withstand cost increases to the Government resulting from too much production of milk in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when the parity price was established at too high a level causing large surpluses of butter, cheese, and non-fat dried milk. (With then Congressman Jeffords of Vermont, an ardent supporter of the dairy industry, I worked as a staff aid to help negotiate a pricing replacement to parity as a result of federal budgetary pressures and as part of the 1981 Farm Bill Conference Committee). This change in federal dairy policy in 1981 marketed the beginning of deregulation of the dairy industry in the United States.  Other actions have been taken over time to address the pricing issues of dairy farmers to include the whole herd buyout, the Northeast Dairy Compact, and in the more recent past the milk income loss program, or MILC.  Some states have taken action to increase milk prices to farmers by imposing over-order pricing where they have more control over milk supply and are not confronted by interstate commerce issues. Some farmers have also moved to organic dairy production as a way to confront lower commodity pricing.  Others have engaged in greater on-the- farm diversification to include energy systems and the production of value added products.  Still today, due to consolidation at both the retail and wholesale levels and independence of many dairy farmers, dairy cooperatives do not control enough milk to leverage higher prices for their members. They have not historically been able to agree collectively on ways to reduce production to achieve higher pricing either. The dairy sector still represents the anchor of Vermont’s agricultural economy (75 percent or so of gross farm income in the state), and longer-term unstable milk pricing issues still confront farmers, their cooperatives, and policy officials.

Personal note: 
As a boy I had many jobs to raise funds for college, and one was working mowing lawns and doing yard and garden work for a retired medical doctor who lived in Newfane, Vermont.  His name was Charles Nelson Leach.  He was a wonderful gentleman who would always work around the yard with me.  One day as we were working his wife called out, “Charles the President is on the line”.  When he returned he said sternly to me, “Roger, that was my dear friend Herbert Hoover.  I want you to remember that President Hoover had many of the ideas that President Roosevelt put into place.”  This blog cannot give justice to such an evaluation, but it is clear from my brief investigation that the 1929 Agricultural Marketing Act helped to set the stage for many of the New Deal Farm programs.


  • Newspaper article, Lewiston Daily Sun, June 26, 1937, Federal Control of Milk Advocated, Dairymen from four states at Concord endorse proposal.
  • Newspaper article, Lewiston Dairy Sun, May 5, 1936, The Boston Milk Case.
  • “Tarnished Gold: Fifty Years of New Deal Farm Programs”, by Don Paarlberg, Professor Emeritus, Purdue University, from Conference on the Legacy of the New Deal, Center for Constructive Alternatives, Hillsdale, Michigan, March 10, 1987.
  • Farm Policy of the 20th Century, U.S. Department of State from Economics
  • Federal Direct Price Support Payment Programs by Stan Siegel, in the National Agricultural Law Center, University of Arkansas School of Law (originally published in So. Dakota Law Review, 1986).
  • Visualizing the Rural West.  The Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University.
  • American   Agriculture
  • Jewish Virtual Library: Henry Morgentheau
  • Vermont Historical Society, the New Deal in Vermont
  • National Association of Rural Rehabilitation Corporation, A Brief History of America’s Rural Rehabilitation Corporation and a Brief History of the Founding of the National Association of Rural Rehabilitation Corporations by Leland Beatty, General Manager Texas Rural Communities Inc.
  • “Government Project” by Edward C. Banfield, The Free Press, Glencoe, IL, 1951
  • Can We “Trust Uncle Sam”?  Vermont and the Sub marginal Lands Project, 1934-1936 by Sara M. Gregg, Vermont History 69 (winter/spring 2001) by Vermont Historical Society.
  • Farewell address of George D. Aiken as it appears in the Journal of the Jt. Assembly, 1941
  • New York Times, Opinion, “Milk Price Regulation/Protects Consumers” by Howard Dean and William F. Weld, Oct. 3, 1994.
  • The Farm Security Administration, Oklahoma Historical Society’s Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture
  • Chapter 4: Crisis and Activism: 1929-1940.
  • The Evolution of Milk Pricing and Government Intervention in Dairy Markets by Eric M. Erba and Andrew M. Novakovic, Feb., E.B. 95-05, A Publication of the Cornell Program on Dairy Markets and Policy.
  • Dairy Price Support Program Options by Bob Cropp, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Oct. 9, 2001
  • The Depression Begins: President Hoover Takes Command, Ludwig Von Mises Institute
  • The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century by Michael D. Bordo, Claudia Goldin and Eugene N. White, University of Chicago Press January 1998.  Chapter Title: The Great Depression and the Regulating State:  Federal Government Regulation of Agriculture, 1884-1970 by Gary D. Libecap.
  • This Milk Problem by Harry R. Varney, Circular no. 95, The Vermont Extension Service, June 1937.
  • Milk Pricing Policy and Procedures, Part 1 The Milk Pricing Problem, Report of the Milk Pricing Advisory Committee, U.S. Department of Agriculture, March 1972.
  • Federal Dairy Programs, Insights Into Their Past Provide Perspectives on Their Future, General Accounting Office (GAO), Report to the Chairman, Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, U.S. Senate.
  • The Structure of Fluid Milk Markets, Two Decades of Change, Agricultural Economic Report No. 137, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  • Dairy Farming in the Northeast, Now and in the Future by James N. Putnam 11 and Raymond J. Nowak, Springfield District, Farm Credit Service, November 1984.
  • Agricultural Cooperation and Rural Credit in Europe, American and United States Commissions, 1913, Senate Document No. 214, 63D Congress.
  • Rural Vermont, A Program for the Future, The Vermont Commission on Country Life, 1931
  • Agriculture of Vermont, Fifteenth Biennial Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, 1928-1930
  • Agriculture of Vermont, Sixteenth Biennial Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, 1930-1932

President Franklin Roosevelt was in office when the first Agricultural Adjustment Act was passed in 1933.  It was passed as one of his first 100-day initiatives.

The next blog posting will highlight the reasons why some of the Vermont agricultural leaders over time have pushed for the production and marketing of valued added products as a way to overcome commodity pricing. 

TRIVIA QUESTION:  Who was the Chairperson of the first Board of Agriculture for the State of Vermont?

Edition 9, May 18, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


This blog posting focuses on the decline of butter production in Vermont and the trend in production of fluid milk for the Boston and other urban markets.  This change over time led to many new challenges for farmers who shipped their milk to Boston and other cities on the milk trains.  It also led to the push to form farmer cooperatives as a way to better bargain for fair pricing from the milk dealers.  The period covered in this blog posting is from the late 1800’s until about 1930.  What happened with dairy pricing during this period was a prelude to federal action through the Agricultural Adjustment Act of the 1930’s that established many of the federal programs still in place today such as the Federal Milk Market Orders. 


Many of Vermont’s dairy leaders were not in agreement that shipping fluid milk to the cities was better than using the cream in the State for butter and cheese production.  For example, in 1912 the President of the Vermont Dairymen’s Association said that it was better to keep milk at home as the whey by-product could be used on the farm to feed pigs and young stock.  (Agriculture of Vermont, 1912).  Others felt that the selling of milk would result in a scarcity of cows and pigs as a result of the loss of whey feed.  There was also the feeling by some, because of the loss of livestock and the manure they provided, that there would be depletion of soil fertility.  Others were visionary in their analysis of the dairy situation.  R.M. Washburn, a professor of dairy husbandry at the University of Vermont felt that the growth of the cities would force Vermont to become a fluid milk state, and that cheese and butter factories would be closed down for lack of support. (See 1910 Annual Report of the Vermont Commissioner of Agriculture).  He too felt that only by forming farmer cooperatives would the buyers in the city pay attention and offer a fair price for milk.

There were other factors at work too that led to the demand for fluid milk and the decline in butter production.  Professor Warren of Cornell University, in his economic analysis, stated that butter production was decreasing in the East.  It was cheaper to produce butter in the West since they had more grazing land for the cows and could produce feed for dairy animals much cheaper.  For example, Illinois butter in the New York Market could sell for 29 cents/lb whereas Vermont butter of the same quality would have to get 44 cents/lb. (Agriculture of Vermont 1913).  Also, as the major cities were growing, fluid milk buyers were reaching further out for their milk supply.  They were aided in this effort by the railroads.  In 1890, the first milk train left Bellows Falls, Vermont to Boston.  As the railroads grew, milk trains were added and farmers along the lines began shipping their product to Boson and surrounding cities. The Rutland Line, the Central Vermont Line, and Boston and Maine, the St. Johnsbury and Lake Champlain Railroad, the Barre and Chelsea Railroad, all had milk trains leaving Vermont and picking up milk cans along their routes at receiving stations.  Train 74 of the St. Johnsbury and Lake Champlain Railroad, with its 96 mile run, had 20 way stations along its route.  It took six and one-half hours to complete the daily run and was called the “sour milk limited” for good reason. (Life Magazine, August 17, 1942).  In comparison, The Boston and Maine Railroad, in 1916, had only one milk train.  This one train run started in Lyndonville with stops in St. Johnsbury, Wells River, and White River on its 193-mile trip to Boston.


Some of the dairy farmer leaders had foreseen some of the challenges that lay ahead with fluid milk sales.  It created new dynamics with middlemen buyers from Boston and other cities.  Up until this time, the cream was often delivered to the creameries where farmers received a price based upon milk fat (Babcock Test).  It was for this reason that some of the leaders argued that farmers either form or join cooperative organizations.  By 1911 it was stated that fifty percent of the price of milk to consumers went to the milk dealers (Agriculture in Vermont, 1911).  In 1913, the then Commissioner of Agriculture for Vermont, E.S. Brigham, stated that the solution for dairy farmers in marketing was the formation of cooperatives and that the Department of Agriculture would assist in forming such organizations.  He further argued that the State of Vermont needed a cooperative law like Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and New York. The State of Vermont would aid in this effort, he stated, and would help the cooperatives to find markets for their milk. (Agriculture in Vermont 1913 and 1914).  In 1915 the Boston Chamber of Commerce released its report on Vermont milk for their market, and also recommended that Vermont farmers organize and build cooperative milk plants like Denmark as a way to assure a supply to the Boston Market (Agriculture in Vermont 1915). It was not just the milk buyers that created unfavorable pricing, but also railroads through their freight rates.  As a result of these pricing concerns, the following actions were taken:

  • In 1916 the State of Vermont petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission for a hearing on rail rates. Large milk contractors participated in a Leased Car System that discriminated against small shipments, less than a carload, of milk and rates were not based upon the distance from markets.  Besides the Vermont Commissioner of Agriculture, the Master of the Vermont State Grange took an active role in the hearing.  In July of 1916, the Commission found in favor of Vermont with its ruling imposing rates based upon the distance from markets with a  per milk can rate.  This helped with making Vermont milk competitive with milk at a greater distance from the market.
  • In 1927 as a result of chaotic economic condition of fluid milk to the Boston and adjacent cities markets, the New England Council requested that its Committee on Agriculture study the situation.  The Commissioners of Agriculture in the six New England Sates were asked to develop a plan to stabilize milk pricing.  Temporary success was achieved (Agriculture of Vermont, 1926-1928).
  • Due to the further chaotic condition of milk pricing, the Commissioners of Agriculture in New England, the Governors and others submitted to arbitration on pricing to the New England Milk Board that was especially chosen for this purpose (Agriculture of Vermont, 1928-30).

Milk quality too was a continuing concern.  Massachusetts in the early 1900’s had begun to establish some quality standards for milk shipped into the State and within the State.  Three to four inspectors inspected the same milk facilities on farms in Massachusetts, and these standards were also being applied to milk shipped into the State.  The need for more stringent standards in Vermont was clearly recognized with interstate shipments, and this was one of the reasons that farmer cooperatives were advocated.  President Candon of the Vermont Dairymen’s Association stated in 1928 the profitability to Vermont dairy farmers was linked to the fluid market (two thirds of Boston’s milk came from Vermont), and if the market was to be held it depended upon quality, having supply and demand in balance, and that farmer cooperatives were needed for this. (Agriculture of Vermont, 1928-1930).  Efforts were made during this time to coordinate inspection standards and efforts between the two states and the cities into which the milk was shipped.

COOPERATION AMONG THE COOPERATIVES…the need for the marketing of milk through one channel as a pricing benefit to dairy farmers:

Many of the dairy leaders recognized that only through greater joint efforts among the cooperatives supplying milk to the Boston market and adjacent cities could prices be better stabilized.  One of the leaders in this initiative was my wife’s grandfather, Dr. E.H. Bancroft of Barre, Vermont.  A prominent veterinarian and dairy leader, he along with Commissioner of Agriculture E. H. Jones, his friend Deane Davis (later Governor of Vermont), and other dairy leaders argued that there was the need for one central marketing agency among the cooperatives in Vermont and only through this approach could milk pricing be stabilized.  Unless the cooperatives presented a united front, the chaotic price situation of the past would continue.  As the result of this effort, and work of the Governors of the New England States and other dairy leaders, the New England Dairies was Incorporated in 1931.  This functioned for a time as the common marketing agency of all producers’ groups.  This effort broke down at the end of 1932.

It is not surprising then that when the future study of Vermont was conducted in 1931 (The Vermont Commission on Country Life) that it’s subcommittee on dairy products, chaired by Dr. Bancroft, stated that the major dairy problems confronting Vermont farmers “was low cost of production to meet competition, adjustment of supply to meet demand (quantity and quality), and efficient marketing.”  Relative to efficient marketing, a single sales agency was again recommended.


  • Vermont General Assembly passed the Creamery Inspection Act in 1912, which required the inspection twice each year of plants where dairy products are handled.
  • The number of cow testing associations increased from 36 to 42 in 1916.
  • In 1904, according to the Agricultural Report of the State Board of Agriculture, there were seven canning factories operating in Vermont (Westminster, Northfield, Windsor, Brattleboro, Waterbury, St. Albans, and Essex Junction). Sweet corn represented 98% of the operations.
  • In 1907 it was stated in the Vermont Agriculture Report of the State Board of Agriculture that it was hoped that when Morrill Hall opened at UVM that there would be a course on cheese making as there was a need for greater uniformity on quality.
  • In 1910 and 1911, the Rutland Railroad and the Central Vermont Railroad placed a “Better Farming Special” train with cars at the disposal of the State Department of Agriculture and the State College of Agriculture for instruction of farming communities in the State.  It was discontinued in 1912 as the Boston and Maine would not participate.
  • Ice for milk trains, before refrigeration, was important.  Ice from Brookfield was sent to Randolph to cool milk on one of the milk trains to Boston (Vermont off the Beaten Path).
  • During the First World War, a Farmers’ War Council was organized and the State Department of Agriculture and the Extension Service cooperated to aid in increasing food production in the State.  James Hartness of Springfield was appointed State Food Commissioner.  He was assisted by John Cushing, editor of the St. Albans Messenger (Vol. 4, History of Vermont).
  • In the late 1920’s the New England States came up with a New England Quality Product label.  State Departments of Agriculture were allowed to give producers the use of the label for placement on a product as long as they agreed to abide by quality grades and state established standards.


Producing and shipping fluid milk to urban markets in other states created some new challenges for dairy farmers in Vermont.  They now depended on others for transporting their milk, and they no longer directly dealt with the buyers having to go through middlemen, and they had to comply with new health and quality standards.  Pricing of their milk was thus further removed from their control, as was the marketing of the product.  In this type of environment much confusion resulted as to who was responsible for pricing that was often less than their cost of production.  There was a push for the formation of farmer owned cooperatives and a joint marketing agency to better control quality and balance supply and demand according to market needs.  Markets, the dairy farm sector, as well as cooperatives have changed significantly since this period, but many of the pricing issues still exist today.


  • Twenty-Fourth Vermont Agricultural Report by the State Board of Agriculture, 1904.
  • Twenty-Seventh Vermont Agricultural Report by the State Board of Agriculture, 1907.
  • Agriculture of Vermont, First Annual Report, 1909.
  • Agriculture of Vermont, Second Annual Report, 1910.
  • Agriculture of Vermont, Third Annual Report, 1911.
  • Agriculture of Vermont, Fourth Annual Report, 1912.
  • Agriculture of Vermont, Fifth Annual Report, 1913.
  • Agriculture of Vermont, Sixth Annual Report, 1914.
  • Agriculture of Vermont, Eighth Annual Report, 1916.
  • Agriculture of Vermont, Eleventh Biennial Report, 1920-22.
  • Agriculture of Vermont, Fourteenth Biennial Report, 1926-1928.
  • Agriculture of Vermont, Fifteenth Biennial Report, 1928-1930.
  • Agriculture of Vermont, Sixteenth Biennial Report 1930-1932.
  • Rural Vermont, A Program for the Future by The Vermont Commission on Country Life, 1931.
  • Historical Sketch of the Granite City Cooperative Creamery Association, Inc. Barre, Vermont, by Juliane B. Eastman, 1949.
  • Traffic World, Vol. 18, No.5, by Traffic Service Corporation.
  • Life Magazine, August 17, 1942
  • Barre and Chelsea Railroad by Dwight Smith
  • Williams Street Extension Historic District, Rockingham, Windham County, Vermont, Sec. 8, Page 1 by U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, Register of Historic Places.
  • Vermont Off the Beaten Path by Barbara Radcliff Rogers and Stillman Rogers
  • History of Vermont, Vol. 4, by Walter Hill Crockett, 1921.

Answer to last blog question: 
The first shipment of fluid milk by train left Bellows Falls to Boston in 1890 (see U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, Williams Street Extension Historic District).

The historical events at the State and Federal Level during the 1930’s relative to agriculture and milk marketing

Trivia Question:
Who was President of the U.S. when the Agricultural Adjustment Act was passed that set procedures in place for orderly marketing of dairy and other agricultural products?

Edition 8, May 4, 2011