Blog

November 16, 2018

For Immediate Release:

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

Vermont Urges Produce Industry to Comment on Newly Released FSMA Produce Safety Rule Draft Guidance

November 16, 2018 / Montpelier, VT - For the first time, farmers growing fresh fruits and vegetables have a new resource to better understand Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR) requirements. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued comprehensive draft guidance that includes recommendations and examples on how to comply with PSR requirements in a newly released document. Vermont’s Produce Program at the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets is asking farmers, producers, educators and service providers to contribute.

“As we work to grow the Vermont produce industry, we encourage farmers, educators and service providers to take a look at the draft guidance provided by the FDA and weigh in. This will be an important tool to help our farms comply with the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule,” said Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Anson Tebbetts

The Draft Guidance for Industry on the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption was released in October 2018, and is open for public comments for 180 days, ending on April 22, 2019.

Access the complete draft guidance on FDA’s website: https://go.usa.gov/xPfej

FDA is holding four public meetings across the U.S. to receive comments in person from farmers, educators, and service providers impacted by the Rule. The northeastern public meeting will be held on December 11th in Albany, NY. Visit the registration page at https://go.usa.gov/xPfe4 for further details.

It’s important to note that the draft guidance is not a legally binding document, however it is a useful resource for industry to better understand FDA’s current thinking on many topics, including for example methods for cleaning food contact surfaces, employee training requirements, and guidelines for monitoring domestic and wild animal intrusion on the farm.

You can submit your comments and questions in several ways:

1.     Submit electronic comments to https://www.regulations.gov.
Search for: The Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption: Guidance for Industry Draft Guidance and click “Comment Now!”

2.     Submit written comments to Dockets Management Staff (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. All comments should be identified with the docket number FDA-2018-D-3631 listed in the notice of availability that publishes in the Federal Register.

3.     Attend the public meeting in person/via webinar to discuss Draft Guidance for Industry on the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption.

Date: December 11th, 2018

Time: 8:30 AM-5:00 PM

Location: Hilton Albany 40 Lodge St., Albany, NY 12207. Register Here.

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About the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets: VAAFM facilitates, supports and encourages the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment.  www.Agriculture.Vermont.Gov

 

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November 14, 2018

VAAFM Files Adopted Subsurface Tile Drainage Water Quality Rule

RAPs amended to include language addressing nutrient contributions from subsurface tile drainage.

November 14, 2018 / Montpelier, VT - On Thursday, November 8, 2018, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) filed the adopted rule amendment to the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) with the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) and the Secretary of State (SOS).  The amendment includes requirements for reducing nutrient contributions to waters of the State from subsurface tile drainage on agricultural fields.  The new rule will become effective November 23, 2018.

Subsurface tile drainage removes excess water from agricultural soils below the surface, usually through a system of plastic piping (image attached).  The rule amendment was adopted on November 8, 2018 and will take effect on November 23, 2018. The requirements of the rule amendment include the required installation of rodent guards on subsurface tile drainage outlets installed or modified after January 1, 2019, the prohibition of new installation of surface inlets located within or next to cropland following the effective date of the amendment, and other provisions focused on reducing nutrient losses from subsurface tile drainage.

The formal rule amendment process began in January 2018 when the Agency pre-filed the proposed amendment with the Interagency Committee on Administrative Rules (ICAR). ICAR reviewed an amended pre-filing set on February 12, 2018. VAAFM made several recommended changes and formally filed the proposed rule on February 28, 2018. Prior to initiating the formal rule amendment process, the Agency was engaged in various discussions and nine meetings to gather feedback pertaining to the content of the amendment, involving 190 attendees that provided insight as the rule amendment process began.

Following the filing of the proposed rule, the Agency held a public comment period which ran from February 28, 2018 through April 20, 2018. During this time frame, the Agency held three public hearings in St. Albans, Montpelier, and Middlebury to gather additional feedback on the proposed rule, in which 33 interested individuals attended. Overall, the Agency received over 50 written and emailed comments on the proposed rule amendment. The final proposed rule was filed with LCAR on August 21, 2018. The Agency attended three LCAR review hearings on September 6, 2018, September 20, 2018, and October 18, 2018. On October 18, 2018, the LCAR voted 8-1 to approve the subsurface tile drainage rule amendment.

The adopted rule amendment, an updated RAP Rule, the responsiveness summary to public comments received, and other pertinent information can be found at: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/rap-tile-rule

For more information on agricultural subsurface tile drainage, please see the Vermont Subsurface Agricultural Tile Drain Report prepared by VAAFM and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/ag/files/pdf/water_quality/Research/TD-Report/Vermont-Subsurface-Agricultural-Tile-Drain-Report-01312017.pdf

Please direct any questions regarding the proposed amendment or the RAPs to agr.waterquality@vermont.gov or call (802) 272-0323.

Contact:

Ryan Patch

Water Quality Division Deputy Director

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

(802) 272-0323

ryan.patch@vermont.gov

 

November 7, 2018

Op-Ed

November 7, 2018 

By Secretary Anson Tebbetts

From time-to-time, folks will ask our Agency, “how safe is the milk we buy in our stores?”. The simple answer is, “very safe.” Let’s dig a little deeper.

Caring for cows and all farm animals in Vermont is a top priority.  It starts with our dairy farmers monitoring the health of their animals.  If an animal is thought to be ill and requires medical treatment, the farmer immediately removes it from the routine process of gathering milk for distribution.  This protects the milk supply and consumers.  The cow is given time to recover while being treated by a veterinarian or the farmer. This recovery period is essential to protecting the cow and the consumer. Farmers are well aware of the risks if they do not follow well established rules.

Vermont State Veterinarian and Director of Food Safety & Consumer Protection at the Agency, Dr. Kristin Haas, says her office works with the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), state officials, veterinarians and farmers directly to confirm that antibiotics and other medications for dairy animals are used appropriately.  “Our collaborations with these groups are meant to ensure that antibiotics and other medications are used only as needed to treat sick animals, and to prevent violative medication residues from reaching the milk and meat supplies,” Dr. Haas said. 

Another tool available to assist Vermont dairy farmers with achieving gold-standard management practices that exceed the minimum requirements established by law is the Food Armor® Program (www.foodarmor.org).  It provides veterinarians with the expertise needed to work with their client farms to establish best practices regarding veterinary medication use. This program is not limited to antibiotics and is meant to encourage prudent and cautious use of veterinary medication on farms, thereby helping to ensure a safe meat and dairy food supply.

To further ensure that milk is safe when it leaves the farm, Vermont State Statute requires that every bulk load be tested for residual antibiotics.  The FDA has established public health-based tolerances for antibiotics, and the test results of all bulk loads must fall below these tolerances. Milk that does not pass this rigorous public health testing is discarded and never makes it to store shelves. Tainted milk is also prohibited from being repurposed as livestock feed, which means that drug residues are prevented from entering our meat-based foods. Public health-based testing completed prior to milk processing also confirms that bacteria levels do not exceed public safety-based regulatory limits.       

The Agency’s Dairy Section regulators investigate every positive tanker load to verify that milk is discarded and to recommend corrective actions to the farmer intended to prevent future mishaps. These efforts have paid off and continue to be effective.  Since 2011 the number of loads having to be disposed of has steadily dropped:

While the numbers are low and trending down, dairy officials will continue to work towards zero. While those efforts and the support programs are important, the farmers do the real work.  Vermont farmers are at the leading edge of some of our most important food safety efforts, and without their leadership, the food we consume would be much less safe than it is today. In fact, milk that is available to consumers on grocery store shelves is tested more rigorously and comprehensively to ensure safety than any other food product we consume. We will continue to work together to protect public health and safety, but also to raise and support a healthy dairy herd and industry.  Working together, we can assure the public of the safest and best dairy in the world.

Anson Tebbetts

 

November 5, 2018

For Immediate Release:

Vermont to Reimburse Dairy Farmers for Milk Margin Protection Premium

Dairy Producers Receive Funds Towards MMP Premiums

November 5, 2018 / Montpelier , VT - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) is pleased to announce reimbursement payments will be sent this week to Vermont Dairy Farmers under the milk Margin Protection Program (MPP).  Governor Scott, the Legislature and the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets secured funding in the fiscal year 2019 State budget to help dairy farmers pay premiums related to the MPP.  These critical payments come during a difficult time for Vermont’s dairy farmers.

The state appropriation totals $450,000. Payments made to farmers will vary but will not exceed $833 toward their premium expense. According to USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), 568 dairy farms enrolled as of June 22. Secretary of Agriculture, Food & Markets Anson Tebbetts said, “We hope these checks will help farmers at one of the most challenging times in the dairy industry. With the help of the legislature and Governor Scott we were able to help secure these important dollars to help Vermont’s farmers. We will continue to seek a long term pricing solution with our state and federal partners.”

The Margin Protection Program provides dairy farmers the ability to insure the margin between the price of milk and the cost of a common feed ration and is managed through the USDA FSA.  MPP protects the participating farmer against reductions in the margin below insured levels.  For each month the calculated margin drops below the insured amount, USDA FSA provides payments to individual farmers on the difference.

According to FSA State Director Wendy Wilton federal payments to Vermont farmers for the months of February through August are nearly $7 million.  “The majority of small to mid-size farms have enrolled and are receiving over $6.9 million in program payments from USDA. When combined with the state of Vermont’s premium support that total exceeds $7 million to support dairy at this difficult time,” Wilton said.

“Dairy farmers spend the majority of their income in our local communities supporting other working Vermonters who work in hardware stores, feed mills, as veterinarians, auto and equipment dealerships and other agriculture related industries”, stated Secretary Tebbetts.  “These dollars will benefit farmers and their local communities.  We ask dairy farmers to keep their eyes on the mail box this week,” he added.

For more information on the reimbursement program, please contact the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets at (802) 828-2430 or email at AGR.Helpdesk@vermont.gov

For more information on the Margin Protection Program, please contact USDA Farm Services Agency or visit https://www.fsa.usda.gov/ .

November 1, 2018

State Water Quality Partnership Hosts East Creek Watershed Tour

Legislators and officials see benefits first-hand of soil and water conservation efforts

November 1, 2018, Montpelier VT – Change is happening on the land and that’s good news for water quality. It was highlighted recently when The Vermont Agricultural Water Quality Partnership (VAWQP) hosted a bus tour on October 25th to highlight conservation in Addison County’s East Creek Watershed. More than 40 people participated, including members of the Vermont Legislature, staff from UVM Extension, and local, state and federal agency personnel.

The tour was organized to enhance understanding of, and appreciation for, the conservation work implemented by private landowners in Vermont, with a focus on farmers. Presentations delivered during the tour examined the coordinated and strategic approach to improving water quality with the ultimate goal of helping the state reach water quality goals.

In Fiscal Year 2018, Vermont farmers have invested almost 1 million dollars in water quality improvements and equipment including 48 agricultural Best Management Practices (BMP’s) with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM). This includes implementation of agronomic practices on more than 7,000 acres of farmland to improve soil health and protect water from runoff.

The VAWQP has a mission to accelerate water quality improvements by collaborating to provide outreach, education, technical and financial assistance directly to agricultural producers with respect for each partner’s vision, role and capacity.

“Hearing about conservation is one thing, but learning about conservation from Vermont farmers really brings it home. Through this water quality partnership, efforts to improve water quality are in full force. While we may not see the results of our work for some time, it is important to recognize and learn about all of the work being done,” said Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts.

Members of the VAWQP include the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), Vermont Association of Conservation Districts (VACD), United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), University of Vermont Extension, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Department of Environmental Conservation (ANR-DEC), Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) and the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP).

To view photos from the tour, go to http://bit.ly/VACDBusTour18 , or to watch a video go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RQLybdBGcE.

For more information on statewide efforts to reduce nonpoint source loading from agricultural operations please visit www.vacd.org, www.vt.nrcs.usda.gov , or agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality.

For more information on statewide monitoring efforts visit  dec.vermont.gov/watershed/map/monitor.

Contact:

Ryan Patch

Water Quality Division Deputy Director / Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

802-272-0323

Ryan.Patch@Vermont.gov

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