Blog

March 2, 2018

Maple Open House Weekend 2018 Showcases Unique Uses for Maple to Accompany Sugar House Tours 

Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association and partnering local breweries, distilleries, restaurants, hard cideries, inns and B&B’s feature Maple as the star ingredient for annual statewide celebration

JERICHO, VT, March 1, 2018 – Maple Open House Weekend is Vermont’s most anticipated spring event, bringing an estimated 30,000 visitors to tour the sugar houses and meet the sugar makers responsible for leading the nation in maple syrup production (nearly 1.8 million gallons averaged over the past 3 seasons). The weekend celebrates the current season’s crop and this year’s event has expanded the offerings and activities for visitors by partnering with local businesses who specialize in their own craft and support Vermont’s maple industry by including maple in their ingredients, on their menus, and offered for sale at their locations.

When visiting sugar houses on March 24th and 25th, visitors can expect warm welcomes from their sugar maker hosts, eager to educate and share with the public the process of making maple syrup from sap – an inside look at the hard work that goes into producing each jug of syrup. Traditional Open House activities include sampling syrup; tours of the woods; pancake breakfasts, horse-drawn sleigh rides, sugar-on-snow parties; and plenty of maple products to taste including maple donuts, maple cotton candy and maple creemees.

Event weekend visitors can also expect to be impressed by the diversity of maple as an ingredient as showcased by our partner businesses. Each partner capitalizes on the flavor qualities of maple as a key component of recipes and menu items appearing throughout the weekend. A few of the stops visitors shouldn’t miss include Citizen Cider’s Tasting Room, to try their new limited release Tree Tapper made with maple syrup; Shacksbury Cider’s Tasting Room featuring a cider that is barrel aged in old WhistlePig Whiskey barrels and finished with a kiss of maple syrup; Saxton’s River Distillery, featuring samples of their Sapling Maple Liqueur, Maple Bourbon and Maple Rye, all made using local Vermont maple syrup; Switchback Brewing Co.  featuring their signature Switchback Ale Maple Ice Cream Floats made with Lake Champlain Chocolate's vanilla ice cream and a maple syrup drizzle, and of course 14th Star Brewing where visitors can always enjoy craft brews made with maple including their Maple Breakfast Stout. For a full menu of maple, visitors can dine at partner restaurants like Mary’s at Baldwin Creek who will be featuring special maple appetizers, entrees and desserts alongside other local ingredients as well as unique maple craft cocktails.

Visitors are encouraged to travel the state to see how widely maple is produced and discover how maple has expanded its traditional uses as a breakfast topper to become the natural sweetener and flavor of choice as demonstrated by partnering businesses. To ensure visitors make the most of the weekend, the event web page also provides a listing of lodging options that are uniquely Vermont.

For more information about the weekend and to see the growing list of participating sugarhouses and partnering businesses, visit: www.vermontmaple.org/mohw.

Contact:  Amanda Voyer                                                                                                           
Phone:  802-858-9444                                                                                                                                           

Email:  amandav@vermontmaple.org

 

Website:  www.vermontmaple.org

 

 

 

 
March 1, 2018

 

March 1, 2017 / Montpelier VT – Today marks the beginning of National Weights and Measures Week, a time to recognize the important role of weights and measures regulatory programs across the country.  The date of this year’s Weights and Measures Week is significant as it marks the signing of the first Weights and Measures law by John Adams on March 2, 1799. Throughout the country, thousands of weights and measures inspectors work diligently to enforce laws designed to not only protect consumers but to also develop a level playing field in commerce wherever a weight or measure is involved.

 

Vermont’s Weights and Measures program is located in the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Market’s Consumer Protection Section. Many consumers are surprised to learn that weights and measures programs are part of many agencies of agriculture nationwide.  This is true of Vermont, where much of the state’s early economy was based on agricultural products produced on tens of thousands of farms.  Historically, commodities produced in Vermont like milk, meat, grains, feed, corn, and maple were sold by weight or measure, therefore the inspection program was placed in the Agency of Agriculture.

Vermont’s program consists of a Weights & Measures Metrology lab managed by a Metrologist and a corresponding field inspection component. The Metrologist manages the program’s laboratory.  The metrology lab maintains the state’s weights and measures standards, conducts calibrations on weighing and measuring artifacts, and advises both the program staff and private industry regarding weights and measures laws, regulations, and best practices.  Each year the laboratory tests thousands of hydrometers utilized by the maple industry, weights ranging in size from 1,000 lbs. to 0.001 lb. and numerous test measures used in the inspection and calibration of thousands of fuel pumps.

The inspections conducted by field staff provide equity in the marketplace and consumer protection by testing and inspecting commercial devices used in commerce.   Each year the Vermont program inspects over 6,000 gas pumps, 425 fuel oil truck meters, 225 propane truck meters, thousands of scales and packages.  Inspectors conduct hundreds of price verification inspections, testing the accuracy of laser scanning systems in retail outlets.  This work promotes consumer protection by ensuring that these devices are accurate and correct and by also monitoring pricing integrity and weighing and measuring practices where commercial transactions occur.    

A top priority of the section is responding to consumer concerns, the most common being: short measure on gas pumps, oil truck meters, beer, and firewood, as well as issues regarding retail pricing accuracy and fuel quality.  

The National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) has announced that this year’s theme is  Back to the Basics as we Arrive in the Cloud.  The theme expresses the dynamic challenges faced by regulatory jurisdictions across the country.   Gasoline stations and supermarkets employ state of the art weighing and measuring equipment. Inspectors need to understand software in the documentation, inspection, and investigation process. Technology is changing so rapidly that inspection staff are often playing catch up to significant changes in how commerce takes place.  Discounts can now be taken at gas stations using I-Phones, transportation systems such as UBER now employ GPS based measurement systems that charge consumers not based on a traditional physical taxi meter but from sources not physically connected to the vehicle. Theft at the gas pump is now taking place by the use of skimmers that are illegally installed in the pump and steal consumers credit and debit card information. 

                 

Weights and Measures jurisdictions often face many unique challenges. In the future, one issue that could potentially affect the state of Vermont Weights and Measures program is that of the sale of recreational Cannabis. Due to the high unit price of cannabis special requirements would need to take place.  Issues of appropriate higher-class scales, higher level of test weights, package and labeling, method of sale, and moisture loss are all issues that other states have had to define in implementing a cannabis inspection program.     

Weights and Measures Week serves as a reminder of the great value consumers receive from weights and measures inspection programs.   The Consumer Protection Section works to both regulate and educate the businesses they inspect.  When violations are found, appropriate enforcement action is taken.  Repeated violations may result in penalties being issued. A list of findings can now be found on the Vermont Agency of Agriculture website at:  

http://agriculture.vermont.gov/food_safety_consumer_protection/consumer_protection/violations

For more information about the Agency of Agriculture’s Weights and Measures program, contact Marc Paquette, Weights and Measures Specialist, Consumer Protection at 802-828-2426

February 28, 2018

Agency Announces Public Hearings with Public Comment Period Open Until April 19, 2018.

 

February 28, 2018 / Montpelier, VT. - On Tuesday, February 20, 2018 the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (the Agency or VAAFM) filed a proposed amendment to the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) Rule with the Vermont Secretary of State (SOS). This amendment was filed pursuant to 6 V.S.A. §4810a(b), which required the Agency to amend the RAPs to include requirements for reducing nutrient contribution to waters of the State from subsurface tile drainage. The RAPs were most recently amended and became effective on December 5, 2016, introducing additional regulations for all types of agriculture to improve water quality throughout the State.

 

The proposed amendment would require the implementation of practices on tiled croplands to reduce nutrient contribution to waters from subsurface tile drainage. Pre-filing of the proposed amendment with the Interagency Committee on Administrative Rules (ICAR) occurred initially on January 11, 2018 and initiating the formal rule amendment process. The Agency submitted an amended pre-filing set on February 9, 2018, and ICAR met on February 12, 2018 to review the proposed rule. ICAR accepted the rule with various recommended changes. The Agency made several changes to the draft and has now formally filed a proposed rule with the SOS.

 

“Rulemaking in any capacity can be a complicated process, a rule amendment involving subsurface tile drainage is no different,” said Laura DiPietro, Director of the Water Quality Division for VAAFM, “We are actively learning more about the functions of tile drainage; we know that these drainage systems are an incredibly important tool for farmers, but that there is also concern about the amount of nutrients coming through subsurface tile drainage systems and making their way to waters of the State. This proposed rule is drafted to address those potential losses.”

 

Prior to initiating the rulemaking process, the Agency was involved in various discussions and nine meetings to gather feedback pertaining to the content of the amendment. Over 100 participants had the opportunity to provide insight and inform the Agency as the rulemaking process began. The proposed amendment, if adopted, will be included in the RAPs as Section 12. Subsurface Tile Drainage.

 

“As is the case for any agricultural practice, responsible land management decisions are key,” DiPietro continued. “Gathering feedback from various communities throughout the State is critical to this process. We look forward to hearing from farmers, environmental groups, industry, the public, and our legislative body to create requirements surrounding subsurface tile drainage that will protect and enhance water quality.”

 

The proposed rule amendment, an updated RAP Rule Annotated Draft (including Section 12. Subsurface Tile Drainage), and other pertinent information can be found at: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/rap-tile-rule

 

A public comment period on the proposed subsurface tile drainage rule amendment is now open and will remain open until April 19, 2018. Three public hearings are scheduled to allow for all invested stakeholders to provide testimony and comment on the proposed amendment.

 

VAAFM Subsurface Tile Drainage Amendment to the RAP Rule Public Hearings:

  • March 30, 2018:

 1 PM – 3 PM at the St. Albans Historical Museum, 9 Church Street, St. Albans VT 05478

  • April 2, 2018:

5 PM – 7 PM at the Pavilion Auditorium, 109 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05602

  • April 5, 2018:

1 PM – 3 PM at the Middlebury American Legion, 49 Wilson Road, Middlebury, VT 05753

 

 

Please submit any comments electronically to: AGR.RAP@vermont.gov or in writing to:

Subsurface Tile Drainage RAP Rule Amendment

Water Quality Division

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

116 State St. Montpelier, VT 05620

 

 

For questions regarding the proposed amendment or the RAPs please contact:

 

Ryan Patch

Sr. Ag Development Coordinator

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

(802) 272-0323

Ryan.Patch@Vermont.gov

 

Or email AGR.WaterQuality@Vermont.gov.

 

 

 

February 27, 2018

February 27, 2018 / Montpelier VT - The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation (VTFPR) and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Foods & Markets (VAAFM) report that emerald ash borer (EAB), a destructive forest insect from Asia, has been detected in Vermont. Officials with the USDA Animal & Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) have confirmed the identification of a beetle recently found in northern Orange County, Vermont. The insect was reported through the vtinvasives.org website.

EAB overwinter as larvae under the bark of ash trees where they feed on the inner bark tissue. Once infested, ash trees rapidly decline and are killed in 3-5 years. This pest is known to be established in 32 states and three Canadian provinces, and is responsible for widespread decline and mortality of hundreds of millions of ash trees in North America.

Ash trees comprise approximately 5% of Vermont forests and are also a very common and important urban tree. EAB threatens white ash, green ash and black ash in Vermont and could have significant ecological and economic impacts. There are no proven means to control EAB in forested areas, though individual trees can sometimes be effectively treated.

State and federal forest health officials have convened and are preparing to implement an emergency action plan in response to the recent EAB detection in Vermont. A multi-agency delineation survey effort, including personnel from VAAFM, VTFPR, APHIS, US Forest Service and the University of Vermont Extension, will be launched in the upcoming days to determine the extent of the EAB infestation. Results of the survey will inform subsequent management recommendations and quarantine decisions and will be released to the public.

Slowing the spread of EAB is very important. While adult EAB are capable of flying short distances, humans have accelerated spread by moving infested material, particularly firewood, long distances. Residents and visitors are reminded to protect Vermont’s forests by buying and burning local firewood.

Landowners with questions are encouraged to contact their county forester. You can find county foresters on this website: http://fpr.vermont.gov/forest/your_woods/county_forest/who_where.

A public information meeting is being planned and details will be announced shortly.

For questions please contact:

Barbara Schultz, Forest Health Program Manager

VT Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation

802-777-2082

barbara.schultz@vermont.gov

Emilie Inoue, State Pest Survey Coordinator

VT Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

802-505-0217

emilie.inoue@vermont.gov

More information is available at: http://vtinvasives.org/

February 27, 2018

(Vermont Agency of Agriculture, UVM Extension, and New Hampshire representatives are participating in the Produce Safety Alliance Water Summit remotely on February 27 and 28, 2018.)

The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Water Summit is taking place today and tomorrow in Covington, KY. Due to high demand, there are also 28 remote sessions taking place across the country feeding into the Summit in real time, including a session organized by University of Vermont Extension in Barre, Vt. The PSA Water Summit centers on Subpart E—Agricultural Water of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR) There have been many questions, concerns, and debates surrounding the PSR’s Agricultural Water standards, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seeks feedback from Summit participants so they can work to make the requirements practical, economical, and less burdensome for produce growers.

Objectives of the PSA Water Summit are as follows:

  • Discuss the diverse ways that water is being used in farms across the country as well as challenges and concerns related to current standards for water quality and testing.
  • Discuss and develop minimum standards, practices, or approaches to identify challenges and concerns with existing PSR requirements to control water quality hazards. These should be practical for the production of fruits and vegetables.
  • Recommend actionable next steps related to the standards, practices or approaches that address these challenges and concerns, including 1) the scientific basis for standards, practices, or approaches, 2) implementation support, including recommended partnerships and timelines, and 3) a process to review and validate scientific data or information collected to support the use of minimum standards, practices, or approaches to meet the requirements of the PSR.

During the FDA Welcome at the Summit, Dr. Stephen Ostroff, Deputy FDA Commissioner for Food & Veterinary Medicine, made it clear that the standards in Subpart E are not set in stone and noted that “all options are on the table, including reopening the rule.” This Summit is an important opportunity for produce growers, state, extension, and other industry stakeholders to provide feedback to FDA on the Agricultural Water standards so that FDA can take all aspects into consideration as they move forward in considering revisions to the standard.

A live one-way audio and video stream is available and free to the public. If you are interested in listening to the Produce Safety Alliance Water Summit please visit https://producesafetyalliance.cornell.edu/water-summit and follow the instructions under “Public Zoom Webinar Links.”

The Vermont Produce Program at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets will be providing growers with updates regarding Subpart E as final requirements and compliance dates are determined. To stay up to date on the Produce Safety Rule, partner with the Vermont Produce Program by enrolling your farm in the Vermont Produce Portal at http://agriculture.vermont.gov/produceprogram. You will receive updates on the PSR and produce safety requirements and can work directly with program staff to determine if your farm is subject to the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.

Contact:
Dominique Giroux
Education and Outreach Coordinator (Produce Safety)
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets

(802) 522-3132
Dominique.Giroux@vermont.gov

 

 

 

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