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April 4, 2018

April 4, 2018 / Montpelier, VT - This week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Boston regional office announced that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture has made significant progress toward meeting the state’s water quality goals.

In a letter to the Agency dated April 2nd, EPA regional administrator Alexandra Dapolito Dunn noted, “Your staff have clearly been working hard to get new programs off the ground, rapidly award large amounts of new funding to priority phosphorus reduction projects, ramp up inspection programs and establish the new comprehensive tracking and accounting system. The many milestones that have been completed reflect this excellent progress.” 

This independent review means Vermont’s farmers, partners and the Agency are on the right track.  In fact, the Agency of Agriculture met all of its milestones with a perfect score; 14 out of 14. Benchmarks cited by the EPA as part of the Agency’s multi-year plan include a full revision of statewide rules for agricultural land management, training and certification for those who apply manure to the land, an increase in targeted conservation practices, and visiting every farm in the Missisquoi Bay watershed to better understand the land practices with a focus on education, outreach and inspections.

Dunn added “We commend the state for all the good work completed to date… thank you for your commitment to restoring Lake Champlain.” 

This encouraging report is part of a larger accountability agreement put in place by the EPA to monitor Vermont’s water quality progress. In 2016, after Vermont passed Act 64 of 2015 (the State’s Clean Water Act), the EPA established phosphorus pollution limits for Lake Champlain. These limits, termed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirements, include a set of milestones the State must reach. To ensure the requirements are being met, the State must report to EPA each year. In response, the EPA delivers an annual report card that evaluates the State’s progress.

Agricultural water quality is a program that the Agency will continue to build upon. With leadership, Vermont’s farmers, watershed groups, and federal and state partners are all pulling together in the right direction. The work is not easy but with commitment, focus and collaboration our water quality efforts are expanding, and these programs and accomplishments are catching the eyes of stakeholders nationwide.

To view the EPA Report Card, visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/ag/files/EPA%20Report%20Card%2004.0...

Secretary Anson Tebbetts / Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

April 3, 2018

MONTPELIER -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released Vermont’s clean water report card today. The report evaluates the state’s efforts to implement the Lake Champlain phosphorus reduction goals. The EPA commended the State’s work in meeting nearly 90% of its water quality milestones, and for making significant progress toward the remaining milestones.

“Vermont has demonstrated commitment to implementing the phosphorus Total Maximum Daily Load for Lake Champlain and establishing a strong framework to support future phosphorus load reductions,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn. “To date, Vermont has completed 25 of 28 Phase 1 milestones, many of which required significant effort by many parts of state government. The EPA has given Vermont an assessment of “provisional pass” contingent on Vermont’s completion of the three remaining milestones by mid-2019. The EPA is proud to partner with Vermont on this effort to keep Lake Champlain beautiful for generations today and in the future and will continue to provide technical support along this important journey.”

Vermont passed Act 64 (the State’s Clean Water Act) in 2015 and a “Phase I” implementation plan containing the state’s policy and program commitments. Many of the components of Act 64 are incorporated into the clean-up goals – or Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) – the EPA established for Lake Champlain in 2016. The TMDL contains a suite of milestones called the Accountability Framework to ensure that the TMDL goals will be achieved over the 20-year implementation period. The State submitted a progress report to EPA in March 2018, outlining the steps it has taken toward meeting these milestones. In response, the EPA delivered this report card that reviews and evaluates the State’s progress.

Vermont has met 25 out of 28 milestones in the TMDL’s Accountability Framework and is already advancing significant implementation goals including fully updated Tactical Basin Plans for the South Lake Champlain, Lamoille, North Lake Champlain and Missisquoi watersheds, as well as hosting education, outreach and compliance activities for farmers in the Missisquoi Bay watershed.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets met all EPA agricultural water quality milestones for this reporting period. Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts added, “This independent review by the Environmental Protection Agency highlights the great work that’s being done across the Lake Champlain Basin, including efforts being made by Vermont’s farmers, partners and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. The report card shows meaningful progress in meeting our water quality goals. We look forward to building on this progress.”

In the letter, the EPA noted it was also encouraged by progress towards the remaining three milestones and granted a provisional pass to the state with the understanding those milestones will be met within the next year. These milestones include issuing general permits for municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4) and for parcels of developed land with more than three acres of impervious (hard) surfaces, as well as continuing the work needed to ensure sufficient, long-term revenue to support water quality improvements.

The Vermont Legislature is currently working on H.576 - An act relating to stormwater management, and the Agency of Natural Resources stands ready to move forward with stormwater rulemaking as soon as the Legislature completes their work. The EPA recognized the funding commitments that have been made to clean water through 2027, and the on-going efforts of the State of Vermont and the Vermont Legislature to identify a long-term funding strategy.

The EPA report card points to the significant steps that have been taken in the first two years of Vermont’s 20-year commitment to achieving better water quality. Secretary of Natural Resources Julie Moore noted, “We appreciate the review and feedback provided by the EPA, which is reflective of the incredible sum of work that has been completed since the passage of the Vermont Clean Water Act in 2015. This work includes putting in place a robust suite of programs and permits that will ensure the clean-up Lake Champlain and stewardship of all Vermont’s waters. We have more work to do, but this is a good indication of the progress we’ve made and where we need to go from here.”

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Image caption & credit: Before (left) and after (right) installation of a stone-lined ditch to control erosion caused by runoff from Fayston Road. This project was completed by Friends of the Mad River with Ecosystem Restoration funds. (Credit: VT Department of Environmental Conservation)

March 30, 2018

March 29, 2018 / Montpelier, VT – April 1st marks the end of Vermont’s winter manure spreading ban for non-frequently flooded fields in Vermont, but with another cold and wet spring bringing adverse field conditions to most of Vermont, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) is issuing a spring stewardship reminder to ensure that farmers are aware that water quality rules will restrict manure spreading activities until the weather and individual field conditions improve. The Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs), newly revised in December of 2016, prohibits the application of manure on frozen or snow-covered ground, or to any fields where field conditions are conducive to runoff into Vermont’s waters.

Showers and snowfall are forecasted in some parts of the state through the coming weekend and farmers are urged to take caution when spreading through the spring months. Timing of crop nutrient application is important not only to avoid runoff from farm fields, but also to achieve efficient nutrient uptake and maximize crop yield.

The RAPs outline that manure cannot be applied to fields that are frozen or snow-covered, nor to fields that are saturated, likely to runoff, or are conducive to any other off-site movement regardless of nutrient management plan recommendations. In addition, the manure spreading ban continues through April 14 on all fields that are determined to be frequently flooded. If you are unsure whether your fields are frequently flooded, please go to agriculture.vermont.gov/floodplain or call the Agency of Agriculture at 802-828-2431 for assistance with identifying fields.

“More than 70 custom applicators are now certified in Vermont after demonstrating knowledge of water quality regulations and management practices to avoid environmental risks when spreading manure. In addition, farmers have begun acquiring water quality educational credits. The agricultural community is engaged in water quality improvement, and farmers are making management changes to preserve and improve water quality across Vermont,” said Laura DiPietro, Director of the Water Quality Division at VAAFM.

Farmers concerned about storage capacity in their manure pits are encouraged to call the Agency to discuss options available for managing, transferring, or developing emergency manure spreading exemption plans.  The Agency is committed to working with farmers to find solutions. VAAFM has the following additional reminders for farmers this Spring:

  • If you still have capacity in your manure pit, wait for the optimal weather and field conditions for spreading.
  • If you do not have capacity in your pit, reach out to VAAFM to seek alternative solutions or an exemption.
  • Do not spread manure on saturated ground that will runoff to surface water, or before major rain events.
  • After spreading any nutrient (liquid or solid manure, compost, or fertilizer) be sure to keep accurate records of the manure or nutrients applied.

When evaluating fields over the coming weeks to assess appropriate manure spreading conditions, the most important question that farmers and manure applicators need to ask is: ‘When applied to this field, will manure runoff to surface water or a ditch?’  Individual field conditions will vary significantly across the State, and farmers need to assess their fields carefully and take action to ensure that they are in compliance with the rules and are protecting our waterways.

Vermont’s winter manure spreading ban, which prohibits spreading between December 15 and April 1, began in 1995.

For more information about the RAPs, the winter manure spreading ban, or for recommendations regarding early season spreading practices, please visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/RAP

To request an exemption to the prohibition from spreading on frozen or snow-covered ground, please call VAAFM Water Quality Staff, either: Laura DiPietro, 802-595-1990 or Dave Huber, 802-461-7160.

Contact:

Ryan Patch

Sr. Ag Development Coordinator

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

802-272-0323

Ryan.Patch@Vermont.gov

March 29, 2018

Montpelier, Vt. – The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) awarded $74,000 to nine Vermont produce growers making on-farm improvements that prevent or reduce produce safety risks. Prompted by high demand, VAAFM’s Produce Program issued a second round of funding to help Vermont producers continue to grow food safely, efficiently, and economically.

Funds were granted on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible farms that grow, harvest, pack, or hold “covered produce” as defined by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule. In the first round, eight farms received $74,029 to assist with on-farm food safety improvements. In total, the program has awarded $148,029 to 17 Vermont produce farms. In both rounds, applications exceeded the total available funds within minutes; a total of 44 applicants requested $353,470 in produce safety improvement grant funds.

“Our farms are working hard to go above and beyond produce safety standards. The number of farms seeking funds to implement produce safety practices is truly remarkable. We encourage farmers to work with our Produce Safety Team to learn about additional funding opportunities in the future,” said Vermont Agriculture Secretary, Anson Tebbetts.

Projects granted in the second round include renovations to wash and pack areas, equipment upgrades and improvements to produce cold storage on the farms listed below:

  • Ananda Gardens to retrofit an existing barn to be adequately equipped to wash and pack produce ($10,000)
  • Bear Roots Farm to install a year-round produce washroom and walk-in cooler in a new barn space and add stainless steel washing equipment ($10,000)
  • Harlow Farm to update the root vegetable wash and pack line with materials that can be easily cleaned and sanitized ($6,179)
  • Chapin Orchard to upgrade storage and processing areas with food-grade plastic panels, a stainless-steel sink, and epoxy-based floor treatments and create effective drainage in the facility ($5,740)
  • Naked Acre Farm to build a wash/pack house that will be sealed from outside elements ($6,179)
  • New Leaf CSA to upgrade the wash/pack area to a covered facility, add a cold storage unit, and install stainless steel counters and a sink for produce washing and handling ($9,502)
  • Shelburne Orchards to add a protective insulation layer to the refrigerated storage room that can be effectively cleaned ($10,000)
  • Singing Cedars Farmstead to improve the primary packing shed to exclude outside elements and add cleanable surfaces and storage for packaged produce and supplies ($10,000)
  • Red Wagon Plants to improve the produce wash station by adding a covered roof and concrete pad ($6,400)  

VAAFM’s Produce Program is committed to assisting produce growers with making produce safety improvements and upgrades to their farm operation focused on food safety and improving the sustainability of their businesses.  For more details about the program visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/produceprogram.

Questions related to the Produce Safety Improvement Grants or the FSMA Produce Safety Rule should be directed to (802) 522-3132 or AGR.FSMA@vermont.gov

Contact:
Dominique Giroux
Education & Outreach Coordinator (Produce Safety)
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets
(802) 522-3132
Dominique.Giroux@vermont.gov

 

March 28, 2018

Montpelier, Vt. - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is pleased to announce five Local Food Market Development (LFMD) Grants, totaling $50,000, awarded to support projects that will assist Vermont farmers, businesses, and food system service providers in reaching new markets with an institutional or other wholesale focus in Vermont. 

This year the agency has partnered with the High Meadows Fund who contributed an additional $20,000 to augment the $30,000 from the Vermont Legislature for this grant initiative. “The strong program similarities between the VAAFM’s Local Food Market Development Grant Program and the priorities of philanthropic partners’ agricultural initiatives, provides an opportunity to grow economic success for Vermont farm and food businesses, while providing quality food to more Vermont markets,” says Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “We are proud to establish this partnership with the High Meadows Fund to develop new opportunities for Vermont producers.”

Projects were selected by an independent review committee out of 15 applications, totaling requests of nearly $140,000.  FY18 grantees include:

Last Resort Farm – Monkton, VT

Mountain Home Farm – Tunbridge, VT

Stonewood Farm – Orwell, VT

Food Connects – Brattleboro, VT

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) – Richmond, VT

All five grantees will receive $10,000 for projects that will improve access to institutional and wholesale market expansion by improving quality, efficiency, and food safety with the goal of mitigating the financial risks associated with scaling up to meet new market demands.

For more information on the LFMD grant program, please visit: www.agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/funding_opportunities/vaafm_funding/local_food_market

For more information about the High Meadows Fund at the Vermont Community Foundation, visit: www.highmeadowsfund.org

Contact:

Alissa Matthews

Agriculture Development Coordinator

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets

(802) 505-1661

alissa.matthews@vermont.gov

 

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