Blog

June 23, 2016

By Ryan Patch

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) will host six public hearings on the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) Proposed Rule on June 21 in St. Albans, June 22 in Brandon, June 23 in South Royalton, June 27 in Manchester, June 28 in Newport, and June 29 in Brattleboro.

WHAT:  VAAFM will host six public hearings throughout Vermont for farmers, stakeholders and the public to provide testimony and comment on the RAP Proposed Rule.  A public comment period on the RAP Proposed Rule is open until July 7, 2016.  The RAP Proposed Rule is available 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 in place since 1995 which regulate farms in order to protect water quality, re-written to a higher level of performance.

To date, VAAFM has held more than 80 small stakeholder and large public meetings on the RAPs to solicit feedback from farmers, stakeholders and the public.  Over 1800 constituents have attended these meetings since October, 2015.  Summary outreach materials, including the recording of a webinar explaining the RAP Proposed Rule in detail, are available on the Agency website: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap

These public hearings open to the public.  A print copy of the RAP Proposed Rule can be requested by e-mail, phone or in writing.  Email AGR.RAP@vermont.gov or call (802) 828-2431 for more information.

Written public comment can be submitted to the Agency’s RAP e-mail inbox at AGR.RAP@vermont.gov or by mailing comment to the Agency of Agriculture at 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620.

WHO: Farmers, stakeholders and the general public can attend these public hearings to learn more about the RAP Proposed Rule and to share testimony and comment.

VAAFM was directed by the Legislature to draft the RAPs pursuant to Act 64, signed into law on June 16, 2015.  Act 64 of 2015 amended and enacted multiple requirements related to water quality in the State.  Act 64 requires that the revised RAPs include requirements for: small farm certification, nutrient storage, soil health, buffer zones, livestock exclusion, and nutrient management.

WHEN/WHERE: Required Agricultural Practices Proposed Rule Public Hearing

June 21, 2016 | 12:30–3:30 PM

St Albans Historical Museum | 9 Church Street, St. Albans City, VT 05478

Required Agricultural Practices Proposed Rule Public Hearing

June 22, 2016 | 12:30–3:30 PM

Brandon American Legion | 590 Franklin St., Brandon, VT 05733

Required Agricultural Practices Proposed Rule Public Hearing

June 23, 2016 | 12:30–3:30 PM

Vermont Law School | 164 Chelsea St., South Royalton, VT 05068

Required Agricultural Practices Proposed Rule Public Hearing

June 27, 2016 | 12:30–3:30 PM

Fraternal Order of Eagles | 2282 VT-11, Manchester Center, VT 05255

Required Agricultural Practices Proposed Rule Public Hearing

June 28, 2016 | 12:30–3:30 PM

Newport American Legion | 160 Freeman St., Newport, VT 05855

Required Agricultural Practices Proposed Rule Public Hearing

June 29, 2016 | 12:30–3:30 PM

Brattleboro American Legion | 32 Linden St., Brattleboro, VT 05301

For more information about the RAPs, and the Agency’s efforts to implement Act 64 of 2015, please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap or contact the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets at (802) 828-2431.

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May 31, 2016

Shoppers pose for a photo in front of Green Mountain Girls Farm Stand in Northfield, VT

By Hailee May & Abbey Willard, VAAFM

A new on-line directory of Vermont farm stands is now available on the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) website to help facilitate connections between the producers and consumers of local Vermont products, and to support Vermont shoppers in making informed decisions about their food purchases.  Utilizing recent data collected in a 2015 farm stand survey conducted by the VAAFM’s Food System team, the new farm stand directory will allow consumers to search for farm stands by name, location, season, product, organic/non-organic certification, pick your own, and EBT availability.  The new directory also includes a map feature that will allow consumers to search for farm stands in a particular area.  The new directory can be accessed on the VAAFM website here: http://bit.ly/257E0Hr

In November of 2015, the VAAFM developed a Vermont Farm Stand survey to not only assess the number of farm stands currently operating in Vermont, but also collect data on farm stand product offerings, hours of operation, as well as location and payment options.  According to the survey results, there are over 98 operating farm stands geographically distributed across Vermont, which collectively served over 6,000 customers daily during 2015’s peak season.

While Vermont food and farm businesses produce a vast diversity of products, the farm stand survey results showed that fruits, vegetables, berries, eggs, honey, maple syrup, and flowers were the most popular items available at farm stands.  Although some farm stand operators reported offering products made by other producers, and in a few cases, other states, 95% of reported sales at Vermont farm stands were derived from products produced on their own farms.

The Farm Stand Survey responses also demonstrated a 4% increase in customer visits between 2014 and 2015, from 212,000 to 220,000 visitors, and a 7% increase in farm stands sales, from $2,268,449 to $2,431,342 over the same time period.  While historical farm stand data is limited, the growth trends in both customers and sales over the last two years suggests expanding market opportunities for the promotion and sales of local products via farm stands. 

Going forward, the VAAFM’s Food System team will work to ensure the accuracy and utility of the Farm Stand Directory by maintaining strong partnerships with Vermont farm stand operators to keep data up-to-date and add additional information and features over time.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) is partnering with VAAFM to conduct similar surveys of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms and farmers’ markets with the intent of sharing the results in both a comprehensive online directory at VAAFM and a listing of organic and NOFA-VT membership operations at nofavt.org. Later this summer, consumers can expect to see the addition of CSA and farmers’ market data to the Farm Stand Directory, creating a comprehensive source of direct to consumer local product marketing opportunities.

If you operate a farm stand that is not currently listed on our directory and you would like to be listed, please complete this brief survey and you will be added to the website: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FarmStandList

For more information about the Vermont Farm Stand Directory and the VAAFM’s food system and market access programs, please visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources

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May 31, 2016

By Hannah Reid, VAAFM

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) Consumer Protection Chief and resident maple expert, Henry Marckres was inducted into the North American Maple Hall of Fame by the North American Maple Syrup Council on Saturday May, 14th, 2016, in a special ceremony conducted at the American Maple Museum in Croghan, N.Y. 

“I am honored to be nominated to the Maple Hall of Fame.” said Marckres. “Working with the international maple community has been a continuously rich experience - I think I’ve judged syrup from every single maple producing state and province!  I look forward to continuing to support the promotion and understanding of this unique and valuable product.”

The son of a buyer for a Maple Sugar Company, Marckres, has been tasting and grading Vermont maple syrup since the age of three.  A 30-year veteran of the VAAFM, Henry Marckres is one of the world’s foremost maple experts. In addition to serving on two international maple boards and winning numerous industry awards, including the 2014 Lynn Reynolds International Maple Syrup Industry Award for Leadership, Henry is also the cofounder of the IMSI Maple Grading Schools.  Alongside fellow maple expert Kathy Hopkins, of the University of Maine, Henry launched the educational and professional trainings known as “Maple Grading Schools” throughout maple-producing states in the U.S. and Canadian Provinces to help maple producers, packers and regulators accurately use the four basics of grading – color, clarity, density and flavor.  When he’s not teaching Grading School, or judging maple contests, Marckres utilizes his finely tuned “maple palate” to grade syrups, help producers identify and address “off-flavors”, and protect the integrity and reputation of Vermont’s signature agricultural crop.

“Henry has been a huge asset to our agency and to Vermont’s community of maple producers,” said Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross.  “Henry is an accomplished maple judge, a dedicated educator, and considered by many to be the go-to expert for maple syrup grading.  Henry is a true leader in the international maple community, and this honor is well-deserved.”  

The American Maple Museum was founded in 1977 to preserve the history and evolution of the North American maple syrup industry. Every year, at the Museum’s opening ceremonies in May, two people are inducted into the American Maple Hall of Fame. Members in this select group are from both the U.S. and Canada and are nominated based on their achievements in research, development and leadership in the maple industry. Henry is the 86th inductee to the Maple Hall of Fame.

“Henry is very well known and highly regarded throughout the entire maple industry.” Says Timothy Perkins, director of the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center.  “He is one of the first people to go to with questions or problems with maple syrup quality and off-flavors.  The maple grading classes Henry teaches are always well attended and rank among the best educational opportunities for maple producers around.”

Henry is currently a resident of Brookfield, formerly of Craftsbury, Vermont.

Congratulations Henry!!

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May 31, 2016

By Chuck Ross

VAAFM Mission: to facilitate, support and encourage the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment. 

VAAFM plays a critical role in both promoting and regulating agriculture in Vermont. The stories featured in this month’s issue demonstrate how the Agency effectively fulfills this mission. As you’ll see on the front page, this month the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (administered by the Agency of Agriculture) awarded over $600,000 in grants to 44 businesses, to fuel Vermont’s farm and forest economy. These investments will create jobs and economic opportunity, while also keeping farms and forests in production, thus, preserving the landscape – a clear example of our support for Vermont’s ag economy.

Every day, we are working with Vermont producers to open new markets, help them tell their stories, and create new opportunities for them to showcase their outstanding products. Programs like our Domestic Export Program, our Trade Show Grant Program, and the many forms of technical assistance we provide, help farmers and producers grow, expand, and adapt.

We also have a clear regulatory role. This month we released a new draft of the Required Ag Practices (RAPs), the guidelines farmers must follow to ensure they are protecting our natural resources for future generations. While no business owner finds joy in being regulated, our farmers have been willing and eager partners in drafting these rules. They are deeply invested in the land and the culture of Vermont, and want to be sure future generations can enjoy the natural beauty that defines Vermont. They have worked hard to help us write rules that will be effective, realistic, and fair.

Regulation and promotion go hand in hand – in order to preserve the land, and our way of life, we must put parameters in place to ensure it is protected. When it comes to promoting Vermont, we have a great story to tell: green mountains, best in class agricultural products, clean water, and a pastoral, working landscape. Here at VAAFM, we are working hard to protect and promote these attributes, so they endure, for generations to come.

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May 31, 2016

Announces Public Hearings with Public Comment Period to Run until July 7, 2016

By Ryan Patch

On Friday, May 13, 2016, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) filed the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) Proposed Rule with the Vermont Secretary of State.  This filing represents the start of the formal rulemaking process during which the public will continue to consider the strengthening of agricultural water quality standards for Vermont farms.  A public comment period on the Proposed Rule will be open until July 7, 2016, with five public hearings on the Proposed Rule scheduled for the end of June.  The Proposed Rule is available today on the Agency website: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap

“This Proposed RAP Rule, which will apply to all types of agriculture, represents a serious commitment on the part of the agricultural community to enhance water quality throughout Vermont,” said Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross.  “The Vermont agricultural community is culturally and economically critical to the State of Vermont, and farmers have shown through this process to date—by showing up and providing input— how they truly desire to be part of the solution for clean water throughout Vermont.”

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 in place since 1995 which regulate farms in order to protect water quality, re-written to a higher level of performance. 

VAAFM released a first draft of the RAPs on October 20, 2015 and held a public comment and outreach period which ran until December 18, 2015.  VAAFM then revised the RAPs based on comment received and released a second draft for public review on February 23, 2016.  VAAFM considered comment received from February 23, 2016 up to April 15, 2016 and submitted a third draft of the RAP Rule, as part of a pre-filing process, to the Interagency Committee on Administrative Rules (ICAR) on April 20, 2016.  The ICAR committee met on May 9, 2016 and provided comments the following day, which have since been incorporated into the RAP Proposed Rule.  The ICAR draft is being released today by VAAFM in conjunction with the RAP Proposed Rule, which was filed with the Secretary of State on Friday, May 13, 2016.

The filing of the RAP Proposed Rule initiates the public comment period of the formal rulemaking process.  The public comment period for the Proposed Rule will run from May 16, 2016 to July 7, 2016.  To date, VAAFM has held more than 80 small stakeholder and large public meetings on the RAPs to solicit feedback from farmers, stakeholders and the public.

“VAAFM would like to thank the more than 1800 individuals who attended the over 80 meetings held by VAAFM and our Water Quality Partners since October last year who took the time to provide comments or otherwise participate in this public process,” said VAAFM Agricultural Resource Management Division Director, Jim Leland.  “The public engagement and participation in the process thus far has been instrumental in developing an effective and workable rule for all farms in Vermont.” 

“One of the largest takeaways from the Proposed RAP Rule,” said Leland, “is that while the Rule sets strong baseline performance standards, there is the opportunity for farm operators and planners to develop and submit to the Agency for approval, specialized alternative management plans to address site-specific conditions.”  Leland continues, “This ensures that the Proposed RAP Rule meets the standards for flexibility and water quality required by Act 64 of 2015, as well as the diverse management needs of farm operations throughout the state.”

Public comment can be submitted to the Agency’s RAP e-mail inbox at AGR.RAP@vermont.gov or by mailing written comment to the Agency of Agriculture at 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620. 

Five public hearings will be held in June for farmers, stakeholders and the public to provide testimony and comment on the Proposed RAP Rule.  The Agency will hold two webinars in advance of the formal hearings to present the rules in detail.  These webinars will be recorded and available as videos on the VAAFM website following the presentations.

The Agency has also made available additional summary materials on its website, including two summary factsheets which highlight the most significant changes from the AAPs to the RAPs.  Also posted on the website is a Highlighted Changes Summary which outlines response to comments received on the second draft of the RAPs as well as changes made between the second draft and the proposed rule.  The Agency website also has an updated timeline which has been posted to outline the process moving forward towards a promulgated rule.

For more information about the RAPs, and the Agency’s efforts to implement Act 64 of 2015, please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap or contact the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets at (802) 272-0323.

 

The RAP Proposed Rule can be downloaded here: http://go.usa.gov/cuSHF

A highlight changes summary can be found here: http://go.usa.gov/cuhbx

A farm size summary factsheet can be found here:  http://go.usa.gov/cJqtp

A rule summary factsheet can be found here:  http://go.usa.gov/cJqt6

A document discussing effective dates of the RAPs can be found here: http://go.usa.gov/cJqJA

 

The five public hearings will be held:

                June 21, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the St. Albans Historical Museum, 9 Church Street, St. Albans VT 05478

                June 22, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the Brandon American Legion, 590 Franklin St, Brandon, VT 05733

                June 23, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the Vermont Law School, Chase Center, 164 Chelsea St, South Royalton, VT 05068

                June 28, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the Newport American Legion, 160 Freeman Street, Newport, VT 05855

                June 29, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the Brattleboro American Legion, 32 Linden Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301

 

The Agency will hold two webinars in advance of the formal hearings to present the rules in detail.  These webinars will be recorded and available as videos on the VAAFM website following the presentation.

                May 26, 2016: 10 am – Noon      Register: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/5938291152303942401   

                June 7, 2016: 1 pm – 3 pm           Register: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/5938291152303942401

 

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