Blog

April 9, 2018

Over the weekend, the St. Albans Messenger published an article describing the progress farms have made on water quality in Franklin County. The report explains the Vermont Agency of Agriculture's relationship with farmers who are working hard and adopting new practices. All the farms that operate in the Lake Carmi watershed have made on-farm improvements to comply with the state's Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs). Laura DiPietro, the division's director says, "farmers have been doing what they say they've been doing."

Click here to read the full article.

 

April 4, 2018

Montpelier, Vt. – In a new report released by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM), Vermont schools called for an increased sourcing of Vermont-branded milk. While Vermont dairy farmers supply most of the milk served in Vermont schools, respondents reported difficulty finding milk from local distributors that also meet federal nutrition standards. The statewide survey, designed to inform the dairy industry about how Vermont schools engage with fluid milk, provides valuable information to help milk processors, bottlers, and distributors connect directly with schools.  Serving more than 13 million meals a year, Vermont schools demonstrate potential for market growth. The report includes recommendations and proposed projects schools and milk suppliers can use to build stronger relationships.

“Dairy farming is important to our economy, bringing in $2.2 billion in economic activity to Vermont each year,” said Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “Vermont’s schools are important to our dairy farmers. This report highlights an important partnership between farmers and schools that could lead to healthier students and a healthier rural economy.”

The survey, open to all schools in Vermont, had 101 respondents, most of whom were food service managers serving 65 percent (60,000) of Vermont K-12 students. The report details the challenges in milk service, and the interest among schools in changing how they serve milk. The survey indicated that almost all schools responding participate in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast program, which restricts the variety and amount of milk that schools can serve. Most schools (76%) serve milk in cartons, while other schools utilize bulk coolers, gallon jugs, individual bottles, and various combinations of the aforementioned serving methods. While most schools aren’t interested in changing their service methods, the report explores specific market opportunities for milk suppliers and distributors.

This report is a follow-up to the 2016 report, Milk Service in Vermont Schools: Decision Making Criteria, Best Practices and Case Studies, which aims to support schools in making informed decisions about milk service methods. This report was developed under the Vermont Farm to School Program, which helps schools develop and sustain relationships with local producers, enrich the educational experience of children, improve the health of Vermont children, and enhance Vermont’s agricultural economy.

To read the full report visit, http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development/farm_school

April 4, 2018

April 4, 2018 / Montpelier, VT - This week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Boston regional office announced that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture has made significant progress toward meeting the state’s water quality goals.

In a letter to the Agency dated April 2nd, EPA regional administrator Alexandra Dapolito Dunn noted, “Your staff have clearly been working hard to get new programs off the ground, rapidly award large amounts of new funding to priority phosphorus reduction projects, ramp up inspection programs and establish the new comprehensive tracking and accounting system. The many milestones that have been completed reflect this excellent progress.” 

This independent review means Vermont’s farmers, partners and the Agency are on the right track.  In fact, the Agency of Agriculture met all of its milestones with a perfect score; 14 out of 14. Benchmarks cited by the EPA as part of the Agency’s multi-year plan include a full revision of statewide rules for agricultural land management, training and certification for those who apply manure to the land, an increase in targeted conservation practices, and visiting every farm in the Missisquoi Bay watershed to better understand the land practices with a focus on education, outreach and inspections.

Dunn added “We commend the state for all the good work completed to date… thank you for your commitment to restoring Lake Champlain.” 

This encouraging report is part of a larger accountability agreement put in place by the EPA to monitor Vermont’s water quality progress. In 2016, after Vermont passed Act 64 of 2015 (the State’s Clean Water Act), the EPA established phosphorus pollution limits for Lake Champlain. These limits, termed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirements, include a set of milestones the State must reach. To ensure the requirements are being met, the State must report to EPA each year. In response, the EPA delivers an annual report card that evaluates the State’s progress.

Agricultural water quality is a program that the Agency will continue to build upon. With leadership, Vermont’s farmers, watershed groups, and federal and state partners are all pulling together in the right direction. The work is not easy but with commitment, focus and collaboration our water quality efforts are expanding, and these programs and accomplishments are catching the eyes of stakeholders nationwide.

To view the EPA Report Card, visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/ag/files/EPA%20Report%20Card%2004.0...

Secretary Anson Tebbetts / Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

April 3, 2018

MONTPELIER -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released Vermont’s clean water report card today. The report evaluates the state’s efforts to implement the Lake Champlain phosphorus reduction goals. The EPA commended the State’s work in meeting nearly 90% of its water quality milestones, and for making significant progress toward the remaining milestones.

“Vermont has demonstrated commitment to implementing the phosphorus Total Maximum Daily Load for Lake Champlain and establishing a strong framework to support future phosphorus load reductions,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn. “To date, Vermont has completed 25 of 28 Phase 1 milestones, many of which required significant effort by many parts of state government. The EPA has given Vermont an assessment of “provisional pass” contingent on Vermont’s completion of the three remaining milestones by mid-2019. The EPA is proud to partner with Vermont on this effort to keep Lake Champlain beautiful for generations today and in the future and will continue to provide technical support along this important journey.”

Vermont passed Act 64 (the State’s Clean Water Act) in 2015 and a “Phase I” implementation plan containing the state’s policy and program commitments. Many of the components of Act 64 are incorporated into the clean-up goals – or Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) – the EPA established for Lake Champlain in 2016. The TMDL contains a suite of milestones called the Accountability Framework to ensure that the TMDL goals will be achieved over the 20-year implementation period. The State submitted a progress report to EPA in March 2018, outlining the steps it has taken toward meeting these milestones. In response, the EPA delivered this report card that reviews and evaluates the State’s progress.

Vermont has met 25 out of 28 milestones in the TMDL’s Accountability Framework and is already advancing significant implementation goals including fully updated Tactical Basin Plans for the South Lake Champlain, Lamoille, North Lake Champlain and Missisquoi watersheds, as well as hosting education, outreach and compliance activities for farmers in the Missisquoi Bay watershed.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets met all EPA agricultural water quality milestones for this reporting period. Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts added, “This independent review by the Environmental Protection Agency highlights the great work that’s being done across the Lake Champlain Basin, including efforts being made by Vermont’s farmers, partners and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. The report card shows meaningful progress in meeting our water quality goals. We look forward to building on this progress.”

In the letter, the EPA noted it was also encouraged by progress towards the remaining three milestones and granted a provisional pass to the state with the understanding those milestones will be met within the next year. These milestones include issuing general permits for municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4) and for parcels of developed land with more than three acres of impervious (hard) surfaces, as well as continuing the work needed to ensure sufficient, long-term revenue to support water quality improvements.

The Vermont Legislature is currently working on H.576 - An act relating to stormwater management, and the Agency of Natural Resources stands ready to move forward with stormwater rulemaking as soon as the Legislature completes their work. The EPA recognized the funding commitments that have been made to clean water through 2027, and the on-going efforts of the State of Vermont and the Vermont Legislature to identify a long-term funding strategy.

The EPA report card points to the significant steps that have been taken in the first two years of Vermont’s 20-year commitment to achieving better water quality. Secretary of Natural Resources Julie Moore noted, “We appreciate the review and feedback provided by the EPA, which is reflective of the incredible sum of work that has been completed since the passage of the Vermont Clean Water Act in 2015. This work includes putting in place a robust suite of programs and permits that will ensure the clean-up Lake Champlain and stewardship of all Vermont’s waters. We have more work to do, but this is a good indication of the progress we’ve made and where we need to go from here.”

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Image caption & credit: Before (left) and after (right) installation of a stone-lined ditch to control erosion caused by runoff from Fayston Road. This project was completed by Friends of the Mad River with Ecosystem Restoration funds. (Credit: VT Department of Environmental Conservation)

March 30, 2018

March 29, 2018 / Montpelier, VT – April 1st marks the end of Vermont’s winter manure spreading ban for non-frequently flooded fields in Vermont, but with another cold and wet spring bringing adverse field conditions to most of Vermont, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) is issuing a spring stewardship reminder to ensure that farmers are aware that water quality rules will restrict manure spreading activities until the weather and individual field conditions improve. The Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs), newly revised in December of 2016, prohibits the application of manure on frozen or snow-covered ground, or to any fields where field conditions are conducive to runoff into Vermont’s waters.

Showers and snowfall are forecasted in some parts of the state through the coming weekend and farmers are urged to take caution when spreading through the spring months. Timing of crop nutrient application is important not only to avoid runoff from farm fields, but also to achieve efficient nutrient uptake and maximize crop yield.

The RAPs outline that manure cannot be applied to fields that are frozen or snow-covered, nor to fields that are saturated, likely to runoff, or are conducive to any other off-site movement regardless of nutrient management plan recommendations. In addition, the manure spreading ban continues through April 14 on all fields that are determined to be frequently flooded. If you are unsure whether your fields are frequently flooded, please go to agriculture.vermont.gov/floodplain or call the Agency of Agriculture at 802-828-2431 for assistance with identifying fields.

“More than 70 custom applicators are now certified in Vermont after demonstrating knowledge of water quality regulations and management practices to avoid environmental risks when spreading manure. In addition, farmers have begun acquiring water quality educational credits. The agricultural community is engaged in water quality improvement, and farmers are making management changes to preserve and improve water quality across Vermont,” said Laura DiPietro, Director of the Water Quality Division at VAAFM.

Farmers concerned about storage capacity in their manure pits are encouraged to call the Agency 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. VAAFM has the following additional reminders for farmers this Spring:

  • If you still have capacity in your manure pit, wait for the optimal weather and field conditions for spreading.
  • 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.
  • After spreading any nutrient (liquid or solid manure, compost, or fertilizer) be sure to keep accurate records of the manure or nutrients applied.

When evaluating 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 field 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.

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 Water Quality Staff, either: Laura DiPietro, 802-595-1990 or Dave Huber, 802-461-7160.

Contact:

Ryan Patch

Sr. Ag Development Coordinator

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

802-272-0323

Ryan.Patch@Vermont.gov

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