Blog

October 8, 2015

By Jim Leland, Vemront Agency of Agriculture

Public Hearing Date Changed to November 12th, 2015

On October 7, 2015, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross, in consultation with the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), reissued a Notice of Public Hearing to provide the public additional and sufficient opportunity to comment on the proposed Revised Secretary’s Decision for the CLF’s petition to require mandatory agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) in the Missisquoi Bay Basin.  The new date for the public hearing is November 12, 2015

The proposed Revised Secretary’s Decision, which is subject to public input, is one element of the framework negotiated between the Agency and CLF to settle the pending court litigation related to the Missisquoi Basin.

It had come to the Secretary’s attention that the proposed timing of the originally scheduled public hearing placed a burden on farmers during a busy time of the harvest season.  To allow for as much public input from farmers as possible, the decision was made to reissue the Notice of Public Hearing for November 12.  Rescheduling the hearing allows more notice to farmers and affected citizens and greater opportunity for comment and input.

The rescheduled public hearing will be held on Thursday, November 12, 2015, in St. Albans City, from 1 PM until 3 PM, at the American Legion, 100 Parah Drive. Written comment will also be accepted until 4:30 PM November 23, 2015.

The full Notice of Public Hearing, the proposed Revised Secretary’s Decision, and the draft Stipulation of the Parties for Remand, which contain background and additional explanatory information, can be accessed here: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/news-events/clf-petition with additional information available below.

Questions about the public hearing process and any written comments may be directed to:

James Leland

116 State Street

Montpelier, VT 05620

(802)-828-3478

…or e-mailed to: AGR.MissisquoiBMP@vermont.gov

For more information about the Agency’s water quality initiatives, please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality

Related Documents:

The full text of the petition, including CLF’s rationale for its request, can be accessed at: http://www.clf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/CLF-Missisquoi-Bay-Ag-BMP-Petition-FINAL-.pdf

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October 8, 2015

By Zli Zipparo, Vemmont Agency od Agriculture

Agency of Ag Announces More than $50,000 of Farm to School Grant Funding Available to VT Schools

**Editors: please note hi-res photos are available here: http://bit.ly/1jdrhgB

State leaders gathered together today at Sustainability Academy in Burlington to recognize Farm to School Awareness Month, a statewide celebration of the Farm to School (FTS) Program that connects thousands of Vermont students with fresh, healthy, local foods every year.  Among the celebrants were Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross, Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, Health Commissioner Harry Chen, Burlington Schools Superintendent Yaw Obeng, Vermont state legislators, as well as representatives from the office of Senator Leahy, and other important Farm to School stakeholders.

Vermont Agency of Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross announced more than $50,000 in funding available to all Vermont schools for the purpose of developing or expanding Farm to School programming for Vermont students in 2016. 

Vermont is a national leader in Farm to School programming; our schools spend a larger percentage of their food budgets on locally sourced foods than any other state.

“Farm to School programs are a vital tool we can use to promote agricultural literacy in schools so that, from an early age, students understand the value of nutrition, develop healthy eating habits, and appreciate where their food comes from,” said  Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross.  “Farm to School programming helps build a culture of ‘Ag Literacy’ in our schools and communities. These programs are an essential part of building the connection between agriculture and the next generation of Vermonters, while also teaching our students to make healthy choices and ensuring food access for all.”

Since 2007, the state of Vermont has appropriated more than $800,000 in support of Farm to School programming.  The Vermont Farm to School Grant Program has awarded funds to 70 schools and supervisory unions throughout the state to facilitate the integration of local foods in school cafeterias, classrooms and communities, impacting roughly 30% of all schools in Vermont.  

Today’s event also served as an opportunity to highlight several new developments in Vermont’s Farm to School landscape, including:

  • The newly established inter-agency strategic partnership between the Agency of Agriculture and the Departments of Education and Health focused on developing Farm to School programs throughout the state.
  • New School Wellness Policy Guidelines which now more strongly incorporate FTS programming and recommendations for local food in school nutrition standards and education.
  • Recently released Vermont Farm to School Network Goals to engage 75% of Vermont Schools in Farm to School programming and purchases at least 50% of food regionally by 2025.

Following the celebratory remarks, the Sustainability Academy’s 4th and 5th grade garden club treated event guests to a taste test of fresh kale pesto made with kale harvested from school gardens in Burlington – a fitting choice of vegetable as today, October 7th, is also National Kale Day.  Taste tests, a popular tool used to encourage students to try new foods, are the official theme of Farm to School Awareness month in Vermont.  Students participating in FTS programs will be conducting various taste tests for their classmates using fresh, local food throughout the month of October. 

More information about the Vermont Farm to School Program and a downloadable grant application can be found at http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/funding_opportunities/vaafm_funding/farm_to_school

All Vermont schools, consortium of schools, and school districts are eligible to apply for funding.  Program applications must be received by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture no later than 4:30 pm on Friday, November 6, 2015.

Vermont Farm to School program grant program is made possible by collaboration between the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Agency of Education, VT FEED (Food Education Every Day) and the Vermont Farm to School Network.

If  you have questions about Vermont’s Farm to School program or the 2016 funding, contact Ali Zipparo at 802-505-1822, or Alexandra.Zipparo@vermont.gov

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October 1, 2015
By Noelle Sevoian, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Working Lands Specialist

Today, the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) is happy to announce the opening of this year’s grant cycle and the availability of approximately $550,000 in grants funds for the 2016 program year.  These grants will fund forestry and agriculture projects that enhance Vermont’s communities, economy and culture.   The applicant guide can be found online at http://workinglands.vermont.gov/apply/rfp. Applicant Information Sessions are scheduled for October 9th and 14th.

“Vermont’s Working Landscape is vital to our economy, and our way of life. Not only does it attract tourism, recreation, and businesses, it serves as a foundation for our agriculture and forest products sectors” said Chuck Ross, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture. “Investing in the Working Landscape helps ensure Vermonters are able to enjoy Vermont’s farms and forests, for generations to come.”

“Vermont’s forests are a fundamental part of our state’s working landscapes.  Investing in forest businesses provides jobs and a local, reliable source of wood products for a wide range of valuable uses from flooring and furniture to construction and energy,” said Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder. “Over the past year we have made a special effort to identify key areas of market potential for the forestry sector and are excited to see it grow even further.”

Lucy Leriche, Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Community Development said, “Vermont’s working landscape has long been the backbone of our economy and its importance only continues to grow as we develop a keen appreciation for local food and wood products and new technologies that allow us to create renewable energy right here in Vermont.”

The WLEB began operations in August 2012 and today has awarded over $3 million in grant funds to 110 grantees, leveraging an additional $4.3 million of matching and outside funds.  The WLEB looks forward to continuing this impressive track record in Fiscal Year 2016.  Success stories of previous WLEB grantees may be viewed at http://workinglands.vermont.gov/successtories.

Again this year, $30,000 of Local Food Market Development (LFMD) grant funds will be made available through the Working Lands grant process. The focus of LFMD funding is to increase Vermont producers’ access to institutional and wholesale markets, promote consumption of local food, and encourage scaling up through new market development opportunities across the state.

A change to this year’s application will be that all Business Investment applicants will be required to include a business plan. Applicants who have never written a business plan before are invited to use the online template at http://workinglands.vermont.gov/apply/ta/tools.

The two investment areas are as follows:

1. Business Investments     $5,000-$50,000

LETTER OF INTENT DUE: 11/6/15 at noon

Projects may include, but are not limited to: Infrastructure (project-specific planning, permitting, and/or engineering/architectural plans; and/or building and equipment costs); Marketing (accessing new markets and securing new customers); Research and Development (testing new systems or technologies or developing innovative solutions)

2. Service Provider Investment    $15,000-$75,000

LETTER OF INTENT DUE: 12/4/15 at noon

Projects should show direct impacts on Vermont Working Lands businesses. Types of technical assistance provided may include: Market development, marketing plans, and sales; Business and financial planning; Succession planning; Access to capital; Manufacturing efficiencies or process flow

Applicant Info Sessions will be hosted at the following locations:

Friday, October 9th, 4:30 – 6:00pm

  • Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, 2nd Floor Conference Room, 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT, 05620, phone: 802.585.9072
  • Northern Vermont Development Association, 36 Eastern Avenue, St Johnsbury, VT, 05819, phone: 802.748.5181
  • Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, 76 Cotton Mill Hill, Brattleboro, VT, 05301, phone: 802.257.0294
  • Springfield Regional Development Corporation, 14 Clinton Street Suite 7, Springfield, VT, 05156, phone: 802.885.3061

Wednesday, October 14th, 4:30 – 6:00pm

  • Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, 2nd Floor Conference Room, 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT, 05620, phone: 802.585.9072
  • Northern Vermont Development Association, 36 Eastern Avenue, St Johnsbury, VT, 05819, phone: 802.748.5181
  • Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, 76 Cotton Mill Hill, Brattleboro, VT, 05301, phone: 802.257.0294
  • Rutland Economic Development Corporation, 110 Merchants Row Suite 312, Rutland, VT, 05701, phone: 802.773.9147
  • Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation & Northwest Regional Planning Commission, 75 Fairfield Street, Saint Albans, VT, 05478, phone: 802.524.5958

Link to Register from your home: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/2574274848696658434

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The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, (Act 142), is administered by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets in partnership with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.  The Working Lands funds are administered by the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB), an impact investment organization whose mission is to grow the economies, cultures, and communities of Vermont’s working landscape by making essential, catalytic investments in critical leverage points of the Vermont farm and forest economy, from individual enterprises to industry sectors.

About the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets: VAAFM facilitates, supports and encourages the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment.  www.Agriculture.Vermont.Gov

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September 29, 2015

By Hannah Reid, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

After 30 years of commitment and service to the Vermont Agricultural community, Dairy Section Chief Dan Scruton will be retiring from the Agency of Agriculture this month.  Throughout his three decades of service to the Vermont agricultural community, Dan cultivated deep expertise in areas of agricultural technology, energy policy, farm viability, and even foreign relations, while maintaining a steadfast commitment to Vermont’s farmers, animals and the environment.   

Almost as soon as he was hired by the agency in 1985, Dan began driving positive change within Vermont’s dairy industry by developing a groundbreaking milk quality program focused on reducing the prevalence of mastitis in dairy animals –a common inflammation of tissue in affecting mammary glands usually caused by bacteria. Dan helped design the mastitis control program in collaboration with extension workers and researchers from UVM, and working closely with Vermont veterinarians to prevent infections on dairy farms throughout the state.  Within five years of the program launch the average somatic cell counts (or white blood cell counts indicative of infection) among Vermont cattle had dropped by about 50%.  When the program was phased out last year, somatic cell counts were a third of what they were then the program started – about 200,000 on average – representing some of lowest counts reported across the country.  

Dan’s dairy expertise is not, however, limited to cows.  Dan helped advance the small ruminant (sheep and goat) industry in Vermont, creating a foundation for what is now a thriving industry of goat and sheep farms responsible for dozens of award winning cheeses and other dairy products.   

In addition to being one of the foremost dairy experts in Vermont, Dan is also recognized for his passion and understanding of agricultural energy issues. In the 1990s Dan was instrumental in engaging Vermont utility companies in a proactive effort to reduce “stray voltage” on Vermont dairy farms, extraneous voltage that appears on grounded surfaces in buildings, barns and other structures.  While usually imperceptible to humans, stray voltage can have a severely negative effect on animals.  Thanks in large part to Dan, Vermont has the first and only proactive stray voltage program in the country in which utility companies are an equal partner in protecting animals.  Dan’s ongoing commitment to addressing agricultural energy issues collaboratively with farmers, legislators and utility companies has led to extensive research and testing of anaerobic digesters on farms, which, along with net metering, enables farms to generate their own power to be used throughout their farm facilities. Dan was also involved in the development of the pricing models for the farm side of the Vermont Standard Offer Program which allows farms to generate power and sell it to the utilities at a set price that is concurrent with production cost rather than tied to wholesale prices. The resulting reduction in energy price swings, along with utility renewable programs, has made Vermont home to more anaerobic  digesters on a per farm basis than any other state in the country. 

Other career highlights for Dan included working with Governor Snelling to lead a team of agency staffers, UVM extension workers, and private industry to increase farm viability through business planning; and several agricultural technology exchange trips to Israel, Russia, and twice to China. “Those were eye opening experiences,” recalled Scruton, “our trip to Russia right around the fall of the Soviet Union was a particularity fascinating experience.  It was a great privilege to represent Vermont and the United States internationally, and to have the opportunity to share best ag practices with other cultures.”

In 2009 Dan took over the post of Dairy Section Chief at the agency of agriculture where he has been overseeing the state’s dairy regulatory programs, while still trying to keep in touch with the technical side of the industry.   “I grew up on a dairy farm in New Hampshire, and since then I’ve always wanted to help the dairy industry grow and advance.” Says Scruton,  “I’ve worked on every issue you can imagine, from technology, to milk prices, to animal health issues – my goal has always been to make sure the dairy industry has the tools and resources it needs to excel.”

“His vast knowledge of the dairy industry and depth of experience gained over the last three decades has made Dan a true asset to the Agency of Ag and to our mission.” said Deputy Secretary Diane Bothfeld, “But most importantly, Dan has been an invaluable resource to Vermont’s farmers and has helped to improve the health, safety, and sustainability of all Vermont farms over the course of his career.”   

Said Scruton, “I am truly grateful to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture for providing me with this platform from which I was able to pursue many of my goals for the advancement of the dairy industry.  I think farmers are in a better place than they were when I first joined the agency in 1985.  I’m not sure I can take any of the credit, but I hope I was a positive contributor.” 

Upon retirement Dan looks forward to spending more time fishing and enjoying the company of his children and grandchildren.  “I may be retiring from state government”, said Scruton, “but I look forward to continuing to provide technical assistance to Vermont farmers for as long as I can be useful.” 

September 28, 2015

VENDOR APPLICATIONS NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE!

5th Annual Vermont Buy Local Market

Taste, Learn, and Buy Vermont Agricultural Products

January 27, 2016

  4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

“Consumer Night” at the Vermont Farm Show

Blue Ribbon Pavilion Building, Champlain Valley Exhibition, Essex Jct., Vermont

               

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, in conjunction with the Vermont Farm Show, is pleased to announce the fifth annual Buy Local Market to be held during “Consumer Night” at the Vermont Farm Show on January 27, 2016. The Buy Local Market, located in the Blue Ribbon Pavilion Building, will present consumers with an ideal occasion to “taste, learn and buy Vermont agricultural products” from across our state in one convenient location. There is no fee to vend at the market, but producers must apply to participate by November 2, 2015.

The Buy Local Market will showcase a variety of agricultural products from all corners of Vermont, including cheeses, meats, spirits, grains, fruits and vegetables, fiber, and value-added goods. Vendors will be able to sell products, provide samples, and build new connections with customers. All products for sale must meet State and Federal regulatory requirements.

The Buy Local Market features the best agricultural products that Vermont communities have to offer and is an excellent opportunity for producers expand their market and customer base. In addition, products from the Buy Local Market will be featured in the “Capital Cook-Off” held concurrently in the Blue Ribbon Pavilion. Both events will be covered by local radio and television.

Download the application at:  http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development/buylocalmarkets

For questions or more information, contact Abbey Willard: 802-272-2885, Ali Zipparo: 802-505-1822 or Faith Raymond: 802-828-1619.

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