By Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative
On Thursday, February 25th, the Forestry Committee of the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) released the final report of the Forest Systems Analysis, conducted by St. Albans based Yellow Wood Associates. The year-long project brought together hundreds of members of the forest and wood products industry. The three main takeaways defined a need for:
- increased public awareness of the economic importance of the forest and wood products sector
- industry wide network development; and
- increased consumer demand for Vermont-made wood products.
“We’ve come together to examine obstacles and opportunities and to help chart a return to a thriving forest economy,” said Commissioner Michael Snyder, Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation. “Over the year-long analysis, it was gratifying and absolutely critical that so many Vermonters from such a wide swath of the sector came together to participate. We developed a shared understanding of the problems we face and we inspired each other to consider how we can shape our collective future.”
Additionally, the committee unveiled a new tool to help both industry members and consumers connect. The Vermont Forest and Wood Products Online Directory is an interactive map of many of the wood and forest related businesses and resources in the state. The tool can be utilized for a variety of purposes, including to find a nearby forester or a kiln that dries a particular type of wood. The map is linked to the Working Lands website as well as that of the Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation.
The report and directory were unveiled at the Southern Vermont Forest Meetup, hosted by the WLEB Forestry Committee. The meetup was held at the Marlboro School of Graduate and Professional Studies in Brattleboro and was followed by a tour of Cersosimo Lumber, the largest sawmill in the state. Over 60 industry members and partners were in attendance. The event built on the success of last June’s Forestry Summit, held at Sugarbush Resort, and focused on building connections within the sector.
WLEB Forestry Committee Chair and Consulting Forester Joe Nelson, County Forester Matt Langlais, and Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund Director Ellen Kahler provided remarks. A three-person panel moderated by Ken Gagnon of Gagnon Lumber illustrated Southern Vermont’s value chain. Panelists included Eli Gould, a WLEB grant recipient and owner of Ironwood Brand, Jeff Hardy from Cersosimo Lumber, and George Weir from the Windham Regional Woodlands Association.
Following the meeting, committee chair, Joe Nelson said, “The strong attendance today is a testament to how dedicated these folks are to the forestry sector. And it reinforced how important it is that we reach out and connect to each other across the state to enhance these private-public partnerships in order to maintain and strengthen Vermont’s forest economy.”
Link to Vermont’s Forest Sector Systems Analysis: http://workinglands.vermont.gov/sites/ag_wlei/files/VT%20Forest%20Sector%20Analysis_2016.pdf
Link to the Forest and Wood Products Directory: http://workinglands.vermont.gov/node/736
- Do you work with Vermont farmers?
- Have you been concerned about your farm customers?
- Would you like to know how to help them?
- Recognize a farmer or farm family in need
- Know what help is available
- Be more comfortable starting a conversation
- Know what to say and what NOT to say
By, Ryan Patch, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
Today, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) has released a second draft of the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) for public review. This draft, to be presented to the legislature and the public over the coming weeks, has been substantially revised to incorporate public input. The second draft is available today on the Agency website: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap
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 which regulate farms in order to protect water quality, re-written to a higher level of performance. The Agency sought public input on its first draft of the new regulations, to ensure the RAPs reflected the realities of farming and the legislative intent of Act 64.
The public meetings and public comment period held in 2015 are not required by law, however this informal process was conducted by the VAAFM to ensure rule development which will provide a realistic, workable framework for agricultural management in our state that effectively protects Vermont’s lakes and rivers. The first draft public comment period opened on October 20, 2015, and ended on December 18, 2015. During this period, 10 public meetings were held throughout Vermont – the first on November 12, 2015, at the St. Albans Historical Society and the last on December 10, 2016, at the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph. Twenty-one small focus group meetings were also held throughout the state with various stakeholders. Since the close of the first public comment period, the Agency has spent nine weeks to thoroughly review and consider all public comment—over 800 people attended more than 30 meetings throughout the state to voice their opinions and 169 Vermonters submitted written comments.
“VAAFM wishes to thank all members of the community who took the time to provide comments or otherwise participate in this public process,” said Vermont’s Ag Secretary, Chuck Ross. “This is a clear indication that Vermonters, particularly farmers, care very deeply about water quality and getting this right. When the RAPs are eventually finalized, I know they will be stronger and more effective, as a result of all the input we received.”
Act 64 specifies that the RAP rules will be finalized before July 1, 2016. In March, the Agency intends to begin formal rulemaking to meet this deadline. The public will again have the opportunity to attend public hearings and provide written comment on the RAPs during the formal public hearing and comment period, tentatively scheduled to begin in May. VAAFM will continue to encourage public feedback and engage with stakeholders throughout the late winter prior to the formal comment period.
Jim Leland, Director of the Ag Resource Management Division at VAAFM explains, “Significant changes have been made throughout the second draft of the RAPs. We began by revising and reformatting the RAPs, in an effort to provide clarity.” Leland continues, “In addition, three areas which received the most extensive public comment and have been revised from the first draft include: the small farm certification threshold, proposed standards around manure stacking sites, and proposed manure spreading restrictions on steep slopes and high phosphorus fields.” Leland continues, “Be sure to read the responsiveness summary we’ve provided which highlights 30 major changes in the second draft of the RAPs which resulted from public input.”
The Agency’s response to comment, as well as a summary of written public comments received before Jan 1, 2016, are both available on the Agency RAP website.
For more information about the RAPs, and the Agency’s efforts to implement Act 64, please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap or contact the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets at (802) 828-3478.
Questions and comment about the RAPs can be directed to AGR.RAP@Vermont.gov
BENNINGTON FARMERS MARKET
BRATTLEBORO FARMERS MARKET
BURLINGTON FARMERS MARKET
CALEDONIA FARMERS MARKET
CAPITAL CITY FARMERS MARKET
DORSET FARMERS MARKET
FEAST AND FIELD MARKET
GROTON GROWERS FARMERS MARKET
MIDDLEBURY FARMERS' MARKET
NORTHFIELD FARMERS MARKET
NORWICH FARMERS MARKET
VERMONT FARMERS MARKET
WINDSOR FARMERS MARKET
Helps to Implement Vermont’s New Water Quality Law, Ends Conservation Law Foundation Lawsuit
By Ryan Patch, VAAFM
Today, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross, issued his revised decision regarding the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) petition to require mandatory Best Management Practices (BMPs) for farms in the Missisquoi Bay Basin. The Revised Secretary’s Decision makes a threshold determination that BMPs are necessary in the basin to achieve compliance with Vermont’s water quality goals. The revised decision is available today on the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) website http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/news-events/clf-petition
“Since my initial decision, Vermont has adopted landmark water quality legislation, Act 64, the Vermont Clean Water Act,” said Ross. “The Agency, coordinating with CLF, has responded to this directive from our lawmakers, and my Revised Decision contains a framework under which the Agency of Agriculture and Vermont farmers will continue to work together to improve agricultural water quality in the Missisquoi Bay Basin.”
“I believe the farm assessment and BMP implementation timelines we negotiated in good faith with CLF align well with the implementation plans required by the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Act 64,” Ross added. “I would also like to thank CLF for their forthright collaboration throughout this process as we worked to develop a settlement which will be workable for farmers as well as meet Vermont’s water quality goals.”
The Secretary, in his revised decision, has determined that BMPs are generally necessary on farms in the Missisquoi Bay Basin watershed to achieve compliance with state water quality goals. BMPs are site specific conservation practices beyond those required by the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) regulations.
In May 2014, CLF petitioned the Agency to impose mandatory BMPs on farms in the Missisquoi Bay Basin. In a November 2014 decision, the Secretary denied the petition. CLF appealed to the Vermont Superior Court in December 2014. On June 16, 2015, Governor Shumlin signed into law Act 64. The new legislation changed considerations that formed the basis for the Secretary’s initial decision. Given the new legislation and CLF’s appeal, the Secretary revised his earlier decision. The proposed revised decision was put out for public comment and the Agency held a public hearing in St. Albans on November 12, 2015 to provide farmers and other affected citizens and stakeholders an opportunity to be heard. The issuance of the Revised Secretary’s Decision today is one of the final steps in settling the CLF petition and lawsuit.
The Revised Decision provides a framework for outreach, education and assessment of farms in the watershed and a process for farm-specific development and implementation of a Farm Plan to address identified water quality resource concerns, where needed. Farm assessments may conclude that practices required by the RAPs are sufficient to protect water quality and that BMPs may not be required due to a farm’s specific characteristics or management.
The Secretary’s Revised Decision can be found at http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/news-events/clf-petition or a copy can be requested by calling the Agency at 802-828-2431. The Agency is providing a copy of the decision to Missisquoi Bay Basin farms and stakeholders who submitted public comment. The Agency is also posting notice of its decision in area newspapers.