Purpose and Legislation
The working landscape forms the backbone of Vermont’s heritage and economic viability. The “working landscape” consists of agriculture, food system, forestry, and forest products based businesses. Approximately 20 percent of Vermont’s land is used for agricultural purposes and 75 percent as forestry.
In 2009, the Council on the Future of Vermont published Imagining Vermont: Values and Vision for the Future. This report presents the results of a multi-year effort to poll Vermonters on their visions for the future of the state. One critical area stood out: over 97 percent of Vermonters said they value the working landscape. The 2012 legislative session brought a renewed commitment to Vermonters' values by passing The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, Act 142.
This legislation created the Working Lands Enterprise Fund (WLEF) and the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) in 2012. The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI) manages and invests roughly $1 million annually into agricultural and forestry-based businesses, depending on the appropriation for the program.
The WLEB is made up of 20 private sector members throughout the supply chains of agriculture and forestry, and staff from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, Vermont Economic Development Authority, and Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. In 2015, amendments to legislation added a policy role to the Board.