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April 30, 2018
Calls for Technical Phosphorus Management Solutions that will Provide Economic Opportunity in Vermont

St. Albans, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today announced his Administration has officially opened Stage One of the Vermont Phosphorus Innovation Challenge (VPIC). Stage One is a reverse pitch, calling for proposals of creative, viable approaches to effectively remove phosphorus from manure or other organic waste streams, so that phosphorous can be used as a commodity to create economic development opportunities.

The State of Vermont will assist successful proposals through customized support, incentive funding and future market opportunities. VPIC will be implemented and managed by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets; the Agency of Natural Resources; and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

“The goal is to use a ‘reverse pitch,’ a problem-solving method familiar to technology innovators, to identify entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists and others who have a scalable technique or technology to mitigate the impact of phosphorus before it enters the watershed," said Commerce Secretary Michael Schirling.  

In total, the State will invest more than $1 billion over the next 20 years to reduce phosphorus pollution. This includes current and ongoing efforts to implement conservation measures and best management practices, tailored to lessen phosphorus losses from farms and decrease phosphorus loading from stormwater runoff in developed communities. The VPIC will build upon – not replace – these foundational phosphorus control efforts.

The VPIC will be a valuable tool to address this phosphorus imbalance. With the growth of knowledge encompassing composting, digestion of organic solids, energy capture, and soil chemistry, the State hopes to see a variety of proposals for market-driven or market-supported solutions that can extract phosphorus for recycling and reuse.

“As phosphorus accumulates in the soil, the job asked of our best management practices and conservation measures – to protect water quality – becomes a taller and taller order," stated Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore. "One of the most straightforward ways to correct the imbalance is to repurpose excess phosphorus to form value-added products, such as composts, organic fertilizers and biochar.”

Agriculture, Food & Markets Secretary Anson Tebbettsadded, “I am excited to see what types of innovative solutions we are presented with through the Phosphorus Innovation Challenge to help us build upon the good work that farmers are already doing through conservation practices such as cover cropping and the use of best management practices.” Tebbetts continued, “Creating an economic initiative for phosphorus reuse or recycling would be a win-win for Vermont. We look forward to working alongside Governor Scott and our partners to find the best possible solutions for our state and our communities.”

Timeline and details for interested parties are as follows:

  • On April 27, 2018, an invitation will be issued for proposals to develop a “proof of concept” for processes or technologies that remove phosphorus from manure or other waste streams and make the recovered phosphorus available for beneficial reuse.
  • By May 11, 2018, prospective applicants are encouraged to email their intent to participate in the challenge toterry.smith@vermont.gov. This deadline will not be used to exclude teams but, rather, to assess space and resource requirements for subsequent portions of the process.
  • On May 21, 2018, the Administration will hold a meeting from 1-3 pm at the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) Annex with interested parties to field questions and discuss the challenge. Questions may also be submitted via email to terry.smith@vermont.gov.  The closing date for questions about Stage One will be May 25, 2018.
    • The ANR Annex is located at: 190 Junction Rd, Berlin, VT
  • Stage One proposals must be received, via email, by 5pm on July 6, 2018.

Some, or all, of the teams submitting responses to Stage One will be selected to make an in-person presentation to the Evaluation Team in August 2018. The Evaluation Team will be comprised of subject matter experts, scientists, entrepreneurs, and State officials.

For more information on the VPIC, including details and criteria for participation, visit:http://agriculture.vermont.gov/phosphorus_challenge

Please direct any questions regarding the VPIC to terry.smith@vermont.gov or call (802) 828-5667.

April 23, 2018

Public comment period to open April 23, 2018 and run through May 4, 2018.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is releasing a second revised draft of the Medium Farm Operations General Permit (MFO GP). The Agency is initiating a second public comment period, which begins on April 23, 2018 and will conclude on May 4, 2018. 

The MFO GP sets standards for MFOs in the State of Vermont generating animal waste to ensure they do not have a discharge of waste to the waters of the State and operate in accordance with their Nutrient Management Plan (NMP). Unless otherwise given notice by the Agency, all farms meeting the definition of a MFO in the State of Vermont are required to operate under the coverage of this General Permit (GP). All MFOs must follow the Required Agricultural Practices in addition to requirements outlined in the MFO GP.

The Agency is required to update the MFO GP every five years as outlined in MFO program rules. The current MFO GP was issued in 2012 and is therefore due for updating; the 2012 MFO GP continues in force and effect until a new MFO GP is issued. The MFO GP was established in 2007 and underwent revision for the first time in 2012. Once effective, the revised MFO GP will be effective from 2018 to 2023.

For the current revision of the MFO GP, a first draft was released on October 2, 2017, accompanied by a public hearing on November 2, 2017 in Montpelier. A public comment period was open from October 2, 2017 through December 1, 2017. The Agency reviewed public comments received during the comment period and made revisions, as necessary, to the first draft of the MFO GP. Ensuring the regulated community and other interested parties have sufficient time to review and comment on proposed changes, VAAFM is releasing a second revised draft of the MFO GP and announcing a second public comment period.

The public comment period will be open from April 23, 2018 to April May 4, 2018. Following the closure of the public comment period the VAAFM will respond to all comments submitted throughout the duration of this revision process and release a responsiveness summary at the time the final MFO GP is issued.

The Agency encourages all interested parties to review the second draft of the MFO GP and submit any comments electronically to: AGR.WaterQuality@vermont.gov or in writing to:

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

Attention: Water Quality Division

116 State St.

Montpelier, VT 05620

For more information about the MFO GP revision process, or to read the draft MFO GP in full, please visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/mfo/gp

April 18, 2018

Vermont Governor Phil Scott addresses the Agri-Mark annual conference. Secretary Anson Tebbetts is also in attendance at this important meeting of New England and New York dairy producers. #VT

April 18, 2018

New Grant Opportunity for Associations that Promote Vermont Agriculture, Food, Beverage, Forest, and Fiber Products

Accepting applications beginning May 3, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Montpelier, VT – Vermont agriculture, food, beverage, forest, and fiber product associations provide support to the development of Vermont’s economy and the viability of our working landscape businesses. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is committed to assist these organizations by providing funding for marketing projects that enhance the work they are doing.

VAAFM will accept applications for the Vermont Producer Association Grant Program beginning Thursday, May 3, 2018, on a first come, first serve basis for eligible applicants. Producer associations interested in applying for the grant opportunity are encouraged to register online as soon as possible, and submit applications once they are accepted, on May 3, 2018.

Eligible applicants must be Vermont-based non-profit organizations that represent and promote Vermont agriculture, food, beverage, forest, and/or fiber products. A total of $16,000 in grants funds are available and grants of $1,000-$2,000 will be awarded. Project proposals need to be part of an established, multi-year marketing plan and growth strategy of the industry represented and must end before November 15, 2018.

  • Visit https://go.usa.gov/xQ4Tg (case sensitive) to download the Request for Proposals, which outlines grant eligibility and submission requirements.
  • Log into https://agriculturegrants.vermont.gov to create a user account. This is where you will submit your online application.
  • Plan your project and prepare to submit your application on May 3, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Questions related to the Vermont Producer Association Grant Program should be directed at (802) 505-1822 or alexandra.zipparo@vermont.gov

April 13, 2018

From Fairfax, VT to Nairobi, Kenya: BFA-Fairfax Farm To School Program Inspires Agricultural Development Project in Kenya
by Gina Clithero, Vermont Agency of Agriculture

Vermont’s Farm-to-School Program serves as a model for schools across the globe. Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax is one of the schools that has a built a robust program from the ground up. Friday, BFA-Fairfax students opened up their gardens and classrooms to representatives from schools in Kenya who want to start a farm to school program in their own community.

Brother Kennedy Oronjo, Caitlin Allan, junior BFA-Fairfax, Shanon Mahoney, senior BFA-Fairfax, Florence Maina)

Students leading BFA Fairfax’s farm to school club gave a tour of their grounds, orchards and facilities, shared about their projects in their farm to school class, and told the story of how their program grew into the multifaceted collaborative project it is today.

Farm to school programs increase students’ access to local, healthy foods, helping to address hunger and connecting students to where their food comes from to promote local agriculture and healthy eating habits. Brother Kennedy Oronjo and Florence Maina run two schools in Kenya for economically disadvantaged children, most of whom are orphans, one in Nairobi and one in rural Rodi-Homa Bay. The communities they serve struggle with food insecurity, economic challenges, and gender inequality, and they are building a farm to school program to address these issues and provide opportunities to young people. Their goal is to address hunger and food insecurity within the community through education and applied learning while at the same time boosting their rural economies. In the end, they envision a system similar to the one BFA-Fairfax and other Vermont schools have developed.

Students in Fairfax started their farm to school program only two years ago, and the program has since expanded rapidly. The students, both in farm to school classes and in the farm to school club, manage an apple orchard, a greenhouse, vegetable and herb gardens, and plan to add a chicken coop, a hoop house, and a pollinator garden this spring.

The project has been funded by two Vermont Farm to School grants, in 2016 and 2017, but the true success in their program comes from the creative integration of agriculture into the school curriculum and the deep community connections students and teachers have fostered with neighbors, student families, and the local agricultural community.

BFA-Fairfax was chosen this year as one of Vermont’s exemplary Farm to School grantees and is featured in the 2018 Farm to School & Childcare Program Report. After seeing a successful farm to school program in Vermont, Brother Kennedy and Florence hope to bring tools and lessons learned back to Kenya to inspire the development of their own farm to school programs. 

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