The Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) are standards to which all types of farms must be managed to reduce the impact of agricultural activities to water quality. The RAPs include required practices and management strategies, some of which apply to all farms and some of which are specific to certain sizes of operation or to certain environmental factors.
These standards are intended to improve the quality of Vermont’s waters by reducing and eliminating cropland erosion, sediment losses, and nutrient losses through improved farm management techniques, technical and compliance assistance, and where appropriate, enforcement. The RAPs establish nutrient, manure, and waste storage standards, make recommendations for soil health and establish requirements for vegetated buffer zones and livestock exclusion from surface water. The RAPs also establish standards for nutrient management planning and soil conservation. Resources are available in the form of both technical and financial assistance for farmers to help them comply with the RAPs.
We developed an RAP short summary which is meant to inform farmers about the RAPs, but the full rule should be referenced for further information regarding site specific concerns, variances, exemptions, and complete management practices required by the RAPs.
Technical and Financial Assistance
There is a range of resources for farmers around RAP implementation and compliance in the form of both technical and financial assistance.
Farm Definitions and Determinations
Section 4413(d) of Title 24 (Municipal and County Government) of Vermont Statutes Annotated (V.S.A.) limits the application of municipal land use regulations on farm operations regulated under the RAP rules, including the construction of farm structures. When asked, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) can determine if your operation meets the basic definition of a farm under the RAPs and will provide its opinion on whether the operation meets minimum thresholds for the applicability of the rule, and the activities on the parcel are farming and agricultural practices.
Farm Sizes and Certification Requirements
Larger farms that meet the criteria to be certified may qualify as a Certified Small Farm Operation (CSFO), Medium Farm Operation (MFO), or Large Farm Operation (LFO). In addition to the various standards included in the RAPs, farms that meet the criteria to be considered at least a Certified Small Farm Operation (CSFO) will need to annually certify compliance with the RAPs as well as develop and implement nutrient management plans.
Educational Requirements: Water Quality Training Credits
Four hours of Agricultural Water Quality Training is now required every five years for CSFO, MFO and LFO operators and approved events can be found on the Agencies Event Page. There are a plethora of events that qualify for water quality educational credits. Any organization intested in offering water quality training credits should visit the Water Quality Initiatives page to apply for credits.
Water Quality Credits can also be obtained through the online RAP Quiz, a useful online educational course for livestock farmers and service providers to spread awareness about the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) and water quality management options. The RAP Quiz is an engaging education course that includes an outline of how the RAPs apply to your farmstead, ﬁeld & nutrient management, video and photo examples of commonly misunderstood RAP topics, such as livestock exclusion from surface water, information on how diﬀerent management practices impact water quality, and links to resources for grants and assistance. The quiz takes about an hour to complete and Farmers will receive two water quality credits upon successful completion of the quiz.
RAPs by Farm Activity Type
The RAPs apply to all farms in Vermont. Explore these factsheets for more information on the elements of the RAPs that are particularly applicable depending on the type of operation.
These informational sheets answer some frequently asked questions on specific sections of the RAPs, such as farm structures, the distinction between surface water and ditches, and the 2018 tile drain rule amendment.
Frequently Flooded Fields
If you own lands which fall into the designation of frequently flooded soil class (USDA Soil Survey), there are specific practices required for these field areas including:
- Cover Cropping: Frequently flooded soils, (USDA Soil Survey Flooding Frequency Class) must be cover-cropped for the winter by October 1 if broadcast seeded, or October 15 if drilled or otherwise incorporated.
- Extended Spreading Ban: Manure and other agricultural wastes cannot be applied to areas of land with frequently flooded soils, (USDA Soil Survey Flooding Frequency Class) between October 16 and April 14.
- If you are concerned about meeting the requirements for floodplain fields, please complete the floodplain planning process.
Variances and Exemptions
Fill out the Floodplain Fields Exemption and Seasonal Variance to request the reclassification of incorrectly mapped fields and/or explain the circumstances which made you unable to meet manure application or cover cropping dates as outlined within the RAPs.
Fill out the manure site stacking variance to request a variance for:
- Siting Setback for Field Stacked Manure or Compost per RAPs § 6.02(f)
- Siting Setback for Composting of Animal Mortalities per RAPs § 6.08(d)
- Siting Setback for Burial of Animal Mortalities per RAPs § 6.08(d)
Submit Variance or Exemption forms:
By Mail: Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets: Water Quality Program, 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620
By Email: AGR.WaterQuality@Vermont.gov
Call the Agency of Agriculture with any questions or concerns related to the Required Agricultural Practices Rule at (802) 828-1702 or (802) 828-2431.