Nov. 20, 2013 Vermont Farm Bureau Names Christopher W. O'Keefe New Administrator
The Vermont Farm Bureau Executive Committee named Christopher W. O'Keefe to the position of Administrator beginning on January 1, 2014, following the retirement of 32 year Farm Bureau employee Tim Buskey.
O'Keefe has been Financial Director for Vermont Farm Bureau for the past 19 years, in charge of the financial operations of the three Farm Bureau Companies, as well as oversight of the Farm Bureau Property Division and the Agricultural Resource Center. Chris is a 1984 graduate of St. Michaels College in Winooski. He lives in Shelburne with his wife Beth, and has two grown sons, Ryan and Collin, both living in Vermont. In addition to his duties as Administrator, Chris will continue to perform the functions of Finance Director for the organization.
The Vermont Farm Bureau Board of Directors will meet with O'Keefe at their next scheduled Board Meeting on December 12th at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction.
2014 Legislative Issues of Interest to Members
Current Use – Results of the Fall Current Use Hearings will drive some of the discussion of the tax equity program this legislative session. In 2012, Current Use assessment participants saved $54.5 million in property taxes, which includes $13.3 million in municipal taxes in Vermont. That translates to an average $3176 per enrolled parcel for more than 17,000 parcels in Current Use. And that’s just the average savings. Obviously this program is important to property owners who keep Vermont’s landscape open and productive for agriculture and forestry. While the unfortunate amendment attempting to fix “parking” land in the program has now been repealed, discussion continues over a three-tier use change penalty that will address the problem by increasing penalties over three time periods. Those testifying at the hearings this fall have emphasized the importance of continuing the program, with many asking the Senate Agriculture Committee to leave the program alone.
Water Quality – The legislatively created Shoreland Protection Commission held a series of public hearings during the break that will likely conclude in new proposals before the Senate Natural Resources Committee, back to the House Fish, Wildlife, and Water Quality Committee, and on to both again for compromise. Lots of discussion is taking place now over the House version of the bill, and a new proposal to include regulation of land abutting all waterways is likely. In addition, there is a proposal to look at small farm operations in much the same way new regulations control Medium Farm Operations and Large Farm Operations as they affect water quality. The Vermont legislature will continue their efforts to respond to the multiple water quality requirements of the Clean Water Act, so that the state does not lose control of the regulation to the Federal EPA.
Health Care – The new health care initiatives, including the working of the Health Care Exchange in Vermont, will be an ongoing discussion in the legislature. With the Catamount program ending and association plans being discontinued, folks will be forced to make choices within the new exchange for their insurance coverage. Some of the requirements of the federal bills will combine with all of the new parts of the Vermont legislation to make for a confusing and unpredictable start in January. Stay tuned for the outcomes.
Elections – Once the legislature is in full swing, there are likely to be a few potential candidates surfacing for the November elections. Tax issues, fees, health care, entitlements, regulations, animal care, water quality, local control, and school funding will be raised as talking points in the gubernatorial race and district legislative seat contests.
Pyrofax Energy is Now Suburban Propane
Vermont Farm Bureau’s successful fuel program of the past three years has been renewed! Pyrofax was recently purchased by Suburban Propane, and the propane, heating oil, and diesel discount program will continue and expand to all Suburban dealers in Vermont. Those members already in the program and those wishing to get in on the savings should call 1-800-776-7269 today. You’ll need your membership card for proof of membership in your county Farm Bureau, and Farm Bureau will check for the validity of the card on a regular basis. The good news is that the propane program price will be held for this heating season at $1.15 over the Selkirk average for 1 to 999 gallons and $.80 over the Selkirk average for 1000 to 4999 gallons, used over the heating season. Our heating oil increase is only a half cent above last year’s price at $.39 over the Valero price. If you have questions about the program, simply call your Suburban dealer, ask for the oil or gas price, then ask for the Farm Bureau price, and make your decision. Those wishing to have a fixed price for the winter should contact Suburban directly to make their own deal