Blog

June 29, 2016

By Alexandra Zipparo, VAAFM

Farmers and producers of Vermont agricultural products, including prepared and ready-to-eat foods as well as beer, wine and spirits, can now apply to participate in the second annual Summer Buy Local Market on the State House Lawn in Montpelier. The Summer Buy Local Market will be held on August 10 from 10 AM to 2 PM, rain or shine, and coincides with the United States Department of Agriculture’s 17th annual National Farmers Market Week.

To apply for free booth space at the market, visit our Buy Local Markets page at http://bit .ly/vtbuylo-calmarket and email your application to faith.raymond@vermont.gov by July 10 or mail it to Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Attn: Faith Raymond; 116 State St . Montpelier, VT 05602 (must be postmarked no later than July 7 to ensure delivery to Vermont Agency of Agriculture in time for review).

Last August, more than forty purveyors of local food and agri-cultural products convened on the State House lawn for the first ever Summer Buy Local Market. The event was organized by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets as part of the state’s Local Food Wellness and Consumer Awareness Initiative, in partner-ship with the State of Vermont, Capital City Farmers’ Market and The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT).

The market seeks to offer the same great quality, diversity, and freshness available at the weekend Montpelier farmers’ market to week-day shoppers, who might otherwise miss out. Downtown and state employees, Montpelier residents, and visitors can enjoy the opportunity to shop for local foods and handmade goods, such as wood products and yarn, as well as ready-to-eat foods for lunches and snacks, like fresh juice, hot dogs, sandwiches, and ice cream.

Market vendors can expect to meet new customers and the opportunity to share their products on the scenic State House lawn. The market will also feature a number of local nonprofits and other organizations to promote agricultural literacy and share information on recycling, composting, and programs to support agricultural producers.

The deadline for vendors apply for free both space is July 10. To learn more about the Vermont Agency of Agriculture’s Buy Local Markets, visit http://bit .ly/vtbuylocalmarket.

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June 29, 2016

By Chuck Ross, VAAFM

June is National Dairy Month.  In light of that fact, I’d like to take a moment to honor Vermont’s dedicated dairy farming families and highlight some of the many ways they help to shape our economy, our land, and our way of life.

In 2015, the Vermont Dairy Promotion Council commissioned an economic assessment of Vermont’s dairy industry in order to understand its true economic value to our state.  Concurrently, the Agency of Agriculture worked in partnership with the Castleton Polling Institute to survey Vermonters’ beliefs and attitudes towards the dairy industry.

Compiled in the final report, Milk Matters: The Role of Dairy in Vermont, the results of the economic study demonstrate that dairy remains at the heart of the Vermont economy--accounting for 70 percent of all agricultural sales in the state, providing thousands of jobs, and contributing to a vital working landscape.  Likewise, polling data revealed Vermonters’ views about dairy are overwhelmingly positive.  Over 90 percent of Vermonters polled in the 2014 “Dairy in Vermont” survey expressed a belief that dairy is “very important to Vermont’s future.” 

While the economic outlook for dairy remains strong, significant challenges lie ahead, including labor management, farm transitions, and environmental impact mitigation.  Protecting and preserving our state waters continues to be a top priority for the Agency of Ag as we work side-by-side with Vermont farmers to improve regulations, and provide technical and financial assistance. 

Thus far, more than 1800 individuals – many of them dairy farmers - have attended over 80 meetings hosted by VAAFM and our Water Quality Partners since October last year to participate and provide comments in the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) rule-making process.  A key component of Act 64, Vermont’s Clean Water Act signed into law in June of 2015, the RAPs are designed to further reduce the impact of agriculture on water quality across the state. Input from dairy farmers and community members has been invaluable to the VAAFM and our partners as we work to implement Act 64.

By working together, we can continue to expand the positive influence the dairy industry has on our state, and perpetuate the proud tradition of Vermont dairy farming for generations to come.  Please review the data highlights from the Milk Matters Report at www.vermontdairy.com and take a moment during National Dairy Month to appreciate Vermont dairy farmers and all they do for our special state.

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June 29, 2016

By Ryan Patch, VAAFM

One of the most significant charges from Act 64 of 2015 is the Legislature’s mandate for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) to define what is a “Small Farm” in Vermont.  Further, Act 64 instructed the Agency to define a threshold above which a Small Farm Operation (SFO)—the Agency jargon for “Small Farm”—would need to enter into a certification and inspection program.  In the RAP Proposed Rule, filed with the Secretary of State on May 13, 2016, VAAFM has provided its revised thresholds for small farm certification and inspection.  The entire RAP Proposed Rule, and the proposed small farm thresholds, is open to public comment until July 7, 2016.

Below you will find a factsheet the VAAFM has developed which outlines the proposed farm size thresholds for Agency water quality certification, inspection and RAP oversight.  Numerous changes have been made to the SFO and Certified Small Farm Operation (CSFO) thresholds in the RAP Proposed Rule from previous drafts, based on significant comment received from farmers and the public.

A bit of historical context:

Under the Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs), there were three farm categories:

AAP Farm Category

Permit

Inspection?

Number of Farms

Large Farm Operations (LFOs)

Individual Permits

Regular inspection (1 Year Cycle)

27 Farms

Medium Farm Operations (SFOs)

General Permits

Regular inspection (5 Year Cycle)*

138 Farms

Small Farm Operations (SFOs)

No Permits

Inspection based on complaints

7000 farms

*changed to 3-year inspection under Act 64 of 2015

LFOs have been permitted and inspected by VAAFM since 1995 and represent dairy farms with more than 700 mature dairy cows.  MFOs have been permitted and inspected by VAAFM since 2006 and represent farms with between 200 and 699 mature dairy cows and 300 and 999 beef cows.  SFOs under the AAPs represented every farm operation below the MFO threshold—all the way down to one chicken or a 10’ x 10’ vegetable garden.  Every SFO, MFO and LFO has to follow the baseline rules established in the AAPs, in addition to any specific enhanced requirements in the MFO and LFO general and individual permits.

The current discussion around farm size thresholds in the RAPs:

In an effort to meet the legislative intent of Act 64, VAAFM has proposed refining the SFO category to ensure a prioritized and targeted approach to the new mandate to certify and inspect a portion of Small Farms.  This proposal would lead to the establishment of three small farm operation categories in Vermont: Non-RAP Operations (NROs), Small Farm Operations (SFOs) and Certified Small Farm Operations (CSFOs).  LFO and MFO permits would remain unchanged under the RAP Proposed Rule.

Non-RAP Operations (NROs) represent a scale of farm (less than 4 acres in farming, less than 5 cows, less than 4 horses, less than $2,000 gross sales) which in the Agency’s experience has not had substantial impacts on water quality and, as such, has been proposed to be regulated at the municipal level.  These NROs would not need to follow the RAPs in the Proposed Rule and oversight of these operations could be undertaken by municipalities.  The option exists in the Proposed Rule for the VAAFM to require a NRO meet the requirements of RAPs if a water quality issue exists on an operation and municipal rules and enforcement is not present.

Every farm operation above the NRO threshold would need to follow all requirements of the RAPs: this includes SFOs, CSFOs, MFOs and LFOs.

Under the Proposed Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs), there are four farm categories that need to follow the RAPs:

RAP Farm Category

Permit

Inspection?

Number of Farms

Large Farm Operations (LFOs)

Individual Permits

Regular inspection (1 Year Cycle)

27 Farms

Medium Farm Operations (SFOs)

General Permits

Regular inspection (3 Year Cycle)

138 Farms

Certified Small Farm Operations (CSFOs)

Certification Program

Regular inspection (7 Year Cycle)

1500 Farms

Small Farm Operations (SFOs)

No Permits

Inspection based on complaints

5500 Farms

Certified Small Farm Operations (CSFOs) would represent farms with more than 50 dairy cows, or 75 beef cows, or 40 horses; or who farm more than 50 acres of annual cropland (ex: corn silage / soybeans) or 50 acres of vegetables.  These CSFOs would need to follow the RAPs in addition to entering into a Small Farm Certification program which will require annual self-certification that a farm is following the RAPs, regular inspection on a seven-year cycle, and the development of a 590 Nutrient Management Plan.  SFOs are all farms that fall above the NRO and below the CSFO threshold.  All SFOs would need to follow the full provisions of the RAPs.

Public comment and questions can be submitted to AGR.RAP@vermont.gov or mailed to 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620.

The complete factsheet on RAP farm size can be found at the following url: http://go.usa.gov/cJqtp

Please visit our VAAFM RAP Website for additional information: http://go.usa.gov/cdGew

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June 29, 2016

By Alison Kosakowski

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 http://agriculture.vermont.gov/licensing-registration/fees .

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 a list of Agency fees, including descriptions and costs, please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/licensing-registration/fees

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

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June 23, 2016

By Diane Bothfeld

The Vermont Farm Show has announced it will support the Farm and Agricultural Resource Management Stewards (FARMS) 2+2 Scholarship program for the next 4 years.  The Farm Show has committed $43,000 to the FARMS 2+2 Scholarship program, which provides scholarships to young Vermonters who are pursuing dairy careers.

Founded in 2001, the  FARMS 2+2 scholarship funds half tuitions for two years of study at Vermont Technical College (VTC) and full tuition for two subsequent years at the University of Vermont (UVM).  The fund is administered by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, and the student recipients are selected by VTC and UVM.  The program also includes semesters at Vermont Tech Diary Farm and Teaching Lab in Norwich, Vermont and the Miner Agriculture Research Institute in Chazy, New York. Over 65 2+2 scholars have graduated in the past 15 years and are now active in agribusiness industries and on farms across Vermont.

“The FARMS 2+2 program provides a broad educational base for Vermont’s future dairy leaders,” said Chuck Ross, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture.  “The support from the Vermont Farm Show will enrich this important program, and provide a strong link between students and the industry,” he added.

The Vermont Farm Show is the premier venue for farmers to interact with the ag related businesses that keep the industry strong.  Several years ago, Farm Show vendors suggested a scholarship to assist young people interested in continuing their education in the agricultural sector.  Due to strong exhibitor support over the years, the Vermont Farm Show is in a position to do so. 

"The FARMS 2+2 Scholarship Program is a great investment in young agriculturalists and Vermont agriculture," said Dave Martin, Vermont Farm Show President.  "We are also going to offer our exhibitors an opportunity to support this program."

The Vermont Farm Show has been the state’s unofficial trade show for agriculture for over 80 years.  In 2012, the Show moved from Barre to Essex Junction and has grown into a three day event attended by more than 14,000 guests, featuring over 145 vendors and 15 organization meetings.  Always scheduled for the last week in January, the Show's visitors have also donated almost 2 tons of food and several hundred dollars to area food shelves in lieu of an entry fee since moving to the Champlain Valley fairgrounds.

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