Blog

March 31, 2017

by Ryan Patch

Spring Snowstorm Could Delay Early Season Farming Activities

April 1st is the traditional date that the state’s winter manure spreading ban is lifted and farmers can get out on their fields and begin to apply those valuable nutrients to their cropland.  However, with fresh snow expected for many parts of Vermont by April 1st, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is issuing a special ‘spring stewardship’ reminder for all Vermont farms: Even though the manure spreading ban will be lifted April 1st, new statewide water quality rules – the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) – prohibit the application of manure on frozen or snow covered ground, in addition to any application that would result in runoff to surface waters.

Farmers concerned about storage capacity in their manure pits are encouraged to call the Agency of Agriculture to discuss options available for managing, transferring, or developing emergency manure spreading exemption plans.  The Agency is committed to working with farmers to find solutions.  When evaluating their fields over the coming weeks to assess appropriate manure spreading conditions, the most important question that farmers and manure applicators need to ask is: ‘When applied to this field, will manure runoff to surface water or a ditch?’  Individual conditions will vary significantly across the state, and farmers need to assess their fields carefully and take action to ensure that they are in compliance with the rules and are protecting our waterways.

To ensure compliance with the RAPs [ http://agriculture.vermont.gov/rap ] and protect water quality, VAAFM has the following reminders for farmers this spring:

  • If you still have capacity in your manure pit, wait until snow is off the fields before you spread manure.
  • If you do not have capacity in your pit, reach out to VAAFM to seek alternative solutions or an exemption.
  • Do not spread manure on saturated ground that will runoff to surface water, or before major rain events.
  • If an emergency manure spreading exemption is issued for manure application on frozen or snow-covered ground, farmers need to observe the following protocols:
    • Avoid spreading when rain is expected
    • Spread at least 150 feet from top of stream banks, ditches or roadside ditches
    • Select the most level fields available and avoid significant (>5%) slopes
    • Utilize reduced (<3,000 gallons/acre) spreading rates
    • Select fields with cover crops or good residue cover
  • After spreading any nutrient (liquid or solid manure, compost, or fertilizer) be sure to keep accurate records of the manure or nutrients applied.

“Over the past two months, more than 120 farmers and manure applicators have attended our new Manure Applicator Training workshops to understand the rules about spreading under the new RAPs. The participation and feedback has been fantastic – it is clear the ag community is engaged and eager to do their part!” said Laura DiPietro, Deputy Director of the Ag Resource Management Division at VAAFM.

Vermont’s winter manure spreading ban, which prohibits spreading between December 15 and April 1, began in 1995.

For more information about the RAPs, the winter manure spreading ban, or for recommendations regarding early season spreading practices, please visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/RAP

To request an exemption to the prohibition from spreading on frozen or snow-covered ground, please call VAAFM Ag Resource Management Staff, either: Laura DiPietro, 802-595-1990 or Dave Huber, 802-461-7160.

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March 31, 2017

By Henry Marckres, Consumer Protection Section Chief

The Consumer Protection Section of the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets will be hosting multiple scale inspection events around the state during March and April for anyone who uses scale(s) at farmers’ markets or farm stands to sell produce or other commodities. This testing is required by law, and the Agency would like to encourage producers to take advantage of these testing dates as they will replace the Agency’s annual visits to Vermont farmers’ markets for the same reason.  This will allow the Agency to perform these inspections in a more efficient manner in a way that creates less disruption to you and the farmers’ markets. This is the only way to get scales tested in 2017.

Please plan to attend one of the inspection events listed below.  Bring your legal for trade scale, and any accessories that you use with it for weighing items for sale.

The following is a list of dates and locations for the testing. Most sites will be at Agency of Transportation (AOT) garage sites. Hours for each location will be 9:00am – 3:00pm. You can come anytime during our open hours, and no advance appointment is necessary. The test should take around 10 minutes per scale. 

2017 Scale Testing Events:

  • Location: AOT - St. Albans, 680 Lower Newton Rd
    • Date: March 30
  • Location: AOT – Dummerston, 870 US Rt. 5
    • Date: April 3
  • Location: AOT – Bennington, 359 Bowen Rd.
    • Date: April 4
  • Location: AOT – Colchester, 5 Barnes Ave.
    • Date: April 4
  • Location: Agency Weights and Measures Lab, 322 Industrial Park Lane, Berlin
    • Dates: April 4             April 11                April 25
  • Location: AOT – Windsor, 1640 US 5 North
    • Date: April 5
  • Location: AOT – Randolph, 100 Bettis Rd.
    • Date: April 10
  • Location: AOT – Bradford, 57 Fairground Rd.
    • Date:    April 11                       
  • Location: Travel Information Center, Route 100, Warren      
    • Dates: April 13                                                                           
  • Location: AOT – Derby, 4611 US Rt. 5
    • Date: April 18
  • Location: AOT – Morrisville,643 Brooklyn St.
    • Date: April 18
  • Location: AOT – St. Johnsbury, 1098 US Rt. 5
    • Date: April 19
  • Location: AOT – Clarendon, 1628 Route 7B
    • Date: April 25
  • Location: AOT – Middlebury, 341 Creek Rd.
    • Date: April 27

Look for the scale checking signs!

If you have any questions, call the Consumer Protection office at: 802-828-2426

March 29, 2017

The Agency of Agriculture Has Formed a Committee to Seek Advice and Input from Farmers Regarding RAP Implementation

By Laura DiPietro, VAAFM
 
After nearly two years of collaborative rulemaking between the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM), the Vermont agricultural community, Vermont lawmakers, and other local, state, federal partners, the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) Rule went into effect on December 5, 2016. 
 
The RAPs outline new baseline management standards for all Vermont farms designed to improve and protect the health and integrity of Vermont’s waterways. Throughout the rulemaking process, the Agricultural Resource Management (ARM) Division Water Quality Team hosted over 90 public information and comment hearings throughout Vermont in order to fully understand community perspectives and the range of challenges facing ag operations. The product of these conversations was the addition of a series of variances, alternatives, and management plans to the final RAPs that can be approved by the Agency to support unique circumstances.
 
The Water Quality Team has created a RAP Development Committee to help solicit and incorporate community input regarding the development of these variances, alternatives and management plans. The goal of this committee is to help develop a process by which the farming community can review draft guidance and share feedback about what works on the ground for farms in Vermont.
 
The information and feedback captured by the RAPDevelopment Committee will be incorporated into the final RAPs guidance documentation to be used by agricultural community as they develop farm-specific management plans. 
 
The RAP Development Committee is comprised of representatives from:
 
Champlain Valley Farm Coalition
CT River Watershed Farmer Alliance
Farmer’s Watershed Alliance
Northeast Organic Farmers Association VT
Rural Vermont
Vermont Dairy Producers Alliance
Vermont Farm Bureau 
 
Vermont farmers are encouraged to contact RAP Development Committee members to share ideas, concerns, and ask questions.
 
The Agency remains open to comment and feedback, and we look forward to continuing our work together to ensure the long-term health of Vermont’s waterways and the growth and viability of Vermont agriculture.
Call our RAP coordinator at: 802-272-0323, or e-mail: AGR.RAP@vermont.gov
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Grant Money Available to Vermont Farmers Through Agency of Ag’s BMP Program

Technical assistance and up to 90% cost share available for some practices

By Jessica Buckley, VAAFM

The Best Management Practices  (BMP) Program is a State of Vermont grant program designed to assist farmers with the implementation of structural conservation practices to improve water quality. BMP Grant funds can be used to support a wide variety of projects, including, but not limited to:

  • Composting stack pad
  • Barnyard runoff collection
  • Gutter/ditch clean water diversion
  • Laneway development and stream crossings
  • Exclusion fencing and watering facilities 
  • Milk House waste collection and treatment
  • Silage leachate collection and treatment

BMP grant details:

  • Farmer’s equipment and labor costs are eligible for reimbursement
  • Farmers will receive reimbursement upon certified project completion
  • Final payment will be determined by actual project costs as documented by itemized invoices
  • Grant agreements must be in place prior to the start of construction
  • Grant applications will be reviewed and awarded on a competitive basis, not all requests will be granted

BMP applications can be found online at: agriculture.vermont.gov/BMP 

Or contact Jeff Cook, Financial Manager: (802) 828–3474

Do you have a NRCS EQIP Contract?

VAAFM could contribute up to $200,000 towards your project with our BMP program. 

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  Spring is Almost Here!

Here’s your spring crop field management checklist

By Nina Gage, VAAFM
 
As the sun gets stronger and the days get longer, it’s time to start thinking about spring crop field management . Here’s your checklist of the top five most important components of proper crop field management per the new RAPs.
  1. Maintain or establish 25’ Vegetated Buffers adjacent to surface waters (e.g. streams, rivers, ponds)
  2. Maintain or establish 10’ Vegetated Buffers adjacent to ditches
  3. Manure may not be applied in buffers, and buffers can be either grass or trees
  4. Get your soils tested
  5. Keep accurate records of nutrient applications
A complete version of the RAP rules document is available for download here: Agriculture.Vermont.gov/RAP Or call the Agency for more information or assistance with site assessments. 
 
Need help? Have questions? Call the RAP hotline or send us an email – we’re here to assist!
RAP Hotline: 802-828-1702. Email: AGR.RAP@vermont.gov
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What To Expect When You’re Inspected

  New informational video helps small Vermont farms prepare for certification

 
By Ryan Patch, VAAFM
 
We are very much looking forward to getting to know more of the small farmers in our Vermont ag community through the new Small Farm Certification program, which begins on July 1, 2017. To help ensure our small farmers feel informed about and prepared for the certification process, the VAAFM has produced an informational video that provides a preview of the inspection process, which is one of the first steps towards farm certification will look like on your farm. Click HERE to watch the video. 
 
The video aims to shed light on the inspection process itself, outline what the Agency is looking for when we assess a farm, and discuss opportunities the Agency has to provide financial and technical support to farmers to comply with new water quality rules.
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March 29, 2017

By Kimberly Hagen, Grazing Specialist, University of Vermont, Extension and Alex DePillis, Senior Agricultural Development Coordinator, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

A new publication, “Guide to Farming-Friendly Solar,” produced by the UVM Extension and the Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission, highlights the potential for farming-friendly solar and gives examples of three successful projects on Vermont farms.  All three solar projects are mounted on the ground, and yet designed to be compatible with continued farming.

Project #1: McKnight Farm in East Montpelier tucked solar panels in a rocky area of their organic dairy farm that cannot be planted or grazed because it must be maintained as a buffer from non-organic farmland. 

Project #2: Open View Farm in New Haven installed solar panels in rows about twice as far apart as necessary in order to allow sheep to continue grazing, which they have been doing now for three years. 

Project #3: Maple Ridge Meats in Benson built a solar array last spring next to a slaughterhouse, featuring panels that are high enough off the ground to allow cattle to graze underneath.

While the Vermont agricultural community now boasts several diverse examples of farms utilizing solar energy in ways that are compatible with farming practices, solar will not be the right solution for all farmers.  

When UVM Extension Grazing Specialist Kimberly Hagen interviewed representatives from McKnight Farm, Open View Farm, and Maple Ridge Meats, they each emphasized how important it was for the farmers to manage how the project would work for them, both in the design, and in the operation. 

“The farmer knows the land and probably has a good idea of how they want it used,” said Greg Hathaway of Maple Ridge Meats. “You also have to think about whether the income from this will offset the loss of that land. And whether the array is to be set up for machinery to pass through too, or clustered closer together – but then losing some ability for vegetation to grow beneath due to being shaded out. Lots to think about.”

“As our three example farms have demonstrated, in the right conditions, solar has the potential to generate significant power for farm use without reducing land yields,” said Agency of Ag Development Specialist Alex DePillis.  “The new Guide to Farming Friendly Solar highlights specific data from a demonstration project in Massachusetts that showed no reduction in pasture yield for higher-off-the-ground installation after university researchers sampled pasture yield four times per growing season, two years in a row.  I hope Vermont farmers find this guide to be a useful introduction to the potential benefits of solar power generation on farms.”

To read or download the full Guide to Farming Friendly Solar, visit the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission’s website: http://www.trorc.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Appendix_D_Guide-to-Farming-Friendly-Solar_01_13_17-.pdf

March 29, 2017

By Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food & Markets

After a few starts and stops, a new season is upon us. April can be a challenging month but it’s filled with hope. The earth is warming, trees are budding, and once again our farmers will be working the soil. By end of the month our sugar makers will be cleaning up and looking back at the season. It sure was a sugar season of wild swings. It was warm one day and bitter cold the next.  But we are confident when all the figures are in, Vermont will once again lead the nation in maple syrup production.

 We have been listening and learning from you over the last few weeks. It’s been an honor to meet many of you at our listening tour events. We heard some great suggestions. Over the coming weeks we will be compiling what we heard and discussing what actions we might take based on your suggestions. One theme is clear, Vermonters value our farmers and want them to succeed. We are committed to supporting all our farmers so they can help grow our economy.

It’s been a busy year at the legislature so far. We are doing our best to make Vermont more affordable for all who live here. We are holding the line on all proposals that would increase state fees and taxes. It’s been great to see so many of our farmers coming to the State House to offer their advice to our legislative leaders. Testimony by the public or a quick phone call is still the most effective way to influence our policy makers. As we enter the final weeks of the session our farmers likely will be asked to weigh on important issues from dairy to maple to water quality. If we at the Agency can be of any help, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

We know April can be bumpy out on the backroads of Vermont - this being our “5th season” - but we wish our farmers a smooth ride into the very busy planting season. It’s truly a special time of year as we discover we have survived another Vermont winter and the “green” is back in the Green Mountains.

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