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May 1, 2018

                                      State Looking To Recover, Sell Nutrient

By MICHELLE MONROE

St. Albans Messenger Staff Writer

Gov. Phil Scott announces the start of his Vermont Phosphorous Innovation Challenge (VPIC) during a visit to the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery on Friday.

ST. ALBANS — While in town to kick off the Vermont Maple Festival on Friday, Gov. Phil Scott and three members of his cabinet stopped by the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery to announce the first part of the administration’s Vermont Phosphorous Innovation Challenge.

The purpose of the challenge is to get entrepreneurs looking at possible to export phosphorous out of vulnerable watersheds.

Phosphorous is an essential nutrient, but in excess quantities it fuels the growth of cyanobacteria, better known as blue-green algae, which impairs the quality of lakes and streams. In Lake Champlain the state has been charged with stopping the flow of 216 metric tons within 20 years by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Citing a University of Vermont (UVM) study, Scott said the state is importing more phosphorous into vulnerable watersheds than it is exporting. The purpose of the challenge is to turn some of that excess phosphorous into products which can be sold both in and out of state.

This approach, he noted, has the added possibility of generating revenue and creating jobs.

“We’re looking for engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Scott. “It was important to me to work on a solution that both preserves farming and clean water.”

Possible approaches include the making of compost, fertilizers and bio-char, said Secretary of Natural Resources Julie Moore.

Secretary of Commerce Michael Schirling said the state will be accepting applications for proof of concept and requests for seed money for the next two months.

The state has $250,000 available for grants, said Moore, and expects to award funding to between five and eight projects.

Scientists and business people from outside the government will assist in the selection.

Moore pointed out that phosphorous is “essential for plant growth, human health and animal health.”

Nutrient cycling is a part of every ecosystem with plants pulling nutrients from the ground, animals consuming the plants and/or other animals which have eaten plants, and then the animals defecating, returning some of the nutrients to the ground. The rest are returned when the animals die and the nutrients from their decaying bodies are returned to the soil.

Ideally, that cycle is a closed loop with the total amount of nutrients in the system remaining relatively stable over the long term.

“We don’t have a closed loop,” said Moore. “Vermont imports phosphorous.” That phosphorous comes in the form of both fertilizers and animal feed.

According to the UVM study, Vermont is importing an excess 1,500 tons of phosphorous each year, noted Moore.

Most of that phosphorous doesn’t end up in waterways, but a fraction does, according to Moore.

“Vermont’s waterways are very sensitive to even these small amounts,” she said.

That phosphorous is a valuable commodity, noted Schirling, with a finite amount remaining in the handful of mines around the world. When that phosphorous runs into the oceans, as it does when it gets into rivers that empty directly into the ocean such as the Connecticut River, it becomes unavailable, Schirling pointed out.

The state hopes to begin the process of recovering that phosphorous, which Florida is also trying to do in the Everglades.

“We don’t want to run out of it, because it’s essential for life,” said Schirling.

Recovering phosphorous in a form more portable than manure may also help to reduce the need to import chemical fertilizers, added Moore.

Swanton farmer Marie Audet is already making fertilizers on her farm. “We’re continually closing up that loop,” she said.

Farmers, Audet said, are doing everything they can to keep phosphorous on their fields. Adopting management practices intended to protect water has also improved soil.

“We are seeing improvements in our soil,” she said. “It’s becoming more spongy.”

That sponginess, Audet added, is crucial to reducing runoff because it enables the soil to absorb more water even as climate change brings more precipitation to the area.

Audet’s family makes compost which they share with neighbors as well as contributing to the making of Magic Dirt.

On her farm, they are already using a digester to create energy, bedding, solids used in compost and liquid which is applied to fields.

She wants to add equipment which will extract more phosphorous from the manure.

“We want to make another value-added product,” she said. “We’re working every single day to insure we have clean water,” said Audet. Farmers, she added, “are passionate about our families and our communities.”

The state has invested $100 million in clean water over the last two years, Scott noted saying, “I understand and share the urgency.”

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April 30, 2018
Calls for Technical Phosphorus Management Solutions that will Provide Economic Opportunity in Vermont

St. Albans, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today announced his Administration has officially opened Stage One of the Vermont Phosphorus Innovation Challenge (VPIC). Stage One is a reverse pitch, calling for proposals of creative, viable approaches to effectively remove phosphorus from manure or other organic waste streams, so that phosphorous can be used as a commodity to create economic development opportunities.

The State of Vermont will assist successful proposals through customized support, incentive funding and future market opportunities. VPIC will be implemented and managed by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets; the Agency of Natural Resources; and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

“The goal is to use a ‘reverse pitch,’ a problem-solving method familiar to technology innovators, to identify entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists and others who have a scalable technique or technology to mitigate the impact of phosphorus before it enters the watershed," said Commerce Secretary Michael Schirling.  

In total, the State will invest more than $1 billion over the next 20 years to reduce phosphorus pollution. This includes current and ongoing efforts to implement conservation measures and best management practices, tailored to lessen phosphorus losses from farms and decrease phosphorus loading from stormwater runoff in developed communities. The VPIC will build upon – not replace – these foundational phosphorus control efforts.

The VPIC will be a valuable tool to address this phosphorus imbalance. With the growth of knowledge encompassing composting, digestion of organic solids, energy capture, and soil chemistry, the State hopes to see a variety of proposals for market-driven or market-supported solutions that can extract phosphorus for recycling and reuse.

“As phosphorus accumulates in the soil, the job asked of our best management practices and conservation measures – to protect water quality – becomes a taller and taller order," stated Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore. "One of the most straightforward ways to correct the imbalance is to repurpose excess phosphorus to form value-added products, such as composts, organic fertilizers and biochar.”

Agriculture, Food & Markets Secretary Anson Tebbettsadded, “I am excited to see what types of innovative solutions we are presented with through the Phosphorus Innovation Challenge to help us build upon the good work that farmers are already doing through conservation practices such as cover cropping and the use of best management practices.” Tebbetts continued, “Creating an economic initiative for phosphorus reuse or recycling would be a win-win for Vermont. We look forward to working alongside Governor Scott and our partners to find the best possible solutions for our state and our communities.”

Timeline and details for interested parties are as follows:

  • On April 27, 2018, an invitation will be issued for proposals to develop a “proof of concept” for processes or technologies that remove phosphorus from manure or other waste streams and make the recovered phosphorus available for beneficial reuse.
  • By May 11, 2018, prospective applicants are encouraged to email their intent to participate in the challenge toterry.smith@vermont.gov. This deadline will not be used to exclude teams but, rather, to assess space and resource requirements for subsequent portions of the process.
  • On May 21, 2018, the Administration will hold a meeting from 1-3 pm at the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) Annex with interested parties to field questions and discuss the challenge. Questions may also be submitted via email to terry.smith@vermont.gov.  The closing date for questions about Stage One will be May 25, 2018.
    • The ANR Annex is located at: 190 Junction Rd, Berlin, VT
  • Stage One proposals must be received, via email, by 5pm on July 6, 2018.

Some, or all, of the teams submitting responses to Stage One will be selected to make an in-person presentation to the Evaluation Team in August 2018. The Evaluation Team will be comprised of subject matter experts, scientists, entrepreneurs, and State officials.

For more information on the VPIC, including details and criteria for participation, visit:http://agriculture.vermont.gov/phosphorus_challenge

Please direct any questions regarding the VPIC to terry.smith@vermont.gov or call (802) 828-5667.

April 23, 2018

Public comment period to open April 23, 2018 and run through May 4, 2018.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is releasing a second revised draft of the Medium Farm Operations General Permit (MFO GP). The Agency is initiating a second public comment period, which begins on April 23, 2018 and will conclude on May 4, 2018. 

The MFO GP sets standards for MFOs in the State of Vermont generating animal waste to ensure they do not have a discharge of waste to the waters of the State and operate in accordance with their Nutrient Management Plan (NMP). Unless otherwise given notice by the Agency, all farms meeting the definition of a MFO in the State of Vermont are required to operate under the coverage of this General Permit (GP). All MFOs must follow the Required Agricultural Practices in addition to requirements outlined in the MFO GP.

The Agency is required to update the MFO GP every five years as outlined in MFO program rules. The current MFO GP was issued in 2012 and is therefore due for updating; the 2012 MFO GP continues in force and effect until a new MFO GP is issued. The MFO GP was established in 2007 and underwent revision for the first time in 2012. Once effective, the revised MFO GP will be effective from 2018 to 2023.

For the current revision of the MFO GP, a first draft was released on October 2, 2017, accompanied by a public hearing on November 2, 2017 in Montpelier. A public comment period was open from October 2, 2017 through December 1, 2017. The Agency reviewed public comments received during the comment period and made revisions, as necessary, to the first draft of the MFO GP. Ensuring the regulated community and other interested parties have sufficient time to review and comment on proposed changes, VAAFM is releasing a second revised draft of the MFO GP and announcing a second public comment period.

The public comment period will be open from April 23, 2018 to April May 4, 2018. Following the closure of the public comment period the VAAFM will respond to all comments submitted throughout the duration of this revision process and release a responsiveness summary at the time the final MFO GP is issued.

The Agency encourages all interested parties to review the second draft of the MFO GP and submit any comments electronically to: AGR.WaterQuality@vermont.gov or in writing to:

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

Attention: Water Quality Division

116 State St.

Montpelier, VT 05620

For more information about the MFO GP revision process, or to read the draft MFO GP in full, please visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/mfo/gp

April 18, 2018

Vermont Governor Phil Scott addresses the Agri-Mark annual conference. Secretary Anson Tebbetts is also in attendance at this important meeting of New England and New York dairy producers. #VT

April 18, 2018

New Grant Opportunity for Associations that Promote Vermont Agriculture, Food, Beverage, Forest, and Fiber Products

Accepting applications beginning May 3, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Montpelier, VT – Vermont agriculture, food, beverage, forest, and fiber product associations provide support to the development of Vermont’s economy and the viability of our working landscape businesses. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is committed to assist these organizations by providing funding for marketing projects that enhance the work they are doing.

VAAFM will accept applications for the Vermont Producer Association Grant Program beginning Thursday, May 3, 2018, on a first come, first serve basis for eligible applicants. Producer associations interested in applying for the grant opportunity are encouraged to register online as soon as possible, and submit applications once they are accepted, on May 3, 2018.

Eligible applicants must be Vermont-based non-profit organizations that represent and promote Vermont agriculture, food, beverage, forest, and/or fiber products. A total of $16,000 in grants funds are available and grants of $1,000-$2,000 will be awarded. Project proposals need to be part of an established, multi-year marketing plan and growth strategy of the industry represented and must end before November 15, 2018.

  • Visit https://go.usa.gov/xQ4Tg (case sensitive) to download the Request for Proposals, which outlines grant eligibility and submission requirements.
  • Log into https://agriculturegrants.vermont.gov to create a user account. This is where you will submit your online application.
  • Plan your project and prepare to submit your application on May 3, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Questions related to the Vermont Producer Association Grant Program should be directed at (802) 505-1822 or alexandra.zipparo@vermont.gov

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