Gov. Jim Douglas and Vermont Agriculture Secretary Roger Allbee visited France as guests of the French government and at the request of the French Embassy. The purpose of the visit was to investigate potential markets, export/import opportunities and resource exchange for Vermont agricultural producers.
Building on a long history of shared agricultural practices and methodology, this study tour facilitated an exchange of ideas and systems that can mutually benefit both countries.
"France has a system in place based on geographic indicators supporting its agriculture industry and that fosters economic development. Vermont is in a unique position to move forward with a similar model," said Douglas. "Through this system of terrior or taste of place, France has been able to better isolate themselves from commodity pricing in food production-similar to what many Vermont producers are trying to accomplish here."
In the past few years, there has been great consumer demand for and support of the Buy Local initiative in Vermont. A taste of place or geographical indicator within the state's food systems is a logical next step.
"As people become more concerned about knowing where their food comes from and how it is grown, this model could have significant and positive economic impacts for Vermont producers," Douglas said. "We need to continue to do everything we can to support Vermont agriculture, and that includes exploring new opportunities and learning from successes elsewhere," he added.
Vermont and France have many similar characteristics agriculturally. Vermont is now known for its artisanal cheeses, many of them national and international award winners. Cheesemaking is a value-added, growth industry for the state. Many of Vermont's artisanal cheesemakers owe their growth to France where they have studied the French model and brought those skills back home.
And perhaps the best example of Vermont's unique position to capitalize on the geographical indicator model is maple syrup. When people think about Vermont they think of maple. Not only are maple products value-added for producers, but they draws tourists from all over the world-further benefiting the Vermont economy.
The study trip involved meetings and exchanges with top level French agricultural officials including Bruno Le Maire, minister of agriculture and Michel Mercier, minister of rural development.