August 27, 2015

By Deirdra Ritzer, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation

The Vermont Clean Diesel Grant Program will have incentive funding available for projects that reduce diesel emissions from engines, vehicles, and equipment. Nonroad engines, equipment or vehicles used in agriculture (including stationary generators and pumps) are eligible to receive funding.

Caption: Ag vehicles are eligible for this program Photo by: Alison Kosakowski For more information, contact Deirdra Ritzer at (802) 233-8052

The Vermont Clean Diesel Grant Program was developed by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in response to one of the greatest air quality challenges facing Vermont – reducing public exposure to emissions from diesel powered engines and equipment. With assistance from the Vermont Clean Diesel Grant Program, several Vermont businesses and institutions have successfully completed various diesel emission reduction projects including diesel engine repowering at local sawmills, vehicle replacement at schools, and installation of idle reduction technologies used by hospitals, railways and schools.

The types of projects eligible under this program include 1) vehicle, engine and equipment replacement, 2) retrofitting with emission control technologies, 3) engine repowers, and 4) installation of idle reduction technologies.

The DEC will be posting a Request for Proposals to solicit applications for this grant opportunity within the next 60 days. Since there are eligibility and cost share requirements that vary depending on the project, it is strongly recommended that interested applicants contact program staff to discuss potential projects well in advance of the formal application process.

To learn more about the Vermont Clean Diesel Grant Program and this upcoming funding opportunity, please visit the DEC’s Air Quality & Climate Division web site at 


August 26, 2015

By Stephanie Smith, VAAFM, and Linda Henzel, VT Dept. of Tax

Self-Certify in August: During the month of August property owners with agricultural land enrolled in the Current Use Program will receive a certification form (CU-313) from the Vermont Tax Department.  Self-certifying eligibility is a new annual requirement for enrollees of  “agricultural land” and “farm buildings”.  If land and/or buildings are no longer eligible, this form outlines steps  to remove property or revise enrollment.  The deadline for submitting this form to the Current Use Program is September 1, 2015.  Depending on the disposition of your property, additional actions may be necessary.  If you have questions concerning this certification process, please call 802-828-5860 for more information.

Oct. 1 is the  Current Use Easy-Out Deadline: During the 2015 legislative session, the Vermont legislature made a number of changes to the law affecting the current use (Use Value Appraisal) program. One of these changes was a new calculation for the land use change tax (LUCT). When changes of that nature are enacted, the legislature has elected to grant an easy-out period for enrollees. This temporary period allows landowners to remove a parcel, or part of a parcel, without paying the first $50,000 of LUCT. You must apply by Oct. 1, 2015.

To help make the application process easier, the Department of Taxes created a checklist. This checklist outlines some of the commonly missed items needed to submit with your application (CU-312).  The checklist is available online at

If you apply for the easy-out, please note that owners of the withdrawn land will pay the full amount of property taxes for the 2015 tax year on the withdrawn land. As a result, the towns will need to re-send bills for the withdrawn land during the easy-out. Withdrawn land may not be re-enrolled in the program for five years. Effective Oct. 2, 2015, the Land Use Change Tax will be 10% for all land developed or withdrawn.

If you have questions about the process, please contact the Tax Department’s Current Use Division at 802-828-5860. 


August 26, 2015

By Tom Bivins, Vermont Cheese Council

The Vermont Cheese Council (VCC) has announced that Vermont took home 46 ribbons from 20 cheesemakers at the 32nd annual American Cheese Society competition in Providence, RI. Notable awards include a third place Best In Show designation for Cellars at Jasper Hill’s (Greensboro) Harbison, and ribbons by brand new VCC members Fairy Tale Farm Cheese (Bridport) and Sweet Rowen Farmstead (West Glover).

The American Cheese Society (ACS) is the leading organization supporting the understanding, appreciation and promotion of farmstead, artisan and specialty cheeses produced in the Americas.  Since its founding in 1983, ACS hosts North America’s foremost annual educational conference and world-renowned cheese judging and competition. This year’s competition included 1,779 entries from 267 companies across North America.

Caption: Vermont’s Commissioner of Tourism, Megan Smith (left) samples Vermont’s own Plymouth Artisan Cheese Photo by: Alison Kosakowski

Last year’s record number (23) of Vermont cheesemakers in the competition was beat again this year, as 27 of the state’s artisan cheesemakers submitted cheeses to be judged at the ACS. The number due in part is due to the VCC’s new sponsorship program, which sponsors some of Vermont cheesemakers’ ACS entry fees to support their efforts in showcasing their cheese in a competition setting.

Vermont was represented with a third place Best in Show award for Cellars at Jasper Hill’s Harbison, a soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese with a rustic, bloomy rind. The cheese is wrapped in strips of spruce cambium, the tree's inner bark layer, harvested from the woodlands of Jasper Hill.

“The strength and respect of Vermont cheese continues to grow, which was evident tonight at the American Cheese Society awards,” said Tom Bivins, Vermont Cheese Council executive director. “Twenty of our entered 27 cheesemakers took home 46 ribbons for their cheese, butter or yogurt. Winners included long-standing members and brand new members, showing that this category of artisan food for Vermont continues to shine.”


Winning Cheeses from Vermont

  • Cellars at Jasper Hill, Greensboro: Third Place-Best in Show for Harbison.
  • Boston Post Dairy, Enosburg Falls: Gisele, Smoking Goud, third place
  • Bonneview Farm, Craftsbury Common: Nevis, second place;
  • Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Cabot: Cabot Old School Cheddar, first;  Jalapeno Lite Cheddar, Plain Greek Style Yogurt, second;
  • Cellars at Jasper Hill, Greensboro: Harbison, first place and third place-best in show; Winnemere, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar Select – first place; and ; Alpha Tolman and Willoughby, second place
  • Consider Bardwell Farm, West Pawlet: Pawlet, first; Rupert Reserve, second; Manchester, third
  • Fairy Tale Farm Cheese, Bridport:  Will O’ Wisp, third
  • Franklin Foods, Enosburg Falls: Hahn’s Cultured Cream Cheese, first place
  • Grafton Village Cheese, Grafton: Vermont Clothbound Cheddar, second place
  • Maplebrook Farm, Bennington: Burrata, Whole Milk Block Feta, second place; Smoked Handmade Mozzarella, third place
  • Mount Mansfield Creamery, Morrisville: Forerunner, second; Sunrise, third place
  • Parish Hill Creamery, Westminster West: Vermont Herdsman at Crown Finish Caves, first; Suffolk Punch, third
  • Plymouth Artisan Cheese, Plymouth: Hot Pepper, second; Sage & Herb, third
  • Sage Farm Goat Dairy, Stowe: Fresh Chevre, third place
  • Shelburne Farms, Shelburne: Barnhouse Smoked Cheddar, third
  • Spring Brook Farm/Farms for City Kids, Reading:  Reading, first place; Tarentaise Reserve and Tarentaise, third place
  • Sweet Rowen Farmstead, West Glover: Nettle Farmers Cheese, first
  • Twig Farm, Cornwall: Washed Rind Wheel, third
  • Vermont Creamery, Websterville: Bijou, Sea Salt and Maple Butter, first place; Bonne Bouche, Goat Feta and 1916 Wegman’s Chevre, second place; Fresh Crottin, Culture Butter Unsalted, third
  • Vermont Shepherd, Putney: Verano, first; 2 Year Old Invierno, third place
  • Woodcock Farm, Dorset: Summer Snow, second

For a comprehensive list of all the 2015 American Cheese Society winners, visit 

The state of Vermont, celebrated for its focus on farm-to-table lifestyle and Vermont-made products, including cheese, boasts more cheese companies per capita than any other state in the nation.

The Vermont Cheese Council was the Marquee Sponsor of this year’s ACS. Guests of the conference were treated to a pancake breakfast with real Vermont maple syrup, courtesy of the Vermont Cheese Council, and a Vermont-themed opening reception. The sponsorship enabled greater visibility for Vermont cheeses and the Vermont brand among the epicures and wholesale buyers attending ACS.

“Vermont was front-and-center at ACS this year – our cheeses took top honors, and guests were able to experience some Vermont traditions at our maple breakfast and opening reception,” said Alison Kosakowski, Communications Director for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.  “Everyone who attended ACS this year got a taste of Vermont quality and authenticity! We made our mark!”

The Vermont Cheese Council is a statewide membership based organization with 50 principal cheese producing members and over 100 associate members.  The VCC is committed to promoting the advancement and quality of Vermont cheese through promotion, education and strong peer to peer support.  The organization has been in existence since 1992.   For more information, please contact: Tom Bivins, Executive Director at (link sends e-mail) or call 802-451-8564 (link is external) or visit the Vermont Cheese Council website at


August 26, 2015
By Chuck Ross, Secretary, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets
Earlier this month, the State of Vermont and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the draft plan to restore Lake Champlain, also known as the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). This is a major step forward in our work to repair the lake and ensure it can be enjoyed by future generations of Vermonters. 
For too long, we have lacked the resources to adequately address the problems facing Lake Champlain. With this announcement, the administration is committing the resources needed to fulfil the promises we have made about restoring our lake.
From an Agency of Ag standpoint, we are already taking decisive action to address the most troubled areas of the Lake. We are refocusing and reprioritizing our efforts for greater impact. As an example, this summer, we have performed assessments at more than 100 farms in the most impacted areas – North Lake and the Missiqoui Bay. We are working directly with these farmers to assess their challenges, identify resources and solutions to get the work done, and hold everyone accountable.
Our success to date is in large part due to the active support of the farming community, and requires their on-going support in the future.
For the past year, I’ve talked about the key themes of this effort – “Stewardship, Partnership, and Accountability.”  “Stewardship” refers to the actions we all must take to ensure we are doing our absolute best to minimize our individual impacts on the lake. For farmers, that means implementing conservations practices to reduce run-off. “Partnership” refers to the fact that we all must work together – state officials, environmentalists, farmers, property owners, and ordinary citizens – to find sustainable solutions. It’s an all in approach. And finally, “accountability” means we need to hold each other responsible for our actions by implementing a clear framework that outlines what must be done, and the consequences for non-compliance. Participation in this massive effort is not option.
These principles have lead us to this important milestone, and will continue to be critical to our success as we enter this next phase of implementation. 

Thank you for your continued commitment to Stewardship, Partnership, and Accountability – and to the future of Vermont.

For more information about Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Lake Champlain Restorating Planning visit:


August 24, 2015


Vermont State Veterinarian, Dr. Kristin Haas, is encouraging poultry owners, producers and enthusiasts to prepare for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), which is expected to impact the East Coast in the fall of this year or spring of 2016. Since December 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed the presence of HPAI on more than 200 properties, impacting almost 50 million commercial and backyard birds. While the HPAI outbreak has not yet been identified in Vermont, poultry producers should be familiar with the disease, how it is spread, and preparedness efforts that they can engage in now. 



It is important to note that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people from this HPAI infection to be low. No human cases of this HPAI virus have been detected in the United States or internationally. Influenza in poultry does not constitute a food safety risk.


The HPAI H5 virus is most commonly spread to domestic poultry by infected waterfowl, through direct contact or contact with their droppings.  While waterfowl can carry the disease without becoming sick, the HPAI H5 virus is generally fatal for domestic poultry.

“Domestic poultry are highly susceptible to HPAI H5 virus, which can spread rapidly from bird to bird and typically results in high mortality rates.” said Vermont State Veterinarian, Dr. Kristin Hass. “All poultry owners, whether they are backyard hobbyists or commercial producers, should evaluate their farms for risk factors that could contribute to avian influenza occurring on their farms.”

Risk factors include:

  • Poultry housed outside
  • Ponds or other water fowl attractants on the farm
  • Piles of debris located close to poultry areas
  • Introduction of poultry from other farms without a quarantine period
  • Lack of personal protective equipment such as dedicated coveralls and boots
  • Sharing of equipment between farms.

All poultry owners, regardless of size and business structure, should adhere to the following disease preventative measures:

  • Obtain a federal premises identification number by calling the State Veterinarian’s Office at (802) 828-2421. A unique farm identifier will aid regulatory officials in providing information to owners pre-outbreak and assisting owners with disease control and business continuity during a disease response.
  • Keep poultry away from wild birds, particularly waterfowl and shorebirds, and remove wild bird attractants from poultry housing areas.
  • If poultry are housed indoors, don’t let wild birds (or their fecal material) into barns.
  • Clean and disinfect all equipment prior to entry into a barn or poultry housing area.
  • Use barn-specific boots and coveralls, and consider using boot baths/washes.
  • Do not bring disease home with you -if you exhibit your poultry at fairs or swaps, do not share cages or equipment with other poultry owners. 
  • Familiarize yourself with signs of illness in your birds and call the State Veterinarian’s Office if you see nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, lethargy, discolored wattles or combs, a drop in egg production, or sudden death.

Commercial poultry producers (egg producers, meat bird producers) should take additional proactive steps to increase the likelihood of continued business profitability in the event of a disease outbreak, such as:

  • Evaluating your farm’s carcass disposal options and contacting the Agency of Natural Resources Department of Environmental Conservation Waste Management and Prevention Division for a site evaluation and technical assistance: (802)828-1138.
  • Ensuring easy access to complete farm records that include live poultry and poultry product movement on and off the property and other non-poultry related routine farm traffic such as veterinary visits, feed deliveries, or service technicians.
  • Implement and consistently utilize a visitor’s log.
  • Evaluate and plan for product storage if in the event of an outbreak your farm is not able to move product.
  • Initiate conversations with your markets to determine if they will accept your product during an outbreak.
  • If you are an organic farm, review with your certifying organization the possibility of raising your birds indoors, should such measures become necessary.
  • Visit the Agency of Agriculture’s website at to view a list of questions that may be asked of your farm during an outbreak.

All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, are encouraged to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and to report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through the Vermont Agency of Agriculture at (802)828-2421 or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.

Please visit for more information.