By Chuck Ross, Secretary, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets
As I was presenting the Agency of Agricluture’s annual budget to the house and senate appropriations committees earlier this month, I was struck, once again, by the breadth and depth of programs and services administered by this agency. From water quality initiatives, to consumer protection, to implementing federal food safety laws, and from promoting Vermont dairy in school lunch rooms, to farm viability across our working landscape; the scope of work our small agency is responsible for is truly astounding.
This perspective is validated by the range of content on display in this March edition of Agriview.
The Agency of Agriculture has a significant regulatory mission, as directed by the Vermont legislature and resulting statute. We work hard to ensure that our regulatory practices are accompanied by wrap-around services including education, and financial and technical support, so that, together, we can strengthen and grow the economies, cultures, and communities of Vermont's working landscape. I could not be more proud of our team of smart, dedicated agency staff who are as diverse as our mission.
Winter Cover Cropping Update:
For the past few years, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets has encouraged farms to apply for financial assistance for winter cover cropping with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
To be considered for FAP Program funding for winter cover cropping, farms must apply for federal assistance with NRCS by April 15, 2016.
Farms that fail to apply, or miss the NRCS application deadline mentioned above will not be eligible for funding through the FAP program for 2016 fall cover cropping. Farms that apply by the application deadline and are either deemed ineligible for funding from NRCS or do not receive a funded contract from NRCS may apply for funding through the FAP program for winter cover cropping by July 1, 2016.
It is important to note that funding is not guaranteed and that the seeding date for all winter cover cropping remains October 1st.
For more information on the FAP Program, please check out our website at http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/farmer-assistance/fap or contact Lisa Gilman at (802) 828-5050.
By Hannah Reid, VAAFM
Gov. Peter Shumlin celebrated Vermont's 2016 maple sugar season on Monday, March 14th with a ceremonial tree tapping event at Sugartree Maple Farm in Williston. The Governor was joined by Vermont Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross, Consumer Protection Chief and state maple expert, Henry Marckres, Executive Director of the Vermont Sugar Makers Association (VSMA) Matthew Gordon, as well as 3rd and 4th graders from Williston Central Elementary school who aided the governor in the tree-tapping process, and accompanied him on an educational tour of the Sugartree Maple Farm facility.
Established in 2009 by Mark and Amy Yandow, Sugartree Maple Farm encompasses 49 acres of prime sugar maple trees, 4,200 taps, and a modern wood fired sugarhouse boasting a new reverse osmosis machine capable of processing 900 gallons of sap an hour. Designed to evaporate 75% of the water out of the sap before it enters the evaporator, reverse osmosis machines enable sugar makers to save both valuable time and fuel.
“According to a recent study, Vermont’s maple industry contributed between $317 and $330 million in total sales to the state economy in 2013, in addition to supporting roughly 3,000 full-time jobs and over $140 million in profits and wages.” said Gov. Shumlin. “Maple is Vermont’s signature brand, and the kind of technological innovations that we see right here at Surgartree Maple Farm – combined with the Vermont entrepreneurial spirit – will ensure Vermont’s maple industry remains the national leader in production and quality.”
In response to questions about the variable weather conditions this year, Agency of Agriculture Consumer Protection Chief and state maple expert, Henry Marckres said, “It has certainly been an interesting weather year, but it’s hard to say for certain how the weather will affect production over the course of the season. It takes 40 days to make a season; I think we’ve probably had about 15 strong days so far. It looks like we’re supposed to get some cold nights over the next week or so, which should result in good runs and will hopefully carry us until April.”
Despite this winter’s variable weather conditions, Vermont continues to lead that nation in maple production. In 2015, Vermont produced 41% of the nation’s syrup, roughly 1.4 million gallons, twice the amount produced by the next largest maple states, combined (New York and Maine each produced 17%, respectively). The value of Vermont’s maple crop in 2014 was over $44.5 million.
“Maple production in this state has increased by 111% since 1992 – from 570,000 to 1,320,000 gallons a year,” said Chuck Ross, Secretary of Agriculture. “This astounding is growth a testament to our sugar makers, who not only help promote and preserve Vermont’s heritage, but also help to ensure our state’s Working Landscape endures for future generations of Vermonters to enjoy. We could not be more proud to lead the nation in syrup production!”
Visitors to the Sugartree Maple Farm during this year’s sugaring season will have the opportunity to watch and learn about the sugaring process, and, most importantly, sample and buy the Yandow’s 100% pure maple syrup, as well as maple lollipops, maple candy, maple cotton candy, maple cream, and maple sugar.
“We share this wonderful business with our children Matthew and Mackenzie and many other supportive family members and friends,” said Mark Yandow. “We all take part in the sugaring process — from cutting and stacking firewood, to the final boiling of the sap. We are exceedingly proud of our business, and honored to have the opportunity to host the governor in our sugarhouse.”
To learn more about Vermont's maple industry, please review this recently completed study conducted by UVM's Center for Rural Studies for the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association: http://www.vermontbiz.com/news/march/study-vermont-maple-industry-contributes-more-300-million-sales-states-economy.
By Kristina Sweet, Vermont Agnecy of Agriculture, Food and Markets
Agency estimates over 500 VT farms will be impacted by FSMA Produce Safety Rule
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) will hold three workshops on Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) final rules on March 31 in Montpelier, April 4 in Burlington, and April 5 in Rutland. These workshops will provide an overview of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule, which affects farms that grow, harvest, pack or hold fresh produce. The April 4 workshop, co-hosted by the Vermont Department of Health, will also cover the FSMA Preventive Controls for Human Food rule, which affects food processors.
VAAFM has also launched a new online decision tree tool to help farmers determine whether a farm is subject to the Produce Safety Rule. The tool may be accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vtfsma or taken over the phone by calling (802) 522-7811.
The FSMA Produce Safety Rule will impact farms that grow, harvest, pack or hold fresh produce for human consumption and that have annual produce sales of greater than $25,000. The rule was finalized in November 2015 and became effective on January 26, 2016. VAAFM estimates that at least 150 Vermont farms will be fully covered under the rule and will need to meet all of the rule’s requirements. An additional 400 farms are likely to be eligible for a “qualified exemption” under the Produce Safety Rule, which subjects them to modified requirements including recordkeeping and labeling.
VAAFM has worked closely with the FDA, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, UVM Extension, and the Vermont Vegetable & Berry Growers Association, among other key partners, to conduct FSMA outreach, education, provide technical assistance, and develop an implementation plan that is feasible for local farms.
Workshop dates and times are listed below:
FSMA Produce Safety Rule & Program Development Workshop
March 31, 2016 | 2:00–4:00 PM
Pavilion Auditorium | 109 State Street, Montpelier
FSMA Preventive Controls & Produce Safety Rule Workshop
*Co-hosted by the Vermont Department of Health*
April 4, 2016 | 2:00–4:00 PM
Vermont Department of Health | 108 Cherry Street, Burlington
FSMA Produce Safety Rule & Program Development Workshop
April 5, 2016 | 5:30–7:30 pm
Rutland Free Library | 10 Court Street, Rutland
For more information about FSMA and produce safety at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/food_safety_consumer_protection/fsma and http://agriculture.vermont.gov/food_safety_consumer_protection/produce_safety
By Reg Godin, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
Fourteen Vermont Businesses Receive $14,000 to Attend National Trade Shows
Today the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) announced the recipients of second round funding from the Trade Show Assistance Grant Program, an initiative of the agency’s Domestic Export Program designed to assist Vermont food and forest businesses in making and maintaining connections with buyers, brokers and distributors via out-of-state trade shows. A total of $14,000 was awarded to fourteen Vermont businesses to attend trade shows in New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco and to exhibit their Vermont-made products in front of thousands of regional and national buyers.
The 2016 (Round 2) Trade Show Assistance Grant Awardees Include:
Company Trade Show & Location Grant Amount
Bee’s Wrap, NY NOW Show in New York, NY $2,000
Cloudfarm, National Hardware Show in Las Vegas, NV $2,000
Gringo Jack’s, Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, CA $1,000
Kimball Brook Farm, Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY $1,000
Kingdom Creamery, Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY $1,000
Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind, Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY $1,000
Shacksbury Cider, Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY $1,000
Sidehill Farm, Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY $1,000
Small Batch Organics, Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY $1,000
Stonecutter Spirits, WhiskyFest New York in New York, NY $600
Tavernier Chocolates, Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY $400
The Vermont Switchel Co., New England Made in Portland, ME $1,000
Vermont Sweetwater Bottling Co., Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, NY $1,000
The Agency of Ag also announced a third solicitation period for trade show assistance grant applications beginning March 1st 2016, in which an additional $14,000 will be available to Vermont food and forest product businesses to exhibit at out-of-state trade shows for the first time. Applications are available online and are due by 4:00 PM on Tuesday March 29th. Before applying, applicants must read the request for applications: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/domestic_export/trade_show_grant_application.
The Domestic Export Program represents a collaborative effort between the Vermont Agencies of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) to connect Vermont producers with out-of-state buyers and provide technical assistance to convert these connections into sustainable business relationships. Funding for the first Trade Show Assistance Grant Program was appropriated by the Vermont Legislature in 2014 to provided matching grants and technical assistance to 25 Vermont producers to attend 15 different trade shows in 10 different states.
The second and third rounds of the Trade Show Assistance Grant Program have been made possible by funding from the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB). Inspired by the impact of the first round of grants allocated to Vermont businesses in 2014, which resulted in over 1,000 sales leads and $1 million increase in projected annual sales among the 25 grantees, the WLEB board approved a $25,000 investment in the Trade Show Assistance Grant Program over the course of 2015-2016.
“The Domestic Export Program provides critical support to Vermont businesses working to expand product sales out of state,” said Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross. “And the Trade Show Assistance Grant is one of the highest impact tools in the Domestic Export toolbox. We are thrilled to be partnering with the Working Lands Enterprise Board to help more Vermont companies learn about trade show opportunities, and exhibit their Vermont-made products in front of thousands of regional and national buyers.”