Pilot program open to agricultural producers committed to excellence in environmental land management.
By Ryan Patch, VT Agency of Ag
You can tell a lot about a farm by looking closely at the soil. That's why the new, statewide program to recognize Vermont's most environmentally friendly farmers will be based on soil-sampling and monitoring. On July 13th, Governor Phil Scott announced the pilot launch of the new Vermont Environmental Stewardship Program (VESP), which will use soil-based analysis to identify farmers who are going above and beyond to protect our natural resources.
Surrounded by state and federal officials at the North Williston Cattle Company, owned by the Whitcomb family, Governor Scott emphasized the important role farmers play in Vermont communities.
“Vermont farmers are contributing to our economy and keeping our landscape beautiful and productive,” said Governor Phil Scott. “This new, science-based program will use soil health data to help us identify and honor farmers who are going above and beyond the regulations to protect our natural resources.”
The program is a partner effort by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, and the University of Vermont Extension.
“We are still accepting VESP applications, and encourage farms of all types and sizes to apply,” added Vermont’s Ag Secretary, Anson Tebbetts. “We want farmers who are going the extra mile to be recognized and celebrated for their efforts.”
Tebbetts noted that many partners across the state and federal government came together to create this innovative program.
Following Governor Scott’s remarks, farmers Lorenzo and Onan Whitcomb gave a tour of their farm, including their robotic milker, and discussed some of the conservation practices they employ, including no-til corn, cover-cropping, and buffer strips.
To apply for the VESP Pilot, farmers must be in compliance with all State and Federal environmental regulations, and be actively farming their land.
Applicants for the VESP Pilot will be selected for participation through a competitive application ranking process on a rolling basis; there is no fee to participate. Five to 10 farms will be accepted into the pilot program, which will inform the final parameters of the Vermont Environmental Stewardship Program, launching in 2019. For more information, please visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/vesp
About the Vermont Environmental Stewardship Program:
Conceptualized in 2016 in response to statewide water-quality and environmental challenges, the Vermont Environmental Stewardship Program (VESP) is a voluntary program that encourages and supports local agricultural producers to achieve environmental and agricultural excellence. VESP’s goal is to accelerate water-quality improvements through additional voluntary implementation efforts, and to honor farmers who have already embraced a high level of land stewardship.
Using a combination of on-farm natural resource assessments and Cornell soil health tests, VESP applicants will be evaluated by a team of conservation planners and technical service providers to ascertain current land-use practices. The resulting data is used to set customized environmental goals for the farm, and to enact a long-range plan encompassing a full range of regenerative farming practices.
To be certified under this new program, applicants must meet high environmental standards regarding nutrient management, sediment and erosion control, soil health, greenhouse-gas emissions and carbon sequestration, and pasture health. If the applicant meets the standards in each category, he or she will be awarded with a 5-year certification, an on-farm sign designating the farm as meeting high levels of environmental stewardship, and other recognition-based incentives.
If the farmer does not meet the standards designated under the VESP program, he or she can elect to work with VESP technicians on a conservation plan to implement best-management practices to achieve those standards. While working toward certification, the applicant may be eligible for additional financial and technical assistance to help achieve VESP standards. Once approved, VESP-certified farms are eligible to re-certify after five years, and will have periodic verification assessments to ensure continued land stewardship throughout the duration of the five-year period.
The Vermont Environmental Stewardship Program is a partner effort by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, and the University of Vermont Cooperative Extension.
During the 2017 legislative session, state lawmakers modernized Vermont laws that regulate livestock movement in the State. The information in this letter will inform you of these regulatory changes and provide you with contact information and other resources necessary to effectively implement the new requirements. As with any new law or rule, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture (VAAFM) will spend considerable time educating and providing technical assistance to farmers and licensed dealers/transporters regarding these statutory updates, which became effective on July 1, 2017, prior to taking any enforcement action against violators of the new language.
These statutory changes are contained in Act 30, which can be viewed at the following link: http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2018/Docs/ACTS/ACT030/ACT030%20As%20Enacted.pdf
What are the requirements?
• Act 30 requires all livestock being transported within the State to satisfy the requirements for
Official identification for interstate movement under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Disease Traceability rule, 9 C.F.R. part 86 prior to leaving the property of origin, regardless of the reason for movement or duration of absence from the property. Livestock include dairy and beef cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and camelids. Examples of livestock movement within the state that this requirement applies to include transport from the farm of origin to a slaughter facility, movement to a new farm location, and transport to a fair or exhibit.
• There is already an existing requirement for animals to be officially identified for movement between states. Animal disease traceability, or knowing where diseased and at-risk animals are, where they've been, and when, is very important to ensure a rapid response when animal disease events occur. An efficient and accurate animal disease traceability system helps reduce the number of animals involved in an investigation, reduces the time needed to respond, and decreases the cost to producers and the government.
Any exceptions to the intrastate identification requirement?
• Livestock transported from the property of origin for purposes of receiving veterinary care at a hospital in Vermont are exempt from the ID requirements, provided that the livestock are returned to the property of origin immediately following the conclusion of veterinary care.
What is official identification?
• The definition of official identification does not include back tags.
• Official identification is defined as a nationally unique number that is permanently associated with an animal or group of animals and that adheres to one of the following systems:
1.National Uniform Eartagging System (NUES). NUES ear tags are generally metal and begin with an official state number followed by three letters and then four numbers. The official state number for Vermont is ’13’.
(2) Animal Identification Number (AIN). AIN ear tags begin with an official country code followed by an additional 12 digit for 15 digits in total. The official U.S. country code is ‘840’.
(3) Location-based number system.
(4) Flock-based number system.
• An educational handout illustrating the different types of official identification can be found at http://agriculture.vermont.gov/node/1371
What official identification methods are used in Vermont and how do I obtain official ear tags?
• Metal ear tags (NUES tags) and 840 ear tags (AIN tags) are commonly used in Vermont by livestock owners. For many years, VAAFM has provided metal NUES tags at no charge to farmers, veterinarians, and livestock dealers. Please call the Animal Health Section at (802) 828-2421 to request tags.
• AIN 840 tags may be purchased from most ear tag distributors.
What are the next steps?
• VAAFM strongly encourages all livestock farmers, dealers, transporters, market personnel and other industry partners to review Act 30 and contact the VAAFM Animal Health Office with any questions.
• VAAFM Animal Health staff will be working with impacted businesses and farms to ensure proper implementation of these new ID requirements for intrastate livestock movement.
• VAAFM staff can assist farmers with obtaining ear tags and answer questions about the requirements and official identification.
What resources are available?
• Animal Health Office – (802) 828-2421
• Official tag illustration - http://agriculture.vermont.gov/node/1371
• Federal interstate movement requirements - https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/SA_Traceability
By Alissa Matthews
More than 45 farm and food vendors will descend on the Waterbury State Employee Complex to share local food with state employees and community members this Thursday, 8/3 from 3pm – 6:30pm. All are welcome at this fun, family-friendly event! Meet local producers, enjoy live music, and enter raffles for great local prizes at the Waterbury Farmers’ Market. Originally envisioned as a way to increase state employees’ access to local food, the Buy Local Market has evolved to become an exciting event for the whole community. After two successful years on the Statehouse lawn in Montpelier, this is the first year the market will be in Waterbury.
What: Buy Local Market, including local food, BBQ cook-off, live music, and more!
Where: Horseshoe Lawn, Waterbury State Complex
When: Thursday, August 3rd from 3pm – 6:30pm
Note: There are two more Buy Local Markets scheduled for 2017, both on the Statehouse lawn in Montpelier: Wed. 8/9 from 3-6:30pm, and Wed. 10/4 from 11am – 2pm.
Video: Here’s a peak at the fun from last year’s Buy Local Market in Montpelier https://www.facebook.com/vtagencyofag/videos/10159138277455344/
For more information, visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development/buylocalmarkets
Grassed Buffers and Stream Fencing for Livestock Focus of New Outreach and Implementation Programs
By Ryan Patch
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is pleased to announce a second round of Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Ag Clean Water Initiative Program (Ag-CWIP). This grant program is made possible and supported, in part, by the Clean Water Fund – a fund created by Act 64 of 2015, Vermont’s Clean Water Act. This second round of Ag-CWIP RFPs will fund organizations assisting farmers throughout the state to support planning and installation of vegetative buffers adjacent to streams, grassed waterways to prevent gully erosion in crop fields, and grazing systems to exclude livestock from surface waters. Please visit: Agriculture.Vermont.gov/WQ-RFP for the complete RFP documents.
“We’re excited to offer this expansion of technical assistance resources to support our hardworking farmers in their continued effort to identify, plan and install conservation practices to improve water quality throughout the state,” said Anson Tebbetts, Secretary of Agriculture. Tebbetts continued, “We’ve seen a real uptick in the number of farmers interested in implementing projects, but technical assistance capacity to serve them is currently under-resourced. We are hoping to expand technical assistance for farmers with these grant opportunities.”
The first RFP is seeking a contractor for the implementation of the Pasture and Stream Fencing Program. The Program’s objective is the delivery of technical assistance that provides on-farm grazing management planning and installs fencing to exclude livestock from surface water statewide.
The second RFP is seeking a contractor for the implementation of the Grassed Waterway and Filter Strip Program. The Program’s objective is the establishment of perennially vegetated grassed waterways and filter strips on agricultural cropland adjacent to waters of the State, including surface waters and ditches.
For each RFP, the Agency is providing up to $150,000 over two years to eligible contractors for technical assistance, design, and implementation services. Incentive payments and implementation funds for the cost to install the conservation projects developed by the contractor will be covered separately under grants directly between the landowners and VAAFM through the Best Management Practice Program.
If a potential applicant requires clarification of any portion of the RFPs, specific questions can be submitted in writing no later than Tuesday, August 15, 2017. Questions about the RFPs may be e-mailed to Raymond.Doherty@Vermont.gov.
At the close of the question period, a copy of all questions or comments and the Agency of Agriculture’s responses will be posted on the Agency’s web site: Agriculture.Vermont.gov/WQ-RFP. The Agency expects to post responses to questions received by Monday, August 21, 2016.
Applications for this program are due by 4PM on Monday, August 28, 2017.
All applications must be submitted electronically to: Raymond.Doherty@Vermont.gov.
There’s no shortage of fun to be had at Vermont’s fairs and field days. This summer, more than 700,000 visitors are expected at fairs and field days across the state. From agricultural exhibits and competitions, to rides and tractor pulls, to music and of course food, fairs have something for everyone.
Fairs play an important role in communities by bringing neighbors together, and helping to educate the public about agriculture. According to the USDA Ag Census, less than 2% of Americans make a living in agriculture today, so fairs are an important opportunity to keep us connected to our agricultural roots.
Each year, the state invests in our fairs by providing funding for capital projects, such as bandstands, bathrooms, and pavilions. In 2017, more than $200,000 was granted to our Vermont fairs and field days to sustain infrastructure. An additional $95,000 in state stipends was provided to fairs to help fund operations.
The summer fair season kicked off last weekend in Bradford and continues through October….
July 28-30 Lamoille County Field Days: www.lamoillefielddays.com
July 29 Pownal Valley Fair
August 3-6 Franklin County Field Days: www.franklincountyfielddays.org
August 8-13 Addison County Fair & Field Days: www.addisoncountyfielddays.com
August 15-19 Vermont State Fair: www.vermontstatefair.net
August 16-20 Orleans County Fair: www.orleanscountyfair.net
August 17-20 Deerfield Valley Farmer's Day Exhibition: www.dvfair.com
August 23-27 Caledonia County Fair www.caledoniacountyfair.com
August 25-27 Bondville Fair www.bondvillefair.org
August 25 - Sept 3 Champlain Valley Fair www.champlainvalleyfair.org
September 2-4 Guilford Fair www.guilfordfairvermont.com
September 14-17 Tunbridge World's Fair www.tunbridgeworldsfair.com
Sept 30 - Oct 1 Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival www.vtsheepandwoolfest.com
For more information about Vermont Fairs and Field Days, visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/fairsfielddays