Blog

May 31, 2016

By Chuck Ross

VAAFM Mission: to facilitate, support and encourage the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment. 

VAAFM plays a critical role in both promoting and regulating agriculture in Vermont. The stories featured in this month’s issue demonstrate how the Agency effectively fulfills this mission. As you’ll see on the front page, this month the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (administered by the Agency of Agriculture) awarded over $600,000 in grants to 44 businesses, to fuel Vermont’s farm and forest economy. These investments will create jobs and economic opportunity, while also keeping farms and forests in production, thus, preserving the landscape – a clear example of our support for Vermont’s ag economy.

Every day, we are working with Vermont producers to open new markets, help them tell their stories, and create new opportunities for them to showcase their outstanding products. Programs like our Domestic Export Program, our Trade Show Grant Program, and the many forms of technical assistance we provide, help farmers and producers grow, expand, and adapt.

We also have a clear regulatory role. This month we released a new draft of the Required Ag Practices (RAPs), the guidelines farmers must follow to ensure they are protecting our natural resources for future generations. While no business owner finds joy in being regulated, our farmers have been willing and eager partners in drafting these rules. They are deeply invested in the land and the culture of Vermont, and want to be sure future generations can enjoy the natural beauty that defines Vermont. They have worked hard to help us write rules that will be effective, realistic, and fair.

Regulation and promotion go hand in hand – in order to preserve the land, and our way of life, we must put parameters in place to ensure it is protected. When it comes to promoting Vermont, we have a great story to tell: green mountains, best in class agricultural products, clean water, and a pastoral, working landscape. Here at VAAFM, we are working hard to protect and promote these attributes, so they endure, for generations to come.

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May 31, 2016

Announces Public Hearings with Public Comment Period to Run until July 7, 2016

By Ryan Patch

On Friday, May 13, 2016, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) filed the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) Proposed Rule with the Vermont Secretary of State.  This filing represents the start of the formal rulemaking process during which the public will continue to consider the strengthening of agricultural water quality standards for Vermont farms.  A public comment period on the Proposed Rule will be open until July 7, 2016, with five public hearings on the Proposed Rule scheduled for the end of June.  The Proposed Rule is available today on the Agency website: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap

“This Proposed RAP Rule, which will apply to all types of agriculture, represents a serious commitment on the part of the agricultural community to enhance water quality throughout Vermont,” said Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross.  “The Vermont agricultural community is culturally and economically critical to the State of Vermont, and farmers have shown through this process to date—by showing up and providing input— how they truly desire to be part of the solution for clean water throughout Vermont.”

As a result of Act 64—the Vermont Clean Water Act—signed into law in June 2015, the Agency of Agriculture was tasked with updating the Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs) to further reduce the impact of agriculture on water quality across the state. The RAPs are an updated version of the AAPs, the rules in place since 1995 which regulate farms in order to protect water quality, re-written to a higher level of performance. 

VAAFM released a first draft of the RAPs on October 20, 2015 and held a public comment and outreach period which ran until December 18, 2015.  VAAFM then revised the RAPs based on comment received and released a second draft for public review on February 23, 2016.  VAAFM considered comment received from February 23, 2016 up to April 15, 2016 and submitted a third draft of the RAP Rule, as part of a pre-filing process, to the Interagency Committee on Administrative Rules (ICAR) on April 20, 2016.  The ICAR committee met on May 9, 2016 and provided comments the following day, which have since been incorporated into the RAP Proposed Rule.  The ICAR draft is being released today by VAAFM in conjunction with the RAP Proposed Rule, which was filed with the Secretary of State on Friday, May 13, 2016.

The filing of the RAP Proposed Rule initiates the public comment period of the formal rulemaking process.  The public comment period for the Proposed Rule will run from May 16, 2016 to July 7, 2016.  To date, VAAFM has held more than 80 small stakeholder and large public meetings on the RAPs to solicit feedback from farmers, stakeholders and the public.

“VAAFM would like to thank the more than 1800 individuals who attended the over 80 meetings held by VAAFM and our Water Quality Partners since October last year who took the time to provide comments or otherwise participate in this public process,” said VAAFM Agricultural Resource Management Division Director, Jim Leland.  “The public engagement and participation in the process thus far has been instrumental in developing an effective and workable rule for all farms in Vermont.” 

“One of the largest takeaways from the Proposed RAP Rule,” said Leland, “is that while the Rule sets strong baseline performance standards, there is the opportunity for farm operators and planners to develop and submit to the Agency for approval, specialized alternative management plans to address site-specific conditions.”  Leland continues, “This ensures that the Proposed RAP Rule meets the standards for flexibility and water quality required by Act 64 of 2015, as well as the diverse management needs of farm operations throughout the state.”

Public comment can be submitted to the Agency’s RAP e-mail inbox at AGR.RAP@vermont.gov or by mailing written comment to the Agency of Agriculture at 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620. 

Five public hearings will be held in June for farmers, stakeholders and the public to provide testimony and comment on the Proposed RAP Rule.  The Agency will hold two webinars in advance of the formal hearings to present the rules in detail.  These webinars will be recorded and available as videos on the VAAFM website following the presentations.

The Agency has also made available additional summary materials on its website, including two summary factsheets which highlight the most significant changes from the AAPs to the RAPs.  Also posted on the website is a Highlighted Changes Summary which outlines response to comments received on the second draft of the RAPs as well as changes made between the second draft and the proposed rule.  The Agency website also has an updated timeline which has been posted to outline the process moving forward towards a promulgated rule.

For more information about the RAPs, and the Agency’s efforts to implement Act 64 of 2015, please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap or contact the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets at (802) 272-0323.

 

The RAP Proposed Rule can be downloaded here: http://go.usa.gov/cuSHF

A highlight changes summary can be found here: http://go.usa.gov/cuhbx

A farm size summary factsheet can be found here:  http://go.usa.gov/cJqtp

A rule summary factsheet can be found here:  http://go.usa.gov/cJqt6

A document discussing effective dates of the RAPs can be found here: http://go.usa.gov/cJqJA

 

The five public hearings will be held:

                June 21, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the St. Albans Historical Museum, 9 Church Street, St. Albans VT 05478

                June 22, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the Brandon American Legion, 590 Franklin St, Brandon, VT 05733

                June 23, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the Vermont Law School, Chase Center, 164 Chelsea St, South Royalton, VT 05068

                June 28, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the Newport American Legion, 160 Freeman Street, Newport, VT 05855

                June 29, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the Brattleboro American Legion, 32 Linden Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301

 

The Agency will hold two webinars in advance of the formal hearings to present the rules in detail.  These webinars will be recorded and available as videos on the VAAFM website following the presentation.

                May 26, 2016: 10 am – Noon      Register: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/5938291152303942401   

                June 7, 2016: 1 pm – 3 pm           Register: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/5938291152303942401

 

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May 31, 2016

 

Photo caption: From left to right: Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Jolinda LaClair, 2016 Working Lands Grantee Tabitha Bowling of Kingdom Pellets, Governor Peter Shumlin, Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross, Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation Michael Snyder, Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Community Development Lucy Leriche

By Emma Hanson, VAAFM

On Tuesday, May 17th, the Working Lands Enterprise Board announced its fourth year of grants, totaling $634,000 in investments that impact every county in Vermont. The 44 grantees (including 24 trade show assistance grants) will leverage an additional $2.5 million in matching funds to create jobs, increase income, and keep working lands acreage in production. Grant recipients were announced at a ceremony and networking event held at Vermont Tree Goods in New Haven.

“Investments in our agriculture and forest economies make Vermont a great place to live, work, and visit,” said Governor Peter Shumlin, who was onsite for the event. “Over the past four years, the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative has demonstrated impact in businesses across the state.  The public-private partnerships embraced by the program this year are the first of their kind, and an indication of its future sustainability.”

“This is an extremely competitive process; this year the board received $3.3 million in requests for $600,000 of available funding,” said Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross.  “The 20 businesses and organizations featured here today are exemplary in their diversity, innovation, impacts, and growth.   Investments like these are vital to preserving what makes Vermont, Vermont.”

“Vermont's forest economy is an integral part of Vermont’s working lands economy, both now and in the future,” said Commissioner Michael Snyder. “This year’s WLEB investments represent a commitment to Vermont’s forest and wood products sector and particularly the exciting future for modern wood heat.  Eighty cents of every dollar spent on fossil fuels for heating in Vermont leaves the state, whereas when we buy Vermont pellets for heating, 80 cents on every dollar stays in the state. Those numbers are huge for our economy and the environment.”

Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Community Development, Lucy Leriche said, “The working landscape is the backbone of some of our most important sectors in Vermont: agriculture, forestry, and tourism.  Investing in these strategic projects is an investment in what we as Vermonters value most and what visitors to our state love to experience.”

Again this year, $30,000 of Local Food Market Development (LFMD) grant funds were 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.

Additionally, the Board received generous contributions from Charles and Leigh Merinoff, the Progressive Farm Alliance, and Long Trail Brewing. These funds will enhance the economies, culture, and communities across Vermont’s working landscape.

 

ABOUT VERMONT TREE GOODS:  

Vermont Tree Goods is an early stage business in New Haven manufacturing specialty and natural “live edge” lumber and furniture. Vermont Tree Goods uses reclaimed heirloom trees, exclusively from Vermont. Vermont has a tremendous variety of beautiful hardwood species, each with a wide range of unique and beautiful characteristics. Vermont Tree Goods received $20,000 in working lands funds in 2015, for the purchase of equipment for their new facility, including new saws, kilns, and material handling systems. Vermont Tree Goods is also a participant in Vermont Housing & Conservation Board’s Forest Viability Program which received $75,000 this year to continue this invaluable technical assistance to Vermont’s forestry and forest product sector businesses.

 

ABOUT THE WORKING LANDS ENTERPRISE INITIATIVE:

Since its inception in 2012, The Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) has invested over $3.1 million dollars in 112 projects impacting every county of the state, leveraging just under $5 million in additional funds. Impacts to date include:

  • 106 new jobs created by working lands grantees
  • A 12 million+ increase in gross income across all working lands grantees

The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative 2015 Annual Report can be found here:  http://workinglands.vermont.gov/node/737

The Working Lands Video can be found here: https://youtu.be/1Zh0PngLDLk

For more information about grant recipients, visit: http://workinglands.vermont.gov/projects

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. For more information, visit http://workinglands.vermont.gov/

 

I. Business Investment Grant Recipients

Business Investments are one of two focus areas of the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, with grants ranging from $5,000 - $50,000 for new and growing agriculture, forestry, and forest products enterprises. The Business Investment area received 92 applications with a total request of $2.4 million in funds. Twelve businesses were awarded over $334,000, and leveraged over $1.7 million in matching funds with a median match of $30,000 per business.

 

8 Agriculture Grant Recipients

Caledonia County

  • Lynd Farm, So. Walden : $16,250 for developing their sow farrowing business.
  • Molly Brook Farm, West Danville : $20,000 for an organic transition.

Chittenden County

  • Burnt Rock Farm, Huntington : $20,000 for a storage barn expansion to capture growth in existing wholesale vegetable markets.

Orange County

  • Root 5 Farm, Fairlee : $20,000 for an on-farm processing kitchen, pack house and crop storage renovations.

Orleans County

  • Tangletown Farm, West Glover : $15,000 for increasing and improving infrastructure for pastured laying hens and egg production.

Washington County

  • Vermont Bean Crafters, Warren: $50,000 for growing the Northeastern staple-foodshed with dry beans.
  • Wicked Bines/Whitefield Hop Yard, Berlin : $30,000 for a hops harvester and storage.

Windsor County

  • Calderwood Goat Dairy, Royalton : $13,000 to begin goat dairy.

 

4 Forestry Grant Recipients

Chittenden County

  • The Tree House Hardwoods & Millshop, South Burlington : $29,975.33 for infrastructure to increase safety and efficiency.

Essex County

  • Kingdom Pellets, East Burke : $50,000 for construction of 30,000 ton super-premium softwood pellet mill.

Rutland County

  • Southwind Forestry, Pawlet : $20,000 for an excavator for sustainable forest products.

Windsor County

  • Renewable Fuels of Vermont, West Windsor : $50,000 for a wood pellet mil finish dryer.

 

II. Service Provider Grant Recipients

Service Provider grants were available this year to technical assistance providers across the state ranging from $20,000 - $75,000.  The board received 23 letters of intent with $923,000 in total requested funds.  Eight service provider grants were awarded to four agriculture, and four forestry related projects, totaling $274,720.  The service provider grantees leveraged an additional $700,000 in matching funds, with a median match of $41,384 per service provider.

 

4 Agriculture Grant Recipients

Statewide Impact

  • Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont : $27,222 for strengthening and growing the Vermont organic dairy industry.
  • Intervale Center : $19,940 to improve farmland access services for Vermont farmers.

Rutland County Impact

  • Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, Inc : $17,558 for increasing farm success through operational efficiency improvements.

Windham County Impact

  • Strolling of the Heifers : $40,000 for the Windham Grows Business Hatchery.

 

4 Forestry Grant Recipients

Statewide Impact

  • Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association : $50,000 for innovation assistance to wood manufacturers.
  • Vermont Housing & Conservation Board : $75,000 for advancing the forestry sector through entrepreneurialism and innovation.
  • Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund : $20,000 : Forest products value chain investment strategy.
  • Renewable Energy Vermont : $25,000 for a roadmap to achieve 35% of Vermont’s thermal heating needs by 2030 through the expanded use of advanced wood heat.

III. FY 2016 Trade Show Assistance Grant Recipients

Included in this year’s funding was a $25,000 allotment to refund the Tradeshow Assistance Grant program administered by the Domestic Export program at the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.  The small grants are given to Vermont producers looking to promote their product out of the state. Last year’s 24 grantees reported 950 sales leads and 82 immediate sales valued at over $30,000.

 

This year’s Tradeshow Assistance Grant Recipients are:

  • Bee’s Wrap: $2,000 to attend the NY NOW Gift Show in New York, NY
  • Benito’s Hot Sauce: $750 to attend the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD
  • Burke Mtn. Confectionery: $1000 to attend the Boston Gift Show in Boston, MA
  • Cloudfarm: $2,000 to attend to the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas, NV
  • Consider Bardwell: $500 to attend the Good Food Mercantile in Chicago, IL
  • Drink Maple: $1,000 to attend the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, CA 
  • Fat Toad Farm: $800 to attend the Good Food Mercantile in New York, NY
  • Green Mountain Organic Creamery: $1,000 to attend the Summer Fancy Show in New York, NY
  • Gringo Jack’s: $1,000 to attend the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, CA
  • Hidden Springs Maple: $750 to attend the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY
  • Parish Hill Creamer: $500 to attend the Good Food Mercantile in Chicago, IL
  • Rockledge Farm Woodworks: $1,500 to attend the American Craft Retailers Expo in Philadelphia, PA
  • Sap!: $750 to attend the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY
  • Sugar Bob’s: $1,000 to attend the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY
  • Shacksbury Cider: $750 to attend the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY
  • Sidehill Fruit Farm: $750 to attend the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY
  • Small Batch Organics: $1,000 to attend the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY
  • Stonecutter Spirits: $600 to attend WhiskyFest in New York, NY
  • Sweet Crunch Bake Shop: $750 to attend the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY
  • Tavernier Chocolates: $400 to attend the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY
  • Twig Farm: $500 to attend the Good Food Mercantile in Chicago, IL
  • Untapped: $1,500 to attend the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City, UT
  • Vermont Farmstead cheese: $1,000 to attend the Haddon House Specialty Foods Show in Orlando, FL
  • Vermont Sweetwater Bottling: $1,000 to attend the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY
  • Vermont Switchel Co.: $1,000 to attend the New England Made Show
  • Wood’s Vermont Syrup: $800 to attend the Good Food Mercantile in New York, NY

For more information about the WLEI, please visit: http://workinglands.vermont.gov/

For more information about the VAAFM’s Domestic Export Program, please visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development/domestic_export

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May 31, 2016

\MONTPELIER, VT- May 27, 2016 – Once again Vermont specialty food producers shone brightly at the annual sofi Awards bringing three golds back to the Green Mountain State.  The sofi Awards, which stands for “specialty outstanding food innovation,” are the most prestigious awards in the specialty food industry and honor excellence across a variety of food categories, from vinegars to vegan snacks.  Vermont’s winners were Big Picture Farm, Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps, and Vermont Creamery.

This year's winners were selected from more than 3,200 entries by a panel of culinary experts in a blind taste test.

“With three more golds and a host of finalists at the sofi Awards this year, our specialty food producers have again shown that Vermont is a culinary giant in a pint sized package, performing as well or better than the actual behemoths of California and New York,” said Chuck Ross, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

“Once again Vermont producers rise to the top with significant numbers of awards this year,” said Jim Harrison of the Vermont Specialty Food Association. “We are very proud of the quality food products our specialty food members produce and are happy to see the recognition several are receiving.”

For the third year in a row, Big Picture Farm took home gold in the confectionary category with their Sea Salt & Vanilla Farmstead Goat Milk Caramels. Vermont Creamery, which has won a number of sofi Awards in the past, received top honors in the cheese category for their Bijou cheese, a pasteurized goats’ milk cheese shaped into little buttons. Finally, Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps won in the cracker category for their Cranberry Pistachio Crisp.

Other Vermont finalists and their categories included:

  • Small Batch Organics – Granola
  • Vermont Creamery Bonne Bouche – Cheese
  • Big Picture Farm – Chocolate
  • Lake Champlain Chocolates – Chocolate
  • Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind – Cooking, dipping or finishing sauce
  • Cabot – Dairy or dairy alternatives
  • Fat Toad Farm -  Dessert Sauces, toppings, and syrup
  • Potlicker – Jam & Preserves
  • Blake Hill Preserves – Jam & Preserves

This summer, 38 Vermont exhibitors will showcase their products in front of 25,000 buyers at the annual Summer Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center in New York City, June 26-28. In partnership with the Vermont Specialty Food Association and the Agency of Commerce & Community Development, the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets sponsors a Vermont promotion.  These efforts promote Vermont’s high quality value-added products beyond our state’s borders.

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May 12, 2016

MEDIA ALERT

The Working Lands Enterprise Board is pleased to invite you to the 2016 Working Lands Enterprise Initiative’s Grantee Announcement Celebration and Networking Event.  This year's grant recipients represent a diverse selection of Vermont businesses and service providers who are valuable contributors to Vermont's culture, communities, and sustainable economies.

Scheduled to attend the event are Governor Peter Shumlin, Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets Chuck Ross, Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation Michael Snyder, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets Jolinda LaClair, Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Community Development Lucy Leriche, and the Working Lands Enterprise Board Members.

WHEN: Tuesday May 17th, 2016 10:00am – 12:00pm.  Following the grantee announcement ceremony, the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative will be hosting a 90 minute networking session for past and present Working Lands grant recipients, technical assistance providers, and capital providers.

WHERE: The celebration will take place at Vermont Tree Goods at 5971 Plank Road, New Haven, VT

ABOUT VERMONT TREE GOODS:  

Vermont Tree Goods is an early stage business in New Haven manufacturing specialty and natural “live edge” lumber and furniture. Vermont Tree Goods uses reclaimed heirloom trees, exclusively from Vermont. Vermont has a tremendous variety of beautiful hardwood species, each with a wide range of unique and beautiful characteristics. Vermont Tree Goods received $20,000 in working lands funds in 2015, for the purchase of equipment for their new facility, including new saws, kilns, and material handling systems. Vermont Tree Goods is also a participant in Vermont Housing & Conservation Board’s Forest Viability Program which received $75,000 this year to continue this invaluable technical assistance to Vermont’s forestry and forest product sector businesses.

ABOUT THE WORKING LANDS ENTERPRISE INITIATIVE:

Since its inception in 2012, The Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) has invested over $3.1 million dollars in 112 projects impacting every county of the state, leveraging just under $5 million in additional funds. Impacts to date include:

  • 106 new jobs created by working lands grantees
  • A $12 million+ increase in gross income across all working lands grantees

The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative 2015 Annual Report can be found here:  http://workinglands.vermont.gov/node/737

The Working Lands Video can be found here: https://youtu.be/1Zh0PngLDLk

For more information about grant recipients, visit: http://workinglands.vermont.gov/projects

Included in this year’s funding was a $25,000 allotment to refund the Tradeshow Assistance Grant program administered by the Domestic Export program at the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.  The small grants are given to producers looking to promote their product out of the state. Last year’s 24 grantees reported 950 sales leads and 82 immediate sales valued at over $30,000.

This year, the Working Lands Enterprise board received generous contributions from three Vermont entities, Charles and Leigh Merinoff, Progressive Farm Alliance, and Long Trail Brewing.  The board and grantees are very thankful for these donations, which allowed more grants to be made and will support the working landscape.

Again this year, $30,000 of Local Food Market Development (LFMD) grant funds were 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.

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. For more information, visit http://workinglands.vermont.gov/

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