Blog

November 24, 2015

Bigger & Better in 2016 – Prepared Food – Raffle Prizes
January 27, 2016 | 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Blue Ribbon Pavilion, Champlain Valley Exposition, Essex Junction

Celebrate the diversity of Vermont agriculture on Wednesday, January 27th at the 5th annual Vermont Farm Show “Consumer Night” at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction. Local food and crafts will take center stage in the Blue Ribbon Pavilion at the 2016 Buy Local Market and Capital Cook-Off, free events hosted by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

Attendees may enter into a raffle for prizes from Ski Vermont, the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, and the Vermont Brewers Festival. In addition to a variety of agricultural products and crafts, for the first time in 2016 the Buy Local Market will feature prepared, ready-to-eat foods—such as hot slices of locally-produced pizza—so you can bring the whole family for an evening of food, fun, and learning.

Don’t miss next month’s issue of Agriview for a list of Buy Local Market vendors and the full Consumer Night schedule!

Note to Farms & Agricultural Businesses: Vendor applications for the 5th Annual Buy Local Market during Consumer Night at the Vermont Farm Show will now be accepted until November 30, 2015. And for the first time, we can accept applications from vendors of prepared, ready-to-eat foods. Vendor applications to participate in the Buy Local Market are available at the Agency of Agriculture’s website at http://go.usa.gov/ccafd (or contact Faith Raymond at faith.raymond@vermont.gov or (802) 828-2430). For all other inquiries, contact Kristina Sweet at kristina.sweet@vermotn.gov or (802) 522-7811.

The Buy Local Market offers free booth space for vendors of agricultural products and prepared foods, with the goal of representing every corner of Vermont. Meet new customers, offer samples, and sell your product! The event will be covered by local television and radio. Please consider participating in this event offering opportunities for consumers to taste, learn, and buy Vermont agricultural products from across the state. We hope to see you in January!

 

November 23, 2015

By Chuck Ross

This month we kicked off our series of public meetings across the state to gather input on the draft Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs). The full schedule for the ten meetings we scheduled across the state was shared in the October issue. By the time this issue goes to print, we will have held meetings in St. Albans, Enosburg, Rutland, and Middlebury. So far, the meetings have been full of robust, informative conversation. We appreciate the time farmers, and members of the community-at-large, have taken to participate and share their opinions – it is extremely helpful to hear their point-of-view.

Additional meetings will be held on the following dates:

12/3/2015    

White River Junction

Hotel Coolidge  
39 S Main St, White River Junction, VT 05001

9am - 11am

12/3/2015    

Brattleboro

Fraternal Order of the Eagles
54 Chickering Dr, Brattleboro, VT 05301

2pm - 4pm

12/8/2015    

St. Johnsbury

Comfort Inn and Suites
703 Route 5 South, St Johnsbury, VT 05819

9am - 11am

12/8/2015    

Newport

Eastside Reastaurant
47 Landing St # 3, Newport, VT 05855

2pm - 4pm

12/10/2015    

Montpelier

Room 11 @ Vermont State House
115 State St, Montpelier, VT 05633

9am - 11am

12/10/2015    

Randolph

Chandler Music Hall
71 Main St. Randolph, VT 05060

2pm - 4pm

During these meetings, we will review the proposed changes farmers will be asked to make to comply with the Clean Water Act. This is a time for us to listen to the Ag community and gather feedback, so we can better understand the impact these changes could potentially have, from the farmers’ point of view. At the end of this process, we will reassess our proposed rules, and make changes, if needed.

If you have not already participated in a meeting, I urge all of you to attend. We are working hard to make this process collaborative, so the RAPs can serve the needs of the Ag community. Your feedback is critical, so we can be sure we get this right.

If you are unable to attend a meeting, please download and review the RAPs online at http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap

Public Comment regarding the D​raft RAPs can be submitted by e-mail to the address below: ​

AGR.RAP@vermont.gov

Or can be submitted in writing to:

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets
Attn: RAPs
116 State Street
Montpelier, Vt 05620-2901

The deadline for submitting feedback is December 18, 2015.

Thank you for your partnership. I am very proud of the way the Ag community has come together to engage in this process. Once again, our farmers are proving they are not only critical to our communities and our economy, they are deeply devoted to stewardship and preserving the beauty of Vermont for generations to come.

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November 23, 2015

By Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulture Professor
University of Vermont

Several of our favorite holiday plants should be kept from children and pets, yet often they pose no serious danger in small amounts.  There are many other and more toxic substances to children in homes to be mindful of, especially cosmetics, cleaning products, and personal care products. 
   
The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), the most popular flowering potted plant for indoors, has gotten a bum rap for a number of years. It's been falsely accused of being poisonous, yet no deaths from this plant have ever been recorded. In fact, research studies at Ohio State University have proven that poinsettias present no health hazard.
   
The rumors arise from a highly questionable report of a single fatality in Hawaii more than 80 years ago, a child who reportedly died after eating one leaf. However, that doesn't mean the poinsettia doesn't have mildly toxic properties. If ingested by pets or humans, it can irritate the mouth and stomach, sometimes resulting in diarrhea or vomiting.
   
The sap may cause a poison ivy-like blistering on contact with the skin on some persons unless washed off immediately. That's why it's important to place poinsettias, and other holiday plants, out of the reach of children and curious pets.  Keep in mind that pets and people may differ in what plants are toxic, and to what degree.  Kalanchoe, for instance, is not listed as toxic for people but is mildly toxic for pets.
   
How safe are other holiday plants to humans? Here's the rundown on some common plants which have toxic properties.

HOLLY (Ilex): Branches are used during the holidays in arrangements for the shiny (but prickly) dark green leaves and berries.  Eating the bright, red berries of this plant usually result in no toxicity in small quantities.  Large quantities cause nausea, abdominal pain, or vomiting.

JERUSALEM CHERRY (Solanum pseudocapsicum): This potted plant has been more popular in decades past, but still can be found during the holidays (so also called Christmas Cherry) for the rounded red fruits against the dark green leaves on a plant about a foot high.  Every part of this plant contains the toxic substance solanocapsine, especially in unripened fruits and leaves. Eating the fruit or foliage will adversely affect the heart and can cause a range of symptoms including stomach pain, vomiting, headache, drowsiness, to others more severe.

MISTLETOE (Phoradendron serotinum):  This plant parasite of deciduous trees in the Southeastern states is used during the holidays for hanging above doorways, and for its white berries.  While most exposures result in little or no toxicity, eating large amounts can cause acute stomach and intestinal disorders.  These are caused by the chemical phoratoxin, related to ricin (the highly toxic compound from castor bean plants).

YEW (Taxus): The leaves, seeds (not the red fleshy covering), bark, and twigs of this evergreen can be toxic from the chemical taxine, causing breathing difficulties, uncontrollable trembling, and vomiting.  Most reported poisonings are from the seeds, and only result in mild symptoms.  Allergic reactions may occur from nibbling on leaves.  Yew is another example of the toxicity difference between people and some animals.  It is toxic to people, pets, and livestock, but is devoured by deer. 


AZALEA (Rhododendron): This holiday plant is mainly grown as a shrub outdoors with thousands of variants.  The leaves can be toxic, as is honey made from flower nectar containing grayanotoxins.  Perhaps the first written account of rhododendron toxicity was from the 4th century in Greece, depicting the poisoning of ten thousand soldiers from a yellow shrub azalea.  One study concluded that eating moderate amounts of azalea posed little danger to humans.  Pets and children may be more seriously affected, so it should be kept from them.

CYCLAMEN (Cyclamen persicum):  Since the thickened roots (rhizomes) of these are the primary toxic part, containing saponins (similar to those in English ivy), it is unlikely humans (including children) would eat such and be affected, and then only if large quantities are ingested.  Skin exposure to the plant sap may cause a skin rash in some people.  Pets, especially those that like to dig in pots, should be kept away from cyclamen.

AMARYLLIS (Hippeastrum):  The toxic part of this plant is the bulb, which contains lycorine and similar alkaloids.  These are the compounds found also in daffodils, and the reason wild animals such as deer know to leave them alone.  House pets may not be so wise, so keep these away from them.  Ingestion by humans is unlikely, with small amounts producing few or no symptoms. 
   
For more details on toxic plants of all types, including common houseplants, consult the second edition of the Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants by doctors Nelson, Shih, and Balick.  From Springer publishing, it is one of the most authoritative, up-to-date, and affordable references for human poisoning by plants, and is used in many poison control centers.
   
A couple of the more extensive websites to check out plants poisonous to humans are from North Carolina State University (gardening.ces.ncsu.edu/) and the University of California at Davis (ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants).  There are several good online resources to check on toxicity of plants to pets, one being the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (www.aspca.org/pet-care), which also lists plants toxic to horses.  Several sites, including Cornell University (poisonousplants.ansci.cornell.edu), deal specifically with plants poisonous to livestock.
   
If you suspect poisoning, seek immediate professional help.  Unless told to do so by a doctor, do NOT make the person throw up.  Call your local poison control center, often at your local hospital.  Or, you can call the national poison control center hotline, toll-free, (800-222-1222) and talk with poison control experts.   This service is available anytime, and can answer any questions on poisoning, even if not from plants and even if not an emergency.

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November 23, 2015

Ten Public Meetings Across the State will Allow Stakeholders to Provide Feedback       

By Ryan Patch, VAAFM                                                                                           

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) has released a draft copy of the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) for a period of public comment which will run through December 18, 2015.  This is a pre-filing period which will afford the opportunity for all interested stakeholders to review the Draft RAPs and provide initial comment before VAAFM will formalize the draft this winter and will then enter into the formal rulemaking process in the spring of 2016.  Additional public comment periods will follow both the draft rewrite as well as the formal rulemaking period.

For a copy of the draft RAP document, please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/ag/files/pdf/water_quality/VAAFM-Draft-RAP.pdf

To help facilitate this comment and input process, VAAFM has scheduled ten public meetings across the state.  These public meetings will include a detailed presentation of the draft RAPs, with a question and answer session to follow.  In order to maximize public input, VAAFM is also offering to hold smaller group meetings for interested organizations and stakeholders to review the rules in greater detail.  For the current list of scheduled public meetings, please visit VAAFM’s webpage at: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/news-events/public-meetings

“It is important for all stakeholders to understand the rules are in draft form – and that their feedback in this process is critical,” said Vermont’s Agriculture Secretary, Chuck Ross. “We are holding these meetings because we want to engage with the public, to gather their feedback, and to ensure we are implementing a realistic, workable framework for agricultural practices in our state that effectively protects our lakes and rivers. We hope, and expect, that key stakeholders will step up and attend these meetings, to ensure their perspectives are heard.”

VAAFM was directed by the Legislature to draft the RAPs pursuant to Act 64, signed into law on June 16, 2015.  Act 64 amended and enacted multiple requirements related to water quality in the State.  The “Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs)” were rewritten to a higher level of performance and renamed the “Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs).”  VAAFM was charged with revising the RAPs by rule on or before July 1, 2016.  Act 64 requires that the revised RAPs include requirements for: small farm certification, nutrient storage, soil health, buffer zones, livestock exclusion, and nutrient management.

“The Agency of Agriculture wants to be very transparent with this process,” said Jim Leland, VAAFM’s Director of Agricultural Resources Management Division. “This collaborative process will ensure VAAFM develops a rule which meets the intent of Act 64, and is workable and implementable by the diversity of agricultural operations in the state.”

In addition to requiring the implementation of RAPs, Act 64 instructed VAAFM to establish a program certifying and training small farm operations.  With over 7,000 farms in the state, according to the 2012 USDA Ag Census, a significant portion of small farms could be required to newly certify compliance with the RAPs when the program is implemented on July 1, 2017.

“Farms of all sizes will be impacted by the RAPs, which is why it is important for all farmers to attend a meeting and provide comment,” said Leland.

Significant and expanding technical and financial assistance is available from Federal, state and local organizations—including Vermont’s new Clean Water Fund established by Act 64. This will help ensure farms of all sizes are able to continue to access resources to assist in the planning and implementation of management changes and conservation practices to improve water quality on farms. 

“Farms of all sizes are already making significant progress at developing plans and implementing conservation practices statewide,” said Leland. “When implemented, the RAPs will set a roadmap and standards to ensure current and future planning efforts are as effective as possible at improving water quality on farms in Vermont.”

Act 64 also requires that a VAAFM submit a draft report on water quality considerations regarding tile drainage to the legislature in January 2016, with the RAPs revised to included requirements for tile draining by January 15th, 2018.  Successful implementation of the RAPs will assist in Vermont’s mission to meet the goals of Act 64 as well as the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Phosphorus for Lake Champlain.

For more information about the RAPs, please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap

A timeline for RAP public input, revisions and implementation can be found at AAFMs webpage http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap#Q9

VAAFM will seriously consider all comments received during this pre-filing period, though there may be no formal response to individual comments received.  Comment can be e-mailed to: AGR.RAP@vermont.gov or mailed directly to: 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620

Comment received by VAAFM regarding the draft RAPs will be used solely for consideration during the revision of the RAPs and will not be used for water quality regulatory enforcement purposes.  VAAFM encourages farm operations to submit comment with examples of areas on their farm where their current management meets state water quality standards, but would be out of compliance with the draft rules.

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November 17, 2015

By Kristina Sweet, Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

EVENT: Vermont Agency of Agriculture Hosts FDA for December Meeting on Food Safety Modernization Act Final Rules

DATE: Monday, December 14, 2015

TIME: 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM

LOCATION: Latchis Theatre, 50 Main Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301

On Monday, December 14, 2015, join the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) and U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) subject matter experts for an overview of three final Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Rules:

  • Produce Safety
  • Preventive Controls for Human Food
  • Preventive Controls for Animal Food

FDA subject matter experts will provide information on what the new rules cover and who must comply, as well as major requirements of the rules. All stakeholders throughout the Northeast are invited to attend this informational event and will have opportunities to ask questions of FDA subject matter experts.

Signed into law in 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) represents the largest update to the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act since 1938, requiring FDA to set new food safety standards for food production both in facilities and on farms. Since FDA published the proposed rules in January 2013, VAAFM has worked to establish strong partnerships with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and FDA in order to ensure the perspectives and experiences of New England producers have been accurately represented throughout the rulemaking process.

The Produce Safety, Preventive Controls for Human Food, and Preventive Controls for Animal Food rules are now final and will be implemented throughout the United States over the next one to five years. VAAFM, along with other state departments and agencies of agriculture, will continue to work closely with NASDA, FDA and other national partners as FSMA rules are finalized and throughout the implementation process.

This informational event is free, open to the public, and accessible to people with disabilities. No registration is required. For more information or to request accommodations such as seating, interpreting, etc., call (802) 522-7811 or email AGR.FSMA@vermont.gov in advance of the event.

For updates and more information, visit VAAFM’s Food Safety Modernization Act page at http://go.usa.gov/3SV3F. To access the final FSMA rules, visit FDA’s FSMA page at http://www.fda.gov/FSMA.

Provisional Meeting Agenda (To be confirmed by 11/30/15)

9:30–10:00 AM - Reception (Refreshments provided)

10:00–10:40 AM - Welcome & Opening Remarks

10:40 AM–12:00 PM - FSMA Preventive Controls for Human Food Final Rule Overview with Question & Answer Session

12:00–1:30 PM - Break (Lunch will not be provided)

1:30–2:50 PM - FSMA Produce Safety Final Rule Overview with Question & Answer Session

2:50–3:00 PM - Break

3:00–4:20 PM - FSMA Preventive Controls for Animal Food Final Rule Overview with Question & Answer Session

4:20–4:30 PM - Closing Remarks

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