March 22, 2022— The Vermont Agricultural Water Quality Partnership (VAWQP) released its 2021 Annual Report when marking a milestone in the decade-long commitment to water quality in the Green Mountain State. The report, highlighting impacts of state and federal investments toward protecting and improving water quality, comes as the Partnership celebrates ten years of collaboration among the nine organizations that assist farmers in their conservation goals. The VAWQP report shares conservation practice implementation data which indicates a high level of commitment from Vermont farmers in land stewardship.
The VAWQP reports that in 2021, $24.3 million was invested by state and federal entities throughout Vermont to implement agricultural water quality projects. This assistance helped farmers install conservation practices such as crop rotation, manure injection, reduced tillage and cover crops, and riparian forested and grass buffers. In addition, 235 acres of wetlands were protected through easements on private lands. Wetlands improve water quality by filtering sediments, nutrients, and chemicals; reducing flooding; recharging groundwater; protecting biological diversity; and providing opportunities for educational, scientific, and recreational activities.
"This report emphasizes the progress farmers are making. Their investments are making a difference in their community and on their farms. We are all rowing in the same direction and it’s working,” said Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets Secretary, Anson Tebbetts. These meaningful gains in water quality improvement on farms were reflected in the recent Clean Water Initiative Performance (CWIP) report, published by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
The CWIP report summarizes how Vermont’s $257 million investment in water quality over the past six years is paying off by improving water quality in Vermont’s rivers, lakes, and wetlands. This report shares that 16% of the Lake Champlain Basin and 12% of the Lake Memphremagog Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) required phosphorus reductions have already been met through clean water programs. Estimated phosphorus load reduction from the agricultural sector in 2021 was estimated at 36.6 metric tons. This includes the results of farmers participating in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Bill programs, and technical assistance and regulatory program results such as the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets production area compliance.
In recognition of World Water Day and National Agriculture Day, we celebrate the 2021 conservation data illustrating that farmers are accelerating their contributions towards conservation practices which benefit water quality and soil health. It is estimated that farmers invested $6.3 million of their own dollars, apart from state or federal assistance, to install conservation practices.
Vermont is fortunate to have substantial programs and resources available to support farmers in adopting conservation practices for water quality, and it is with enthusiasm that we celebrate 10 years of the Vermont Agricultural Water Quality Partnership (VAWQP). The mission of the VAWQP is to improve agricultural water quality in Vermont by coordinating partners' efforts to provide education, technical and financial assistance to the farming community. The Partnership is collaborating to leverage unique resources, funding mechanisms, technical expertise, outreach techniques, etc. to advance this statewide effort.
“It is collaborations like the Vermont Agricultural Water Quality Partnership that help us reach our conservation and water quality goals,” said Travis Thomason, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist in Vermont. “For a decade now, this robust partnership has enhanced the momentum behind our conservation work and ensured that our customers and stakeholders are informed and engaged in our collaborative work. This results in a positive impact on our natural resources in Vermont, and I look forward to the continued success of the partnership for decades to come."
The VAWQP is encouraged by the reduced phosphorus loads and applauds Vermont farmers for everything they continue to do to protect and improve water quality. To learn more about the VAWQP visit https://vtagcleanwater.org/.
The Vermont Agricultural Water Quality Partnership (VAWQP) is dedicated to collaborating with and supporting farmers in their efforts to improve water quality. The Partnership seeks to accelerate improved water quality by collaborating to provide outreach, education, technical and financial assistance directly to farmers with respect for each partner’s vision, role and capacity.