Your April Update from the Water Quality Team

The Agency of Agriculture Has Formed a Committee to Seek Advice and Input from Farmers Regarding RAP Implementation

By Laura DiPietro, VAAFM
 
After nearly two years of collaborative rulemaking between the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM), the Vermont agricultural community, Vermont lawmakers, and other local, state, federal partners, the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) Rule went into effect on December 5, 2016. 
 
The RAPs outline new baseline management standards for all Vermont farms designed to improve and protect the health and integrity of Vermont’s waterways. Throughout the rulemaking process, the Agricultural Resource Management (ARM) Division Water Quality Team hosted over 90 public information and comment hearings throughout Vermont in order to fully understand community perspectives and the range of challenges facing ag operations. The product of these conversations was the addition of a series of variances, alternatives, and management plans to the final RAPs that can be approved by the Agency to support unique circumstances.
 
The Water Quality Team has created a RAP Development Committee to help solicit and incorporate community input regarding the development of these variances, alternatives and management plans. The goal of this committee is to help develop a process by which the farming community can review draft guidance and share feedback about what works on the ground for farms in Vermont.
 
The information and feedback captured by the RAPDevelopment Committee will be incorporated into the final RAPs guidance documentation to be used by agricultural community as they develop farm-specific management plans. 
 
The RAP Development Committee is comprised of representatives from:
 
Champlain Valley Farm Coalition
CT River Watershed Farmer Alliance
Farmer’s Watershed Alliance
Northeast Organic Farmers Association VT
Rural Vermont
Vermont Dairy Producers Alliance
Vermont Farm Bureau 
 
Vermont farmers are encouraged to contact RAP Development Committee members to share ideas, concerns, and ask questions.
 
The Agency remains open to comment and feedback, and we look forward to continuing our work together to ensure the long-term health of Vermont’s waterways and the growth and viability of Vermont agriculture.
Call our RAP coordinator at: 802-272-0323, or e-mail: AGR.RAP@vermont.gov
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Grant Money Available to Vermont Farmers Through Agency of Ag’s BMP Program

Technical assistance and up to 90% cost share available for some practices

By Jessica Buckley, VAAFM

The Best Management Practices  (BMP) Program is a State of Vermont grant program designed to assist farmers with the implementation of structural conservation practices to improve water quality. BMP Grant funds can be used to support a wide variety of projects, including, but not limited to:

  • Composting stack pad
  • Barnyard runoff collection
  • Gutter/ditch clean water diversion
  • Laneway development and stream crossings
  • Exclusion fencing and watering facilities 
  • Milk House waste collection and treatment
  • Silage leachate collection and treatment

BMP grant details:

  • Farmer’s equipment and labor costs are eligible for reimbursement
  • Farmers will receive reimbursement upon certified project completion
  • Final payment will be determined by actual project costs as documented by itemized invoices
  • Grant agreements must be in place prior to the start of construction
  • Grant applications will be reviewed and awarded on a competitive basis, not all requests will be granted

BMP applications can be found online at: agriculture.vermont.gov/BMP 

Or contact Jeff Cook, Financial Manager: (802) 828–3474

Do you have a NRCS EQIP Contract?

VAAFM could contribute up to $200,000 towards your project with our BMP program. 

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  Spring is Almost Here!

Here’s your spring crop field management checklist

By Nina Gage, VAAFM
 
As the sun gets stronger and the days get longer, it’s time to start thinking about spring crop field management . Here’s your checklist of the top five most important components of proper crop field management per the new RAPs.
  1. Maintain or establish 25’ Vegetated Buffers adjacent to surface waters (e.g. streams, rivers, ponds)
  2. Maintain or establish 10’ Vegetated Buffers adjacent to ditches
  3. Manure may not be applied in buffers, and buffers can be either grass or trees
  4. Get your soils tested
  5. Keep accurate records of nutrient applications
A complete version of the RAP rules document is available for download here: Agriculture.Vermont.gov/RAP Or call the Agency for more information or assistance with site assessments. 
 
Need help? Have questions? Call the RAP hotline or send us an email – we’re here to assist!
RAP Hotline: 802-828-1702. Email: AGR.RAP@vermont.gov
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What To Expect When You’re Inspected

  New informational video helps small Vermont farms prepare for certification

 
By Ryan Patch, VAAFM
 
We are very much looking forward to getting to know more of the small farmers in our Vermont ag community through the new Small Farm Certification program, which begins on July 1, 2017. To help ensure our small farmers feel informed about and prepared for the certification process, the VAAFM has produced an informational video that provides a preview of the inspection process, which is one of the first steps towards farm certification will look like on your farm. Click HERE to watch the video. 
 
The video aims to shed light on the inspection process itself, outline what the Agency is looking for when we assess a farm, and discuss opportunities the Agency has to provide financial and technical support to farmers to comply with new water quality rules.
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