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.”
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