July 21, 2016

By Alison Kosakowski

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the Department of Health want Vermonters to be aware that a common weed found along many Vermont roadsides can cause painful rashes and raised blisters, similar to second-degree sunburn.

 “Poison parsnip” (Pastinaca sativa L.), also known as wild parsnip, is found throughout the state. The plant produces a sap that reacts to sunlight, and skin that comes in contact with the sap becomes hyper-sensitive to ultraviolet light. It may take several hours after exposure for burns to develop, and some of the skin damage can be serious.

 Wild parsnip produces small yellow flowers that look like Queen Anne’s Lace. It is a close relative of carrots, parsley, angelica and giant hogweed, all of which can cause similar skin reactions in sensitive individuals.

 {C}“This innocent looking flower can cause a lot of pain and discomfort,” said Tim Schmalz, plant industry section chief for the Agency of Agriculture. “The good news is that in order for a reaction to occur, the sap has to come in direct contact with your skin. You’re not likely to get a reaction through casual contact or brushing up against the plant, like you would with poison ivy or stinging nettles. Summer in Vermont is great. Just be mindful when gardening, hiking, biking or otherwise enjoying the outdoors, and wild parsnip won’t ruin your fun!”


If you get wild parsnip sap on your skin:

  •  Wash the skin thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible.
  • Protect the exposed skin from sunlight for at least 48 hours.
  • If you experience a skin reaction, call your health care provider.

 If you need to work with or near the plant:

  •  Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Wash clothes that come in contact with the sap.
  • Work with the plant on cloudy days.
  • If you are using string trimmers or power mowers in areas where this plant grows, wear eye/face protection, in addition to long pants, long sleeves, and gloves.

To learn more about wild parsnip – visit


July 12, 2016
Cary Giguere
Agrichemical Program Manager
The Washington County Railroad Right-of-Way (ROW) between Main Street and Granite Street is scheduled for herbicide treatment. The treatment will take place prior to 6 AM between July 20-22nd. The actual date will be determined by other rail traffic and weather conditions.
This planned treatment is a result of a multi-year effort between the state, the City of Montpelier, and the railroad owners. This section of rail was last chemically-treated in 2013; since then Secretary of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Chuck Ross, looked to the state’s scientific advisory panel, Vermont Pesticide Advisory Council (VPAC), to review and identify if there were additional effective, sustainable, non-chemical, management options for this particular stretch of railroad.
Since 2015, multiple public meetings were held and, in May of 2016, the Vermont Pesticide Advisory Council unanimously recommended to the Secretary that this stretch be treated in 2016 as a result of increasing safety concerns, and the lack of a viable long-term alternative management option. 
Because of its high pedestrian use, and limited rail traffic, this stretch of track has presented a unique opportunity for vegetation management strategies. Last year, the railroad, in conjunction with the City of Montpelier, was able to control vegetation by mechanical methods.  However, mechanical removal does not address the persistent root structures below the ballast, which pose a serious safety risk by undermining the rails. According to the Agency of Transportation, these roots can lead to the deterioration of the rail infrastructure over time and present a significant threat to public safety. Therefore, additional weed removal methods are now required to ensure safe conditions. The city, the state, and the railroad operators look forward to continuing the dialogue, with the engaged community, and moving forward using all possible options.  
Residents along the rail will receive notifications in the mail from the railroad. Others wishing to receive notifications of right-of-way treatments in their area, can sign up for VT-Alert, an electronic notification system, and also review documents related to this herbicide treatment at:
July 11, 2016

30 June 2016

The Clean Water Fund Board is holding a 30-day public comment period on staff’s proposed budget for next year’s Clean Water Fund using an online survey.  The Board will accept comments from June 30th until 4:30 pm on July 30th.  Please see below for a link to the questionnaire and supporting documents.  

Online Questionnaire

Draft Fiscal Year 2018 Clean Water Fund Priorities

Summary of Vermont Clean Water Fund Progress (based on Final Fiscal Years 2016-2017 Clean Water Fund Allocations)

To submit written comments without completing the questionnaire, you may do so by sending an email to or mailing comments to:

Attention: Vermont Clean Water Initiative
Department of Environmental Conservation
1 National Life Drive, Main 2
Montpelier, VT 05620-3522

To request a printed copy of the survey, contact Bethany at or (802) 490-6131. Mailed comments or surveys must be postmarked by July 30th.  For more information, visit the Clean Water Fund webpage.



July 11, 2016

By Chuck Ross, Secretary, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets

Summer is here, and Vermonters are returning once again to the shores of Lake Champlain. Many of us are swimming, boating, and enjoying family time on the lake. The health of the lake, and the need to restore it, is never more apparent than this time of year.  As Vermonters, we know we need to do better, and a plan is underway to make that happen.

In June of 2015 Governor Shumlin signed Act 64, also known as Vermont’s Clean Water Act, which was passed by the Legislature to advance a Vermont plan to reduce the amount of phosphorous in Lake Champlain. Act 64 will also enable Vermont to meet the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The planning incorporated in the EPA’s TMDL plan and passage of Act 64 requires the transportation sector, municipalities, developers, and farmers to further reduce run-off and uphold a higher standard of water quality, and it represents an “all in” effort to our water quality challenges. With regards to farmers, the Agency of Agriculture has undertaken a broad scope of work to enact these standards – including creating a new set of rules to govern farm practices called the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs).

We begin the summer of 2016 with a new draft of the RAPs, ready for a final public comment. We arrived at this draft of the rules after holding more than 80 meetings with farmers, environmentalists, lakefront property owners, and interested citizens across the state over the past year. In total, more than 1800 constituents participated in these meetings, and over 200 written comments were received and considered by the Agency. As we launch into this final phase, we have once again held hearings around the state to obtain public feedback. Webinars are also  available, for those who want more information (for details and dates, please see

At the conclusion of this final round of public hearings, we will incorporate the feedback and the RAPs will be sent to Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) for review by September 15, 2016. The Committee will consider the rules and any final recommended changes made as a result of the public input process. Once the RAPs are adopted, we will enter a new phase: implementation.

Over the past twelve months, I have seen tremendous partnership across the agricultural community. Farmers have provided invaluable feedback to the draft rules, and have worked collaboratively with Agency of Agriculture staff to ensure the new regulations are both workable and effective in protecting our waterways. I have been very impressed to see so many farmers, arguably some of the most time-pressed folks in our communities, make time to contribute meaningfully to this process.

Now, the real work begins. The RAPs will require many farmers to change their practices – from increasing the size of vegetative buffers near ditches, to restricting manure spreading in flood plains, to requiring cover crops on frequently flooded soils. (For a full summary, visit )

Although it won’t be simple, I am confident farmers will approach the implementation phase with the same spirit of partnership and determination they demonstrated during the rule-making process. They are deeply invested in our state, our working landscape, and are committed to getting this right.

As we return to the shores of Lake Champlain this summer, it is important to remember that the problems we face today took an entire generation to develop. They can’t be fixed overnight. But I want Vermonters to know the agricultural community is fully engaged and committed to doing its part. The implementation of the RAPs will signal a new era for agricultural water quality in our state. Our success at implementing these new rules will be a significant factor in determining the health of our lake for future generations, as will parallel efforts undertaken by the transportation sector, municipalities, and the business community. The task is large, but I am confident we have the commitment and determination needed to make it happen.

Charting the Course – a Timeline for RAP Implementation

The timeline below illustrates the milestones in the state’s rule making process. As you will note from the graphic, the public comment period for the RAPs concluded July 7th. The Agency is now in the process of incorporating feedback from the comment period into the final draft of the rules. The next milestone in September 15th – the deadline for the Agency to file the proposed final rules for the RAPs with LCAR – the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules:


July 1, 2016

By George Cook, UVM Extension

Lightening Safety

Summer brings along new and unique hazards. Lightning is random and unpredictable. Thunderstorms and lightning are most likely to develop on hot, humid days. If you can see lightning or hear thunder, activate your safety plan. Advance planning is the single most important means to lightning safety. Designate a responsible person to monitor weather conditions; a portable weather radio will provide weather updates. Emergency procedures: suspend activities, move people to safety, monitor conditions, then resume activities. Resume activities only when lightning and thunder have not been observed for thirty minutes. Safe locations during a storm include fully enclosed metal vehicles with windows up or substantial and permanent buildings.

If outdoors... get off farm machinery, put down rakes, hoes or shovels get out of or off the water. This includes metal objects like electric wires, fences, motors, power tools, clotheslines, metal pipes, rails, etc. Dangerous places include small structures, underneath canopies, small picnic or rain shelters, or near trees. However, standing under a group of trees, shorter than others in the area, is better than being in the open.

Seek low ground, preferably a ditch or gully; avoid high ground and open spaces. Make your body low to the ground, but do not lie flat on the earth. Learn the LIGHTNING SAFETY CROUCH: if isolated from shelter during a lightning storm, use a low crouching position with feet together and hands on ears. Avoid closeness (minimum of 15 ft.) to other people. If there is a group of people, spread out.

Do not touch fallen wires; call 9-1-1. If an appliance or tool catches fire, try to unplug it or turn off the current at the fuse box. Seems obvious, but do not pour water on the fire. Use a Class C fire extinguisher or throw baking soda on the fire. Call the local fire department and get everyone to safety. A helpful website is, which is the National Lightning Safety Institute website.


Sun Safety

While folks in the northern climates long for the warming sunshine of the summer, it can have a dangerous and deadly side. The sun’s invisible ultraviolet rays can be extremely dangerous to the skin. They are responsible for sunburn, premature aging and other types of skin damage, including cancer. Agricultural workers are prime targets for skin cancer because they are outdoors daily and are exposed to the sun. Estimates from the American Cancer Society find 600,000 cases of skin cancer occurring every year in the United States, with some 8,200 ending in death.

A suntan is not a sign of good health. As a defense mechanism, the body produces a pigment called melanin, which turns the skin brown. Tanning causes skin to age prematurely. Sunburns occur when the body gets too much radiation (the full effect may not be realized for 12 to 24 hours later).

Delayed effects include causing the skin to age, wrinkle, thicken, dry out, freckle, and blemish, and develop a rough texture. There are three basic types of skin cancer: Basal-cell carcinoma, Squamous-cell carcinoma and Melanoma. The first two types are very common and easily curable, while the third type, if not detected early, can be very dangerous and even deadly. Melanoma has a tendency to spread to other parts of the body. Once it reaches vital organs, melanoma is very difficult to treat, and can be lethal. Know the location of moles on your body so that you can recognize any change in their size, shape, and color.

People who work outdoors should do regular monthly self-examinations. Finding changes in skin growths or the appearance of new growths is the best way to identify early skin cancer. Early detection is critical!

There are several risk factors that can lead to skin cancer, number 1 is excessive sun exposure. What is excessive? This varies from person to person, but remember that no one is immune to the harmful ultra-

violet rays of the sun. Preventative factors to consider include: avoiding the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. As farmers, recognize that the sun's ultraviolet rays are strongest between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Wear protective clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat (as opposed to the popular baseball cap), light colored long-sleeved shirts and pants. Use sun screens with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. You can burn just as easily on a cloudy day as on a sunny day.

Children can develop skin cancer which may not show up until later in life. Excessive exposure to the sun throughout a lifetime can be deadly. It is cumulative; the more sun you are exposed to and the longer you live, the greater your chances of having skin cancer.

  • The American Cancer Society suggests the following guidelines to protect children from the sun:
  • (S) Shadow test- if the shadow is shorter than the child, the sun is at its strongest and most dangerous point.
  • (U) Ultraviolet sunblock with an SPF of 15 or greater should always be used if the child is exposed to the sun.
  • (N) Now! Protect children from the harmful effects of the sun now. Start today!

While farm work continues year-round non-stop, the prevention and detection of skin cancer may involve changing some attitudes and behaviors. A useful website to visit for more information is:




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