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November 21, 2017
Over $1M Available to Fund Agricultural Clean Water Planning and Implementation

November 21, 2017 / Montpelier, VT - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is pleased to announce the opening of the Request for Proposal (RFP) period for at least $1 million in grant funding associated with the Ag Clean Water Initiative Program (Ag-CWIP).  This grant program is made possible and supported by the Clean Water Fund—a fund created by Act 64 of 2015, Vermont’s Clean Water Act.  

VAAFM’s Ag-CWIP will provide new opportunities for farmers and partner organizations to undertake projects that will achieve reductions in nutrient runoff from agricultural lands, with a focus on projects which reduce phosphorus losses in priority watersheds.  Please visit http://Agriculture.Vermont.gov/WQ-RFP for the complete RFP documents.

“Farmers and their partners are focused on improving the environment.  These funds are an important part of improving water quality,” said Secretary Anson Tebbetts. 

These local and statewide partners support farmers to identify, plan and implement management, agronomic and structural best practices to improve water quality.  Implementation efforts are further supported by an additional $3M in available funding from VAAFM’s Best Management Practices program for 2018.

VAAFM is requesting agricultural water quality program proposals that address the following priority outcomes to improve water quality in Vermont:

  • Regulatory compliance with the RAPs and agricultural non-point source pollution reduction; and
  • Economic and environmental viability on Vermont farms.

VAAFM will be prioritizing funding based on need, meaning it will consider those areas of the state identified through water quality monitoring and Tactical Basin Planning efforts to have the greatest reduction targets for agriculture.

The Request for Proposals applications are due by 4:00 p.m. on January 10, 2018.  Eligible applicants include farmers, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, and local government entities.

For the complete Request for Proposals, program details, and additional information, please visit http://Agriculture.Vermont.gov/WQ-RFP, call the Agency at (802) 828-2431, or email: AGR.WaterQuality@Vermont.gov.

November 16, 2017

                                 

(Photo: A creative gutter system installed at Knoxland Farms in Bradford, Vermont. Engineers from the Agency of Agriculture can help design gutters that can withstand Vermont winters. )

By Clark Parmelee, VAAFM

The summer of 2017 has proven to be a very wet year. The amount of rainfall has made it challenging for farmers to get field chores done. When fields are saturated, crops can’t be planted or harvested, and manure cannot be applied. Between not having dry enough field conditions to spread manure and an above average amount of rainfall, several farmers have found themselves in the stressful situation of pushing the limits on the storage capacity of their manure pits. Even if there is nothing that can be done to change the weather, there are ways to make the most of on farm liquid manure storage.

When managing a manure pit, it is important to consider the amount of rainwater entering the pit. Every time a 1-inch rain event occurs, an acre of land will receive 27,154 gallons of water. For every 1-inch of snow we receive, an acre of land will receive 2,715 gallons of water. In an average year Vermont receives about 37 inches of precipitation, this means about 1 million gallons of water falls on an acre of land annually.

If a farm has a manure pit with a half-acre of surface area and a quarter acre of other impervious surfaces draining to the pit, the farm will have about 400,000 gallons of rainwater to spread. This figure takes evaporation into consideration. Evaporation rates tend to be higher in the summer than in the winter though, meaning that a pit will typically contain more water in the spring than in the summer.  If a farm is operating a manure pit with a half-acre of surface area and they spread using tanks with a capacity of 4,000 gallons, the farm will haul roughly 100 loads of rainwater on an average year!

It is important to stop any additional clean water from entering the pit. Spreading costs can be lowered for farms if additional water from barn roofs is prevented from entering the pit. It is also important to make sure excess water isn’t entering the pit from the barn, whether it is rainwater entering the barn and then the pit, or plate cooler water going down the drain. Through the State’s Best Management Practices (BMP) Program, financial assistance is available to help pay for clean water diversion projects to reduce the amount of water entering manure pits.  

Another way to maximize the storage capacity of a manure pit is to consider if some of the manure produced on the farm is capable of being field stacked. Some farms use a dry manure system for groups such as heifers and dry cows, and liquid storage for their milking herd. Any manure that is at least 20% dry matter and is capable of being stacked 4 feet high, can be field stacked. The BMP Program can help farms find appropriate places to field stack, and help pay to install access roads to approved sites.

Hopefully the 2018 growing season will be drier than 2017, but it’s hard to say at this point. Though the weather cannot be controlled, it is important that farmers consider all their options in how manure is managed on their farm to prevent manure pits from overtopping.   

November 15, 2017

(Jonathan and Mary Ann Connor – Providence Dairy, Addison Vt. Photo Credit Cheryl Cesario)

By: Lindsey Kelley
Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program

With sustained low prices in the conventional dairy market and Vermont’s new Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) for reducing the impact of agricultural activities on water quality, Vermont farmers need to be creative and resourceful to ensure their businesses remain viable into the future. Jonathan and Mary Ann Connor, who own Providence Dairy in Addison, exemplify this spirit as they transition their dairy to a more pasture-based operation and make use of VHCB grant programs that make costly, long-term investments more financially feasible. 

One of the biggest constraints the Connors face is access to land. “I can’t expand because the land around here is so valuable” said Jonathan, “so we have to find a way to make what we have profitable.” With the help of an array of financial and technical support, the Connors are well on their way to doing just that. Cheryl Cesario at UVM Extension helped the Connors develop a grazing plan designed to transition their 90-cow conventional dairy from a tie-stall to grazing operation. The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) offered to fund 75% of the project. However, the remaining cost-share for the farm was not feasible. To help reduce the cost on the business and make the project financially viable, the Connors applied for, and were awarded an $8,500 Dairy Improvement Grant by the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, cutting their 25% cost-share almost in half. The new grazing plan was designed to meet multiple goals: to improve milk production and animal health and to decrease input costs and environmental impact.

The farm is located in the Lake Champlain basin. Like many farmers, Jonathan and Mary Ann are working to ensure excessive nutrients from the farm are not ending up in the lake. Through their overall grazing plan, the Connors took measures to address water quality concerns in their local watershed and greater Lake Champlain basin. They seeded their fields with plants that have longer roots which can hold more soil together, thereby increasing water infiltration and decreasing run off. The plants also help decrease the erosion of valuable pasture land. In addition to these field improvements, the Connors have installed animal laneways that not only guide the cows to pasture but also protect nearby land and surface water from runoff and erosion.

The Dairy Improvement Grant received by the Connors through the Viability Program was, like all Dairy Improvement Grants, funded by Ehrmann Commonwealth Dairy, LLC, a greek yogurt manufacturer located in Brattleboro. This grant program is designed to support the construction, renovation, and upgrades to essential farm infrastructure or equipment. This grant program is open to Vermont members of Dairy Farmers of America or St. Albans Cooperative Creamery.

The Viability Program also has a new grant program for farmers, Water Quality Grants. These grants assist with the costs of on-farm capital improvements on any Vermont farm that has a gross income of $15,000+ and is subject to Vermont’s Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs).

There are two upcoming deadlines for both grant programs, November 15, 2017 and February 21, 2018. For information go online to http://www.vhcb.org/viability/ and check out our grant programs fact sheet

November 15, 2017

MONTPELIER, Vt. - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets is pleased to announce that three Vermont dairy farms have achieved full certification in a national program aimed at ensuring food safety and responsible medication use.

In June 2017, the Agency launched a funding initiative to help offset the cost of dairy farm certification in the Food Armor® HACCP for Proper Drug Use program. To become Food Armor® certified, Gervais Family Farm, Inc., Duhamel Farms, and Dalestead Farm and Maple, LLC., partnered with local Food Armor® Accredited veterinarians to develop Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans that meet the stringent requirements of the program. By becoming certified, these Vermont farms have gone above and beyond to show their commitment to responsible on-farm use of veterinary medications, food safety and livestock well-being.

“A lot of what we do in this program, the farms are already doing, and this is a way for vets to work with farms to develop continuity as well as having a third-party audit,” said Dr. Jennifer Hull, a Food Armor® Accredited veterinarian from Northwest Veterinary Associates, Inc.

Maintenance of certification requires each farm to adhere to a written Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR) agreement, to annually submit customized drug lists, standard operating procedures, protocols and related records to the Food Armor® Foundation for approval, and to undergo a third-party audit to verify that written documents translate to best practices in livestock management. Adhering to this gold standard helps ensure that market dairy cows and bob calves shipped to slaughter do not have violative drug residues.

“Food Armor® certification represents the culmination of a steadfast commitment to excellence made by the farms’ animal care and management teams in partnership with their herd veterinarians. The Vermont dairy industry has always taken the issue of judicious use of veterinary medications seriously, and the ability to provide these Food Armor® program tools to Vermont dairy farmers for the betterment of their on-farm practices in support of this goal is a rewarding privilege”, states Dr. Kristin Haas, Vermont State Veterinarian.

VAAFM has used a two-year federal grant to provide Food Armor® training opportunities for Vermont veterinarians, maintain a State Food Armor® program license and offset the professional and program costs associated with certification. Since 2015, more than 50 food animal veterinarians have received Food Armor® training, approximately 70 Vermont farmers have participated in Food Armor orientation sessions, and farms interested in certification participated in day-long workshops.

There is sustained interest in the Food Armor® program on the part of Vermont dairy farmers, and many Vermont producers are currently partnering with Food Armor® trained veterinarians to utilize components of the Food Armor® program in their daily production practices. To learn more about the Food Armor® HACCP for Proper Drug Use program, visit www.foodarmor.org. If you are a farmer who is interested in implementing the Food Armor® program on your farm, please contact your herd veterinarian or the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets’ Animal Health Office at (802)828-2421 or AGR.animalhealth@vermont.gov.

Contact:

Kristin M. Haas, DVM
State Veterinarian; Director of Food Safety & Consumer Protection
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
(802)-828-2426
Kristin.haas@vermont.gov

November 14, 2017

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets hires a new Director of Policy and Communications.  Scott Waterman comes to Agriculture from the Department of Public Safety where he was the public information officer for the Vermont State Police.

Waterman takes over for Alison Kosakowski who recently returned to her family’s farm in Richmond. Waterman comes to the agency with 20 years of experience in the media working as an award-winning photographer and assignment manager for WCAX-TV and WVNY-TV.

Waterman will focus on developing and implementing policy and communications strategies that move Vermont agriculture forward.  “Agriculture is a critical part of our economy and I look forward to helping our farmers and consumers.  As a life-long Vermonter, I look forward to working with the public, farmers, lawmakers and partners on growing the Vermont economy, making Vermont more affordable and protecting the vulnerable.”

Waterman lives in Burlington with his wife Shelly and his two daughters.

The media and the public are encouraged to reach out to Waterman for any questions or comments.

Scott.Waterman@Vermont.gov

802-828-2179 desk

802-622-4662 cell

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