July 11, 2016

By Chuck Ross, Secretary, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets

Summer is here, and Vermonters are returning once again to the shores of Lake Champlain. Many of us are swimming, boating, and enjoying family time on the lake. The health of the lake, and the need to restore it, is never more apparent than this time of year.  As Vermonters, we know we need to do better, and a plan is underway to make that happen.

In June of 2015 Governor Shumlin signed Act 64, also known as Vermont’s Clean Water Act, which was passed by the Legislature to advance a Vermont plan to reduce the amount of phosphorous in Lake Champlain. Act 64 will also enable Vermont to meet the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The planning incorporated in the EPA’s TMDL plan and passage of Act 64 requires the transportation sector, municipalities, developers, and farmers to further reduce run-off and uphold a higher standard of water quality, and it represents an “all in” effort to our water quality challenges. With regards to farmers, the Agency of Agriculture has undertaken a broad scope of work to enact these standards – including creating a new set of rules to govern farm practices called the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs).

We begin the summer of 2016 with a new draft of the RAPs, ready for a final public comment. We arrived at this draft of the rules after holding more than 80 meetings with farmers, environmentalists, lakefront property owners, and interested citizens across the state over the past year. In total, more than 1800 constituents participated in these meetings, and over 200 written comments were received and considered by the Agency. As we launch into this final phase, we have once again held hearings around the state to obtain public feedback. Webinars are also  available, for those who want more information (for details and dates, please see

At the conclusion of this final round of public hearings, we will incorporate the feedback and the RAPs will be sent to Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) for review by September 15, 2016. The Committee will consider the rules and any final recommended changes made as a result of the public input process. Once the RAPs are adopted, we will enter a new phase: implementation.

Over the past twelve months, I have seen tremendous partnership across the agricultural community. Farmers have provided invaluable feedback to the draft rules, and have worked collaboratively with Agency of Agriculture staff to ensure the new regulations are both workable and effective in protecting our waterways. I have been very impressed to see so many farmers, arguably some of the most time-pressed folks in our communities, make time to contribute meaningfully to this process.

Now, the real work begins. The RAPs will require many farmers to change their practices – from increasing the size of vegetative buffers near ditches, to restricting manure spreading in flood plains, to requiring cover crops on frequently flooded soils. (For a full summary, visit )

Although it won’t be simple, I am confident farmers will approach the implementation phase with the same spirit of partnership and determination they demonstrated during the rule-making process. They are deeply invested in our state, our working landscape, and are committed to getting this right.

As we return to the shores of Lake Champlain this summer, it is important to remember that the problems we face today took an entire generation to develop. They can’t be fixed overnight. But I want Vermonters to know the agricultural community is fully engaged and committed to doing its part. The implementation of the RAPs will signal a new era for agricultural water quality in our state. Our success at implementing these new rules will be a significant factor in determining the health of our lake for future generations, as will parallel efforts undertaken by the transportation sector, municipalities, and the business community. The task is large, but I am confident we have the commitment and determination needed to make it happen.

Charting the Course – a Timeline for RAP Implementation

The timeline below illustrates the milestones in the state’s rule making process. As you will note from the graphic, the public comment period for the RAPs concluded July 7th. The Agency is now in the process of incorporating feedback from the comment period into the final draft of the rules. The next milestone in September 15th – the deadline for the Agency to file the proposed final rules for the RAPs with LCAR – the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules:


July 1, 2016

By George Cook, UVM Extension

Lightening Safety

Summer brings along new and unique hazards. Lightning is random and unpredictable. Thunderstorms and lightning are most likely to develop on hot, humid days. If you can see lightning or hear thunder, activate your safety plan. Advance planning is the single most important means to lightning safety. Designate a responsible person to monitor weather conditions; a portable weather radio will provide weather updates. Emergency procedures: suspend activities, move people to safety, monitor conditions, then resume activities. Resume activities only when lightning and thunder have not been observed for thirty minutes. Safe locations during a storm include fully enclosed metal vehicles with windows up or substantial and permanent buildings.

If outdoors... get off farm machinery, put down rakes, hoes or shovels get out of or off the water. This includes metal objects like electric wires, fences, motors, power tools, clotheslines, metal pipes, rails, etc. Dangerous places include small structures, underneath canopies, small picnic or rain shelters, or near trees. However, standing under a group of trees, shorter than others in the area, is better than being in the open.

Seek low ground, preferably a ditch or gully; avoid high ground and open spaces. Make your body low to the ground, but do not lie flat on the earth. Learn the LIGHTNING SAFETY CROUCH: if isolated from shelter during a lightning storm, use a low crouching position with feet together and hands on ears. Avoid closeness (minimum of 15 ft.) to other people. If there is a group of people, spread out.

Do not touch fallen wires; call 9-1-1. If an appliance or tool catches fire, try to unplug it or turn off the current at the fuse box. Seems obvious, but do not pour water on the fire. Use a Class C fire extinguisher or throw baking soda on the fire. Call the local fire department and get everyone to safety. A helpful website is, which is the National Lightning Safety Institute website.


Sun Safety

While folks in the northern climates long for the warming sunshine of the summer, it can have a dangerous and deadly side. The sun’s invisible ultraviolet rays can be extremely dangerous to the skin. They are responsible for sunburn, premature aging and other types of skin damage, including cancer. Agricultural workers are prime targets for skin cancer because they are outdoors daily and are exposed to the sun. Estimates from the American Cancer Society find 600,000 cases of skin cancer occurring every year in the United States, with some 8,200 ending in death.

A suntan is not a sign of good health. As a defense mechanism, the body produces a pigment called melanin, which turns the skin brown. Tanning causes skin to age prematurely. Sunburns occur when the body gets too much radiation (the full effect may not be realized for 12 to 24 hours later).

Delayed effects include causing the skin to age, wrinkle, thicken, dry out, freckle, and blemish, and develop a rough texture. There are three basic types of skin cancer: Basal-cell carcinoma, Squamous-cell carcinoma and Melanoma. The first two types are very common and easily curable, while the third type, if not detected early, can be very dangerous and even deadly. Melanoma has a tendency to spread to other parts of the body. Once it reaches vital organs, melanoma is very difficult to treat, and can be lethal. Know the location of moles on your body so that you can recognize any change in their size, shape, and color.

People who work outdoors should do regular monthly self-examinations. Finding changes in skin growths or the appearance of new growths is the best way to identify early skin cancer. Early detection is critical!

There are several risk factors that can lead to skin cancer, number 1 is excessive sun exposure. What is excessive? This varies from person to person, but remember that no one is immune to the harmful ultra-

violet rays of the sun. Preventative factors to consider include: avoiding the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. As farmers, recognize that the sun's ultraviolet rays are strongest between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Wear protective clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat (as opposed to the popular baseball cap), light colored long-sleeved shirts and pants. Use sun screens with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. You can burn just as easily on a cloudy day as on a sunny day.

Children can develop skin cancer which may not show up until later in life. Excessive exposure to the sun throughout a lifetime can be deadly. It is cumulative; the more sun you are exposed to and the longer you live, the greater your chances of having skin cancer.

  • The American Cancer Society suggests the following guidelines to protect children from the sun:
  • (S) Shadow test- if the shadow is shorter than the child, the sun is at its strongest and most dangerous point.
  • (U) Ultraviolet sunblock with an SPF of 15 or greater should always be used if the child is exposed to the sun.
  • (N) Now! Protect children from the harmful effects of the sun now. Start today!

While farm work continues year-round non-stop, the prevention and detection of skin cancer may involve changing some attitudes and behaviors. A useful website to visit for more information is:


July 1, 2016

By Marcella Houghton, Salvation Farms

Salvation Farms recently received a $5,000 grant from the Merchants Bank in support of their work to advance gleaning in Vermont. Gleaning is the ancient practice of collecting quality crops, left in farmers' fields after they have been harvested or on fields where it is not economical to harvest.

Photo Caption: Pat Lemay of the Merchants Bank’s Hardwick branch presents check to James Hafferman of Salvation Farms at Riverside Farm in East Hardwick.

Salvation Farms will apply this grant to the Vermont Gleaning Collective website which serves as a volunteer recruitment platform for member organizations’ gleaning programs. Last year, the Collective gleaned more than 218,000 pounds of crops from 89 farms and distributed it to 70 recipient sites including the Vermont Foodbank which serves more than 220 additional agencies statewide.

Since the website’s launch in 2014, the website has registered more than 500 volunteers statewide. Included in its features is the ability to broadcast upcoming gleaning events and aggregate gleaning data, enabling analysis of data from year-to-year, season to season, and region to region to understand where and when to best mobilize volunteers and track how much farm surplus has been captured.

Theresa Snow, Salvation Farms’ founding director, says “We are grateful for the continued support of Merchants Bank. With this latest award we will be able to provide the Vermont Gleaning Collective a superior online tool to respond to the growing demand for gleaners in our state. These enhancements will help us continue serving Vermont farms, reduce food loss, increase the amount of fresh, wholesome, nutritious food available to our state’s most vulnerable populations, while creating increased efficiencies in engaging volunteers in experiential learning opportunities.”

Become a gleaner at

About Merchants Bank

A Vermont-chartered commercial bank established in 1849, Merchants Bank is the largest Vermont-based bank. The bank’s business, municipal, consumer, and investment customers enjoy personalized relationships, sophisticated online and mobile banking options, with 31 branches in Vermont and 1 location in Massachusetts; operating as NUVO, A division of Merchants Bank. American Banker ranks Merchants Bank a "Top 200" in America among 851 peers. For more information, go to Where do you want to grow? (Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender, NASDAQ “MBVT”)

About Salvation Farms

Salvation Farms’ mission is to increase resilience in Vermont’s food system through agricultural surplus management. Visit or call 802-888-4360 for more information.


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.


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:

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.


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

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

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