December 26, 2017

Half of All VAST Trails Cross Vermont Farmland

Winter is back, and Vermonters are ready to play in the snow once more!

It’s no secret that Vermonters love snowmobiling, but did you know that more than 2,400 miles of VAST (Vermont Association of Snow Travelers) Trails cross Vermont farmland? That’s more than half of all the VAST trails, statewide.

“Without farmers, the VAST trail system as we know it would not exist,” according to Matt Tetreault, VAST’s Trails Administrator, who oversees VAST’s statewide network of 4700 miles of trails. “VAST relies on the generosity of private landowners who allow the trail system to cross their property. We are especially grateful to the farmers who make their land available in wintertime, for our club members to enjoy.”

In fact, 64% of all the private land in the VAST trail network is farmland. (Private land accounts for about 80% of the total VAST trail network.)

According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, there are more than 7300 farms in Vermont, encompassing over 1.25 million acres.

“Farms add to the beauty and character of Vermont’s landscape, and many provide fun recreational opportunities for Vermonters, too” according to Ag Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “Thanks farmers, for all you do!”

“Be safe, enjoy the snow, and have some fun,” he added.

December 21, 2017

By Shelley Mehlenbacher, Assistant State Veterinarian, Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

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:

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.

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?

December 20, 2017

When the snow comes down heavy and hard, it’s time for farmers to start thinking about barn roof safety.

Heavy snow can put barn roofs at risk, but snow removal must be performed carefully. Removing snow without the proper approach can actually cause more damage, by creating an unbalanced load. Remember, your number one priority must to be protect your own safety!

Farmers are encouraged to consider these safety tips, provided by Cornell University, when considering snow removal from a barn roof.


  • DO consider a systematic approach. You need a plan! For a diagram of the best way to remove snow from your barn structure, see this tip sheet from Cornell.
  • DO listen for creaking or moaning – if your barn is built from wood, unusual sounds may indicate there’s trouble afoot
  • DO look for bending or bowing rafters, headers, or columns. There are often visual cues to be found, if you look carefully at the structure.
  • DO ask for help. You can’t do this alone. Who is your back up? Is there anyone in your community with expertise or equipment, who might be willing to help?


  • DON'T remove snow unequally from the roof. Unbalanced loads can create even more problems.. 
  • DON’T pile snow atop the roof. Do not simply move the snow from one area of the roof to another. 
  • DON’T attempt to clear the snow yourself! Make sure there are others nearby, helping and watching, in the event of a problem. 

Most importantly, DO NOT PUT YOUR OWN SAFETY AT RISK. For a full overview of the best way to remove snow from a barn roof, visit

Vermont farmers are critical to our landscape, heritage, economy, and communities. We have NONE TO SPARE! Be safe!

December 19, 2017

Training. It takes work ethic, commitment, and the willingness to learn. It can play a key role in how we grow as a community, industry or society. In the ever-evolving agriculture sector, training new farmers is vital for a thriving agricultural economy.

This is one of the main focus points for the Vermont Produce Program. The Produce Team within the Agency of Agriculture works to support produce growers in the areas of market development, market access, and produce safety rule comprehension and compliance.

With compliance dates looming for produce growers covered by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule, one of the program’s most important tasks involves training growers about produce safety rule expectations and best practices.

The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training, a two-day, hands-on event held in early November at the beautiful and historic Vermont Youth Conservation Corp (VYCC) West Monitor Barn in Richmond, allowed produce safety program staff from the Agency and UVM Extension to share their knowledge and expertise on key requirements of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule that will impact Vermont growers. The interactive approach allowed state regulators, farmers and support organizations to collectively share their production experiences and produce safety questions.

“I thought this regulation was going to be a lot harder to follow. But now that I’m here it’s a lot easier to understand,” said one Vermont produce farmer in attendance at the PSA Grower Training.

Roughly 45 growers and service providers left the training with not only a greater understanding of the Produce Safety Rule, but also with the certificate necessary to satisfy the rule’s requirement that at least one responsible party from each covered farm receive training under a FDA recognized curriculum.

In addition to observing produce ​safety ​practices ​on ​a working produce operation, the Agency’s Produce Team presented the many technical and financial resources available to growers. Produce farms were encouraged to enroll in the Vermont Produce Portal, a resource to help farmers understand requirements and receive updates from the Agency.

Portal access will also allow produce farms to apply for Vermont Produce Safety Improvement Grants to help pay for on-farm improvements. Approximately $74,000 in funding will be available to assist Vermont produce growers as they install necessary infrastructure or make other on-farm improvements that help prevent or reduce known produce safety risks on their farms.

“Vermont is one of the only states I know of that is providing this kind of [grant] support for growers,” said Gretchen Wall, Produce Safety Alliance coordinator and Lead Trainer.

These grant funds will offer a level of support not only to help farmers financially meet standards, but to help them fundamentally understand ways to make our food safer and give farmers the training they need to help grow the Vermont produce industry.

December 18, 2017
Montpelier, VT / December 18, 2017 - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is pleased to announce the availability of up to $60,000 of funding for Local Food Market Development (LFMD) Grants to assist eligible Vermont farmers, businesses, and value-chain facilitators to reach new markets. VAAFM works to support market opportunities with an institutional or other wholesale focus in Vermont.  
This year the agency has engaged a public/private partnership with philanthropic partners to augment these efforts and match up to $30,000 from the Vermont legislature for this grant effort. 
“The strong program similarities between the VAAFM’s Local Food Development Grant Program and the priorities of philanthropic partners’ farm to institution initiatives, provides an opportunity to grow economic success for Vermont agricultural businesses, while providing quality food to institutions like schools, colleges and hospitals,” says Secretary Anson Tebbetts.
The deadline for the FY2018 LFMD Grants is January 24th 2018 and all applicants must demonstrate 25% of total project cost in matching funds.  
This year’s grants will be available to projects that have goals to improve quality, efficiency, or food safety; address distribution challenges; and/or mitigate the financial risks associated with scaling up to meet new market demands. Grants ranging from $3,000 – $10,000 will be available for these efforts.  To qualify for funding consideration, applicants must either be a Vermont producer in pursuit of institutional market development, or a value-chain facilitator that will directly support Vermont producers’ access to institutional and wholesale market expansion. 
For more information on the LFMD grant program, please visit: