Blog

June 29, 2016

Effort to Reduce Food Waste and Energy Use Has Cows Providing Cream and Electricity for Cabot Butter

By Laura Hardie, New England Dairy & Food Council and New England Dairy Promotion Board

Cabot Creamery Cooperative has been recognized with a 2016 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Dairy Processing & Manufacturing Sustainability. The cooperative was selected for its Real Farm Power™ program which is the latest in a series of sustainability projects pioneered by the 1,200 dairy-farm families of Agri-Mark dairy cooperative, owner of Cabot Creamery Cooperative. The program takes a closed-loop approach, recycling cow manure, food scraps and food processing by-products to produce renewable energy on a Massachusetts dairy farm.

Photo: Members of Cabot Creamery Cooperative accept the 2016 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Dairy Processing & Manufacturing Sustainability in Chicago, Illinois on May 11, 2016. From Left to right: Amanda Freund of Freund’s Farm Market and Bakery, Ann Hoogenboom of Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Steven Barstow II of Barstow’s Longview Farm, Phil Lempert journalist and the Supermarket Guru, Caroline Barstow of Barstow’s Longview Farm, Jed Davis of Cabot Cooperative Creamery, Marie and Eugene Audet of Blue Spruce Farm, and Bob Foster of Foster Brothers Farm.

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy®, established under the leadership of dairy farmers, announced its fifth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards during a ceremony May 11 in Chicago. The program recognizes dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose sustainable practices positively impact the health and well-being of consumers, communities, animals and the environment.

Real Farm Power™ reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 5,680 tons annually while generating 2,200 megawatt hours (MWh) of clean, renewable energy per year to offset the power needed to make Cabot™ butter. The $2.8 million project is expected to have a six-year payback, and it offers a blueprint for scaling anaerobic digester technology to small- and medium-sized dairy farms.

“Every year in the U.S. it’s estimated that up to 40 percent of all the food produced is thrown away — that’s 133 billion pounds of food,” said Jed Davis, Sustainability Director at Cabot Creamery Cooperative. “In partnerships with our farmers we’ve found a way to keep resources, like food byproducts, in a continuous cycle of re-use for as long as possible toward a goal of zero-waste-to-landfill.”

An example of the Real Farm Power™ program begins with Geissler’s Supermarket stores in Connecticut where food scraps are collected and delivered to Barstow’s Longview Farm, in Hadley, Mass.

At the farm, the organic material is put into an anaerobic digester that blends it with the farm’s cow manure and food processing byproducts from dairy processing, citrus processing, vegetable canning, breweries, sugar production and more.

In partnership with Vanguard Renewables, the renewable energy produced by the anaerobic digester is sent in the form of energy credits to the Cabot facility in West Springfield Mass., where the farm’s milk is processed, and offsets all of the energy needed to make Cabot butter.

“This process is the ultimate closed-loop recycling model – the food waste from the grocery store goes to Barstow’s Farm and is converted into power and natural fertilizer to make more food that ultimately returns to the grocery store, completing a full-circle cycle,” Davis said.

In total, the farm’s carbon footprint reduction is 5,680 tons per year, which more than offsets their emissions.

The farm receives 14,000 tons of organic food waste in total each year from 15 different food companies and the process is catching on with other manufacturers – a revolutionary step forward in recycling and re-using food waste in the U.S.

U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winners were evaluated based on their economic, environmental and community impact, also known as triple-bottom-line success. The independent judging panel — including experts working with and throughout the dairy community — also looked for learning, innovation, improvement, scalability and replicability.

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About Cabot Creamery Cooperative:

Cabot Creamery Cooperative has been in continuous operation since 1919, and makes a full line of cheeses, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese and butter. Widely known as makers of “The World’s Best Cheddar,” Cabot is owned by the 1200 dairy farm families of Agri-Mark, the Northeast’s premier dairy cooperative, with farms located throughout New England and upstate New York. For more information on Cabot, visit: http://www.cabotcheese.coop.

Cabot Creamery Cooperative is the world’s first cheese maker and dairy cooperative to achieve B Corporation Certification, a validation of its attention to environmental and social impacts on stakeholders.

About New England Dairy Promotion Board:

The New England Dairy Promotion Board (NEDPB) directs advertising, sales promotions and marketing programs on behalf of local dairy farmers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Offices are located in Boston, MA and Winooski, VT.

 

Photo: Barstow Family of Hadley,  MA. The Barstow’s Longview Farm in Hadley, MA receives 14,000 tons of organic food waste in total each year from 15 different food companies. The farm was recognized on May 11 in Chicago with a national U.S. Dairy sustainability award for their part in the Real Farm Power™ Program.

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June 29, 2016

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) has announced its adjusted fee schedule, which has been approved by the legislature and will go into effect July 1, 2016. The new fee schedule is available online at http://agriculture.vermont.gov/licensing-registration/fees

VAAFM manages more than 50 fee-based programs.  These services provide value to Vermonters, in accordance with the Agency’s mission: to support the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment. 

Fee rates are considered every three years, and must be approved by the legislature. The fee schedule is based on the cost of running each respective regulatory program. VAAFM also reviews comparable programs in neighboring states, to ensure Vermont’s programs are aligned with regional standards.

Examples of fee-based programs managed by VAAFM include…

  • Weights and measures inspections: grocery scanners, deli scales, and gas pumps are inspected to ensure accuracy so Vermonters “get what they pay for.” Store owners pay this fee.
  • Animal feed registration: packaged livestock and pet food is registered and inspected to ensure the quality and composition (protein, energy). Feed dealers pay this fee.
  • Dairy processor inspections: facilities are inspected and licensed to ensure food safety. Licensing also allows processors to access out-of-state markets. Processors pay this fee.
  • Pesticide registration: products are inspected to ensure they are properly labeled and meet the state laws associated with pesticide use. Pesticide manufacturers pay this fee.

For full details about Agency fees, please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/licensing-registration/fees.

If you have any questions about the impact of these fees, please contact VAAFM at 802-828-2430.

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June 29, 2016

By Alexandra Zipparo, VAAFM

Farmers and producers of Vermont agricultural products, including prepared and ready-to-eat foods as well as beer, wine and spirits, can now apply to participate in the second annual Summer Buy Local Market on the State House Lawn in Montpelier. The Summer Buy Local Market will be held on August 10 from 10 AM to 2 PM, rain or shine, and coincides with the United States Department of Agriculture’s 17th annual National Farmers Market Week.

To apply for free booth space at the market, visit our Buy Local Markets page at http://bit .ly/vtbuylo-calmarket and email your application to faith.raymond@vermont.gov by July 10 or mail it to Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Attn: Faith Raymond; 116 State St . Montpelier, VT 05602 (must be postmarked no later than July 7 to ensure delivery to Vermont Agency of Agriculture in time for review).

Last August, more than forty purveyors of local food and agri-cultural products convened on the State House lawn for the first ever Summer Buy Local Market. The event was organized by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets as part of the state’s Local Food Wellness and Consumer Awareness Initiative, in partner-ship with the State of Vermont, Capital City Farmers’ Market and The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT).

The market seeks to offer the same great quality, diversity, and freshness available at the weekend Montpelier farmers’ market to week-day shoppers, who might otherwise miss out. Downtown and state employees, Montpelier residents, and visitors can enjoy the opportunity to shop for local foods and handmade goods, such as wood products and yarn, as well as ready-to-eat foods for lunches and snacks, like fresh juice, hot dogs, sandwiches, and ice cream.

Market vendors can expect to meet new customers and the opportunity to share their products on the scenic State House lawn. The market will also feature a number of local nonprofits and other organizations to promote agricultural literacy and share information on recycling, composting, and programs to support agricultural producers.

The deadline for vendors apply for free both space is July 10. To learn more about the Vermont Agency of Agriculture’s Buy Local Markets, visit http://bit .ly/vtbuylocalmarket.

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June 29, 2016

By Chuck Ross, VAAFM

June is National Dairy Month.  In light of that fact, I’d like to take a moment to honor Vermont’s dedicated dairy farming families and highlight some of the many ways they help to shape our economy, our land, and our way of life.

In 2015, the Vermont Dairy Promotion Council commissioned an economic assessment of Vermont’s dairy industry in order to understand its true economic value to our state.  Concurrently, the Agency of Agriculture worked in partnership with the Castleton Polling Institute to survey Vermonters’ beliefs and attitudes towards the dairy industry.

Compiled in the final report, Milk Matters: The Role of Dairy in Vermont, the results of the economic study demonstrate that dairy remains at the heart of the Vermont economy--accounting for 70 percent of all agricultural sales in the state, providing thousands of jobs, and contributing to a vital working landscape.  Likewise, polling data revealed Vermonters’ views about dairy are overwhelmingly positive.  Over 90 percent of Vermonters polled in the 2014 “Dairy in Vermont” survey expressed a belief that dairy is “very important to Vermont’s future.” 

While the economic outlook for dairy remains strong, significant challenges lie ahead, including labor management, farm transitions, and environmental impact mitigation.  Protecting and preserving our state waters continues to be a top priority for the Agency of Ag as we work side-by-side with Vermont farmers to improve regulations, and provide technical and financial assistance. 

Thus far, more than 1800 individuals – many of them dairy farmers - have attended over 80 meetings hosted by VAAFM and our Water Quality Partners since October last year to participate and provide comments in the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) rule-making process.  A key component of Act 64, Vermont’s Clean Water Act signed into law in June of 2015, the RAPs are designed to further reduce the impact of agriculture on water quality across the state. Input from dairy farmers and community members has been invaluable to the VAAFM and our partners as we work to implement Act 64.

By working together, we can continue to expand the positive influence the dairy industry has on our state, and perpetuate the proud tradition of Vermont dairy farming for generations to come.  Please review the data highlights from the Milk Matters Report at www.vermontdairy.com and take a moment during National Dairy Month to appreciate Vermont dairy farmers and all they do for our special state.

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June 29, 2016

By Ryan Patch, VAAFM

One of the most significant charges from Act 64 of 2015 is the Legislature’s mandate for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) to define what is a “Small Farm” in Vermont.  Further, Act 64 instructed the Agency to define a threshold above which a Small Farm Operation (SFO)—the Agency jargon for “Small Farm”—would need to enter into a certification and inspection program.  In the RAP Proposed Rule, filed with the Secretary of State on May 13, 2016, VAAFM has provided its revised thresholds for small farm certification and inspection.  The entire RAP Proposed Rule, and the proposed small farm thresholds, is open to public comment until July 7, 2016.

Below you will find a factsheet the VAAFM has developed which outlines the proposed farm size thresholds for Agency water quality certification, inspection and RAP oversight.  Numerous changes have been made to the SFO and Certified Small Farm Operation (CSFO) thresholds in the RAP Proposed Rule from previous drafts, based on significant comment received from farmers and the public.

A bit of historical context:

Under the Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs), there were three farm categories:

AAP Farm Category

Permit

Inspection?

Number of Farms

Large Farm Operations (LFOs)

Individual Permits

Regular inspection (1 Year Cycle)

27 Farms

Medium Farm Operations (SFOs)

General Permits

Regular inspection (5 Year Cycle)*

138 Farms

Small Farm Operations (SFOs)

No Permits

Inspection based on complaints

7000 farms

*changed to 3-year inspection under Act 64 of 2015

LFOs have been permitted and inspected by VAAFM since 1995 and represent dairy farms with more than 700 mature dairy cows.  MFOs have been permitted and inspected by VAAFM since 2006 and represent farms with between 200 and 699 mature dairy cows and 300 and 999 beef cows.  SFOs under the AAPs represented every farm operation below the MFO threshold—all the way down to one chicken or a 10’ x 10’ vegetable garden.  Every SFO, MFO and LFO has to follow the baseline rules established in the AAPs, in addition to any specific enhanced requirements in the MFO and LFO general and individual permits.

The current discussion around farm size thresholds in the RAPs:

In an effort to meet the legislative intent of Act 64, VAAFM has proposed refining the SFO category to ensure a prioritized and targeted approach to the new mandate to certify and inspect a portion of Small Farms.  This proposal would lead to the establishment of three small farm operation categories in Vermont: Non-RAP Operations (NROs), Small Farm Operations (SFOs) and Certified Small Farm Operations (CSFOs).  LFO and MFO permits would remain unchanged under the RAP Proposed Rule.

Non-RAP Operations (NROs) represent a scale of farm (less than 4 acres in farming, less than 5 cows, less than 4 horses, less than $2,000 gross sales) which in the Agency’s experience has not had substantial impacts on water quality and, as such, has been proposed to be regulated at the municipal level.  These NROs would not need to follow the RAPs in the Proposed Rule and oversight of these operations could be undertaken by municipalities.  The option exists in the Proposed Rule for the VAAFM to require a NRO meet the requirements of RAPs if a water quality issue exists on an operation and municipal rules and enforcement is not present.

Every farm operation above the NRO threshold would need to follow all requirements of the RAPs: this includes SFOs, CSFOs, MFOs and LFOs.

Under the Proposed Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs), there are four farm categories that need to follow the RAPs:

RAP Farm Category

Permit

Inspection?

Number of Farms

Large Farm Operations (LFOs)

Individual Permits

Regular inspection (1 Year Cycle)

27 Farms

Medium Farm Operations (SFOs)

General Permits

Regular inspection (3 Year Cycle)

138 Farms

Certified Small Farm Operations (CSFOs)

Certification Program

Regular inspection (7 Year Cycle)

1500 Farms

Small Farm Operations (SFOs)

No Permits

Inspection based on complaints

5500 Farms

Certified Small Farm Operations (CSFOs) would represent farms with more than 50 dairy cows, or 75 beef cows, or 40 horses; or who farm more than 50 acres of annual cropland (ex: corn silage / soybeans) or 50 acres of vegetables.  These CSFOs would need to follow the RAPs in addition to entering into a Small Farm Certification program which will require annual self-certification that a farm is following the RAPs, regular inspection on a seven-year cycle, and the development of a 590 Nutrient Management Plan.  SFOs are all farms that fall above the NRO and below the CSFO threshold.  All SFOs would need to follow the full provisions of the RAPs.

Public comment and questions can be submitted to AGR.RAP@vermont.gov or mailed to 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620.

The complete factsheet on RAP farm size can be found at the following url: http://go.usa.gov/cJqtp

Please visit our VAAFM RAP Website for additional information: http://go.usa.gov/cdGew

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