2018 Legislative Session Provides Help to Vermont’s Rural Economy

July 10, 2018 / Montpelier VT - At the end of the 2018 Vermont legislative session, a number of bills important to the state’s agricultural community became law.  The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets worked closely with the legislature and administration to bring attention to Vermont’s important rural economy. These new laws help make Vermont more affordable, take care of the most vulnerable, and grow the Vermont economy. 
Below is a partial list of these new laws. 
H.16 - An act relating to making appropriations for the support of government, financing education, and vital records. 
  • The Farm to School program will receive an additional $50,000 in fiscal year 2019; 
  • Vermont Working Lands Enterprise program will receive an additional $106,000 in fiscal year 2019; 
  • Vermont will provide a minimum of $600, not to exceed total premium paid, to dairy producers to        offset costs for participation in the 2018 Federal Margin Protection Program. The AAFM will                administer the reimbursement grant program.  Total funds allocated are $450,000. 
  • Vermont Housing and Conservation Board will receive, $75,000, to continue to provide grant writing assistance for rural development. 
  • The Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) received $250,000 to be used by VEDA’s agricultural subsidiary the Vermont Agricultural Credit Corporation (VACC) for a loss reserve in the 2018 Farm Operating Program, which provides Vermont cow dairy farmers with long-term loans for operating expenses.  
Act 194 (S.276) – An act relating to rural economic development. 
  • Amends the authority of the Rural Economic Development Initiative to focus on providing grant assistance in small towns and rural areas; 
  • Requires the AAFM to go through rulemaking to establish a process to certify nutrient management technical service providers; 
  • Grants AAFM authority to enforce FDA's produce safety rules; and 
  • Amends livestock transport law to provide greater clarity to producers. 
Act 143 (H.663) – An act relating to municipal regulation of accessory on-farm businesses and hemp cultivation 
  • Authorizes and limits municipal land use regulation of an "accessory on-farm business" as defined in the law; 
  • Amends industrial hemp law by creating a pilot program for research, cultivation, and marketing; and 
  • Allows registered industrial hemp growers to purchase hemps seeds or import hemp genetics from any state that complies with federal requirements for the cultivation of industrial hemp. 
  • Gives authority to the AAFM to establish a cannabis quality control program to test for potency, containments and verify label guarantees of hemp and hemp infused products, and to certify other testing laboratories.
Act 168 (S.260) – An act relating to funding the cleanup of State waters. 
  • Renames the Clean Water Fund Board to the Clean Water Board and increases membership on the Board; 
  • Directs that state agencies coordinated water quality grant awards; 
  • Directs AAFM to coordinate with ANR on the development and implementation of a response plan to a designated lake in crisis, enforce relevant agricultural requirements therein, and provide financial assistance for agricultural compliance with the lake in crisis order; and  
  • Directs the AAFM to report on the future of farming practices. 
These are just a few of the highlights of the 2018 session. The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets would like to thank the agriculture community and public for their input. Secretary Anson Tebbetts said, “It was a productive session for Vermont’s farm community. Many thanks to our partners who helped us along the way.  We know this is just the start and we remained focused on improving Vermont’s rural economy. These new laws will help grow our economy and make Vermont more affordable.”
Deputy Secretary Alyson Eastman added, “The new funding and new laws will make a difference to our farmers. We have a strong relationship with the legislature and we want to thank lawmakers for that important partnership. We look forward to building on these programs in the coming months with the help of Governor Scott and the General Assembly.”
For questions, please contact:
Scott Waterman
Policy and Communications Director / Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
Office 802-828-2179 | Cell 802-622-4662