Blog

June 1, 2017

In response to forty-seven separate price scanner violations, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markers has issued more than $210,000 in penalties to Vermont Dollar General stores since 2013, including $24,000 in penalties this year. Agency inspectors have observed repeated pricing inaccuracies which could shortchange consumers, such as discrepancies between the posted shelf price and the price charged at the register.

By enforcing weights and measures standards at retail stores, the Agency’s Consumer Protection Section works to make sure Vermonters get what they pay for. Inspectors are on the look-out for faulty price scanners and inaccurate scales – errors that cost shoppers money. For the first violation, the Agency issues an official notice. The store must send back a corrective action report detailing how it will correct the problem. If there are continued problems, the Agency may issue administrative penalties and take other action, including referral to the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.

“The Agency of Agriculture has levied increasing monetary penalties against Dollar General over the past four years,” said Dr. Kristin Haas, head of the Agency’s Food Safety and Consumer Protection Division. “We feel it is important that consumers are aware of these inaccuracies, so they can take an active role in ensuring they are charged accurately, by checking their receipts and paying close attention in the store.”

“We are working towards helping Vermonters have a better experience when they shop at Dollar General,” said Consumer Protection Chief, Henry Marckres.

To see a list of the current Consumer Protection violations, visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/food_safety_consumer_protection/consumer_protection/violations

For more information, contact Henry Marckres, Consumer Protection Chief, 802-828-3458

 

 

April 28, 2017

by Alison Kosakowski, Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

Editors: Hi-Res photos are available at https://goo.gl/photos/L1AimpVUv97VL9AW9

As hunters across Vermont gear up for the 2017 turkey season, Vermont’s Ag Secretary and Fish and Wildlife Commissioner are praising the many farmers and hunters, who work together the steward Vermont’s land.

“There’s a strong tradition of partnership between Vermont’s farming and hunting communities, who share a natural appreciation for the rural beauty of our state, and a strong conservation ethic,” according to Vermont’s Ag Secretary, Anson Tebbetts, who is both a farmer, and a sportsman.  “We have more than 1.25 million acres of farmland here in Vermont. Many of those acres have been opened to hunters, thanks to the special relationships many hunters and farmers have formed over time.”

“Private landowners play an important role in the hunting community, by fostering habitat and opening their land,” according to Fish & Wildlife Commissioner, Louis Porter. “As some of the largest landowners in the state, farmers are in a unique position to help Vermont’s hunting community thrive.”

When hunters and farmers work together, both benefit, according to Tebbetts.

“We often hear farmers say that they appreciate the hunters, who keep an eye on their land for them,” said Tebbetts. “The deal is even sweeter when the hunter shares some of their bounty.”

Turkey biologists believe the ideal turkey habitat contains 10-50% open, non-forested lands. Crop land, and the surrounding areas, can be very attractive to hungry gobblers.

“Some of my favorite hunting experiences have taken place on Vermont farmland, from waiting for deer on the edge of a cornfield to calling in a turkey on a back meadow,” added Porter.

When asked to elaborate on the exact location of his favorite hunting spot, Commissioner Porter was a bit more evasive.

“It is indeed a farm, and it is indeed a great spot for hunting turkeys,” said Porter. “Beyond that, I have no comment.”

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April 21, 2017

If you are doing business in Vermont, you may need to be licensed with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. 

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is responsible for licensing a variety of items found in retail stores you might not connect with agriculture. There are many retailers not aware of the requirement to license in order to sell these items, or use certain devices. 

Please review our Fact Sheet to determine if your business is impacted. 

For a full listing of the Agency's licensing and registration programs, please visit our Licensing and Registration web page. 

If you have questions, we are here to help. Please contact the Agency's Licensing & Registration Section at (802) 828-2436 or via e-mail at AGR.Licensing@vermont.gov.

 
April 21, 2017

 

On April 22, 2017, millions of people around the globe will gather to promote awareness of the environment by celebrating Earth Day.  The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative values environmental stewardship and, in recognition of Earth Day, would like to recognize Vermont Tree Goods, a 2015 recipient of a Working Lands Grant, for the work it does to celebrate Earth Day, every day.

Vermont Tree Goods mills planks and creates furniture from recycled heirloom trees that have reached the end of their growing years. In 2015, the company received a $20,000 Working Lands Enterprise Fund grant for equipment capable of milling larger lumber at twice the rate. Due to this grant, Founder John Monks’ dream of creating natural furniture with sustainable building materials was realized.

“Our work is driven by a desire to create a better ending for the oldest of Vermont’s trees rather than seeing them discarded because they are too big and ‘misshapen,’” says Monks.  “For every tree that we recycle, at least one healthy tree will not need to be taken from the forest and the important role it fills there.”

On November 1, 2016, Vermont Tree Goods oversaw the taking down of a historical tree—the tree believed to be the largest Slippery Elm in the northeast—in Charlotte, VT.  The elm had died from Dutch Elm Disease and was reportedly 19 feet, 4 inches in diameter and 109 feet tall. At its sawmill in Bristol, Vermont Tree Goods milled the elm logs into planks which were kiln dried and brought to life once more in distinctive furniture.

“We have developed a milling technique that not only allows us to cut the largest of trees, but also uses far less energy to do so. The carbon footprint of our furniture is smaller than that of all others. With our focus on efficiency and sustainability, we are the epitome of a “green” business. To us this is just being conscious in all that we do. For you it means loving your furniture and your planet – smart,” says Monks.

Although Monks is passionate about the environment and keeping trees alive through his furniture, he is equally passionate about the work being done by Nature Conservancy’s Elm Restoration Program to develop elm trees resistant to Dutch elm disease. 

“It is more than just saving the species.  The Elm also plays a huge role in flood control and maintaining our water quality.  That’s why the Nature Conservancy is planting them along the Connecticut River.  The way I see it, it is a Win-Win-Win situation for all parties involved,” says Monk. 

And because he believes in the cause, Monks is donating a portion of sales from each item made from the Slippery Elm Restoration Program so the Nature Conservancy can continue its important work.

April 14, 2017

Input Gathered at Statewide Tour will help Shape 2017 Agenda

Throughout February and March, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets held a Listening Tour to gather feedback and ideas about farming in our state. Over the course of six weeks, the Agency hosted meetings in Lyndonville, Brattleboro, Middlebury, St. Albans, and Montpelier. More than 300 farmers and community members attended. Today, the Agency is announcing a plan to address the Listening Tour feedback.

“The suggestions and ideas shared by participants were insightful, and covered a wide range of topics,” said Ag Secretary, Anson Tebbetts. “The feedback was diverse, but four main themes emerged.”

On the whole, here’s what was shared, and how the Agency of Agriculture plans to address it:

The Next Generation

  • What we heard: Vermonters want to ensure the next generation has opportunities to work in agriculture, and has access to land. They want young people to feel excited and optimistic about careers in agriculture.
  • What we’ll do: We will work with UVM, Extension, Vermont Technical College, Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, and the career centers to promote educational programs that get future farmers ready to take the reins. There are many existing programs, like 4-H, that do great work to get young people engaged – we’ll work hard to promote these opportunities and build awareness, to get more kids involved. We’ll also continue to partner with the Vermont Housing Conservation Board and Land Trust to improve access to land.

Rules and Regulations

  • What we heard: Many of the folks who spoke up at the Listening Session told us they feel burdened and overwhelmed by regulations.
  • What we’ll do: The current administration has made a commitment to limit new regulations. The Required Ag Practices (RAPs) were adopted in December of 2016. We are committed to working with farmers to implement them in a way that is fair. We have recently formed the RAP Advisory Committee, which includes farmer representatives and stakeholders involved in water quality issues. The role of this board will be to advise the Agency on the roll-out of the RAPs, to ensure they are effective, attainable, and take into account real-farm practices.

Customer Service & Relationships:

  • What we heard: Some folks told us they find it difficult to get in touch with key Agency of Agriculture staff, and that the Agency needs to do a better job with customer service. They also felt we need to work harder to build positive relationships across the entire farming community.
  • What we’ll do: We have begun an Agency-wide audit of our customer service practices. Over the next three months, we will be working closely with managers, inspectors, and technical assistance providers to identify the ways in which we can improve customer service across the Agency, and improve relationships. As a first step, this week, we published a contact list for all Agency personnel on our website. You can find it at http://agriculture.vermont.gov/contact_us .This will help ensure you are able to contact the right person to help address your need. We are committed to improvement.

Communications:

  • What we heard: There’s a lot going on, and sometimes farmers find it hard to get the information they need. The Agency needs to do a better job communicating.
  • What we’ll do: In order to ensure farmers have timely access to the information they need, we are now mailing complimentary copies of our Agency newspaper, Agriview, to all Vermont farmers on a monthly basis. Over the course of the next year, we will also redesign our website, so that it is more user-friendly. The Agency is also encouraging people to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to get instant access to daily news, resources, and agricultural information.

“This is just the beginning. Each comment shared with us at these meetings helps inform the decisions we, as a new administration, make each day on the job here in Montpelier,” said Alyson Eastman, Deputy Secretary.

“We are committed to working with our farming community, to grow the economy, make Vermont affordable, and enrich our communities,” added Secretary Tebbetts. “Thanks to all who came out to share their thoughts.”

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