Blog

June 29, 2016

By Ryan Patch, VAAFM

One of the most significant charges from Act 64 of 2015 is the Legislature’s mandate for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) to define what is a “Small Farm” in Vermont.  Further, Act 64 instructed the Agency to define a threshold above which a Small Farm Operation (SFO)—the Agency jargon for “Small Farm”—would need to enter into a certification and inspection program.  In the RAP Proposed Rule, filed with the Secretary of State on May 13, 2016, VAAFM has provided its revised thresholds for small farm certification and inspection.  The entire RAP Proposed Rule, and the proposed small farm thresholds, is open to public comment until July 7, 2016.

Below you will find a factsheet the VAAFM has developed which outlines the proposed farm size thresholds for Agency water quality certification, inspection and RAP oversight.  Numerous changes have been made to the SFO and Certified Small Farm Operation (CSFO) thresholds in the RAP Proposed Rule from previous drafts, based on significant comment received from farmers and the public.

A bit of historical context:

Under the Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs), there were three farm categories:

AAP Farm Category

Permit

Inspection?

Number of Farms

Large Farm Operations (LFOs)

Individual Permits

Regular inspection (1 Year Cycle)

27 Farms

Medium Farm Operations (SFOs)

General Permits

Regular inspection (5 Year Cycle)*

138 Farms

Small Farm Operations (SFOs)

No Permits

Inspection based on complaints

7000 farms

*changed to 3-year inspection under Act 64 of 2015

LFOs have been permitted and inspected by VAAFM since 1995 and represent dairy farms with more than 700 mature dairy cows.  MFOs have been permitted and inspected by VAAFM since 2006 and represent farms with between 200 and 699 mature dairy cows and 300 and 999 beef cows.  SFOs under the AAPs represented every farm operation below the MFO threshold—all the way down to one chicken or a 10’ x 10’ vegetable garden.  Every SFO, MFO and LFO has to follow the baseline rules established in the AAPs, in addition to any specific enhanced requirements in the MFO and LFO general and individual permits.

The current discussion around farm size thresholds in the RAPs:

In an effort to meet the legislative intent of Act 64, VAAFM has proposed refining the SFO category to ensure a prioritized and targeted approach to the new mandate to certify and inspect a portion of Small Farms.  This proposal would lead to the establishment of three small farm operation categories in Vermont: Non-RAP Operations (NROs), Small Farm Operations (SFOs) and Certified Small Farm Operations (CSFOs).  LFO and MFO permits would remain unchanged under the RAP Proposed Rule.

Non-RAP Operations (NROs) represent a scale of farm (less than 4 acres in farming, less than 5 cows, less than 4 horses, less than $2,000 gross sales) which in the Agency’s experience has not had substantial impacts on water quality and, as such, has been proposed to be regulated at the municipal level.  These NROs would not need to follow the RAPs in the Proposed Rule and oversight of these operations could be undertaken by municipalities.  The option exists in the Proposed Rule for the VAAFM to require a NRO meet the requirements of RAPs if a water quality issue exists on an operation and municipal rules and enforcement is not present.

Every farm operation above the NRO threshold would need to follow all requirements of the RAPs: this includes SFOs, CSFOs, MFOs and LFOs.

Under the Proposed Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs), there are four farm categories that need to follow the RAPs:

RAP Farm Category

Permit

Inspection?

Number of Farms

Large Farm Operations (LFOs)

Individual Permits

Regular inspection (1 Year Cycle)

27 Farms

Medium Farm Operations (SFOs)

General Permits

Regular inspection (3 Year Cycle)

138 Farms

Certified Small Farm Operations (CSFOs)

Certification Program

Regular inspection (7 Year Cycle)

1500 Farms

Small Farm Operations (SFOs)

No Permits

Inspection based on complaints

5500 Farms

Certified Small Farm Operations (CSFOs) would represent farms with more than 50 dairy cows, or 75 beef cows, or 40 horses; or who farm more than 50 acres of annual cropland (ex: corn silage / soybeans) or 50 acres of vegetables.  These CSFOs would need to follow the RAPs in addition to entering into a Small Farm Certification program which will require annual self-certification that a farm is following the RAPs, regular inspection on a seven-year cycle, and the development of a 590 Nutrient Management Plan.  SFOs are all farms that fall above the NRO and below the CSFO threshold.  All SFOs would need to follow the full provisions of the RAPs.

Public comment and questions can be submitted to AGR.RAP@vermont.gov or mailed to 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620.

The complete factsheet on RAP farm size can be found at the following url: http://go.usa.gov/cJqtp

Please visit our VAAFM RAP Website for additional information: http://go.usa.gov/cdGew

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June 29, 2016

By Alison Kosakowski

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) has announced its adjusted fee schedule, which has been approved by the legislature and will go into effect July 1, 2016. The new fee schedule is available online at http://agriculture.vermont.gov/licensing-registration/fees .

VAAFM manages more than 50 fee-based programs.  These services provide value to Vermonters, in accordance with the Agency’s mission: to support the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment.

Fee rates are considered every three years, and must be approved by the legislature. The fee schedule is based on the cost of running each respective regulatory program. VAAFM also reviews comparable programs in neighboring states, to ensure Vermont’s programs are aligned with regional standards.

Examples of fee-based programs managed by VAAFM include…

  • Weights and measures inspections: grocery scanners, deli scales, and gas pumps are inspected to ensure accuracy so Vermonters “get what they pay for.” Store owners pay this fee.
  • Animal feed registration: packaged livestock and pet food is registered and inspected to ensure the quality and composition (protein, energy). Feed dealers pay this fee.
  • Dairy processor inspections: facilities are inspected and licensed to ensure food safety. Licensing also allows processors to access out-of-state markets. Processors pay this fee.
  • Pesticide registration: products are inspected to ensure they are properly labeled and meet the state laws associated with pesticide use. Pesticide manufacturers pay this fee.

For a list of Agency fees, including descriptions and costs, please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/licensing-registration/fees

If you have any questions about the impact of these fees, please contact VAAFM at 802-828-2430.

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June 23, 2016

By Diane Bothfeld

The Vermont Farm Show has announced it will support the Farm and Agricultural Resource Management Stewards (FARMS) 2+2 Scholarship program for the next 4 years.  The Farm Show has committed $43,000 to the FARMS 2+2 Scholarship program, which provides scholarships to young Vermonters who are pursuing dairy careers.

Founded in 2001, the  FARMS 2+2 scholarship funds half tuitions for two years of study at Vermont Technical College (VTC) and full tuition for two subsequent years at the University of Vermont (UVM).  The fund is administered by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, and the student recipients are selected by VTC and UVM.  The program also includes semesters at Vermont Tech Diary Farm and Teaching Lab in Norwich, Vermont and the Miner Agriculture Research Institute in Chazy, New York. Over 65 2+2 scholars have graduated in the past 15 years and are now active in agribusiness industries and on farms across Vermont.

“The FARMS 2+2 program provides a broad educational base for Vermont’s future dairy leaders,” said Chuck Ross, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture.  “The support from the Vermont Farm Show will enrich this important program, and provide a strong link between students and the industry,” he added.

The Vermont Farm Show is the premier venue for farmers to interact with the ag related businesses that keep the industry strong.  Several years ago, Farm Show vendors suggested a scholarship to assist young people interested in continuing their education in the agricultural sector.  Due to strong exhibitor support over the years, the Vermont Farm Show is in a position to do so. 

"The FARMS 2+2 Scholarship Program is a great investment in young agriculturalists and Vermont agriculture," said Dave Martin, Vermont Farm Show President.  "We are also going to offer our exhibitors an opportunity to support this program."

The Vermont Farm Show has been the state’s unofficial trade show for agriculture for over 80 years.  In 2012, the Show moved from Barre to Essex Junction and has grown into a three day event attended by more than 14,000 guests, featuring over 145 vendors and 15 organization meetings.  Always scheduled for the last week in January, the Show's visitors have also donated almost 2 tons of food and several hundred dollars to area food shelves in lieu of an entry fee since moving to the Champlain Valley fairgrounds.

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June 23, 2016

By Ryan Patch

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) will host six public hearings on the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) Proposed Rule on June 21 in St. Albans, June 22 in Brandon, June 23 in South Royalton, June 27 in Manchester, June 28 in Newport, and June 29 in Brattleboro.

WHAT:  VAAFM will host six public hearings throughout Vermont for farmers, stakeholders and the public to provide testimony and comment on the RAP Proposed Rule.  A public comment period on the RAP Proposed Rule is open until July 7, 2016.  The RAP Proposed Rule is available on the Agency website: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap

As a result of Act 64—the Vermont Clean Water Act—signed into law in June 2015, the Agency of Agriculture was tasked with updating the Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs) to further reduce the impact of agriculture on water quality across the state. The RAPs are an updated version of the AAPs, the rules in place since 1995 which regulate farms in order to protect water quality, re-written to a higher level of performance.

To date, VAAFM has held more than 80 small stakeholder and large public meetings on the RAPs to solicit feedback from farmers, stakeholders and the public.  Over 1800 constituents have attended these meetings since October, 2015.  Summary outreach materials, including the recording of a webinar explaining the RAP Proposed Rule in detail, are available on the Agency website: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap

These public hearings open to the public.  A print copy of the RAP Proposed Rule can be requested by e-mail, phone or in writing.  Email AGR.RAP@vermont.gov or call (802) 828-2431 for more information.

Written public comment can be submitted to the Agency’s RAP e-mail inbox at AGR.RAP@vermont.gov or by mailing comment to the Agency of Agriculture at 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620.

WHO: Farmers, stakeholders and the general public can attend these public hearings to learn more about the RAP Proposed Rule and to share testimony and comment.

VAAFM was directed by the Legislature to draft the RAPs pursuant to Act 64, signed into law on June 16, 2015.  Act 64 of 2015 amended and enacted multiple requirements related to water quality in the State.  Act 64 requires that the revised RAPs include requirements for: small farm certification, nutrient storage, soil health, buffer zones, livestock exclusion, and nutrient management.

WHEN/WHERE: Required Agricultural Practices Proposed Rule Public Hearing

June 21, 2016 | 12:30–3:30 PM

St Albans Historical Museum | 9 Church Street, St. Albans City, VT 05478

Required Agricultural Practices Proposed Rule Public Hearing

June 22, 2016 | 12:30–3:30 PM

Brandon American Legion | 590 Franklin St., Brandon, VT 05733

Required Agricultural Practices Proposed Rule Public Hearing

June 23, 2016 | 12:30–3:30 PM

Vermont Law School | 164 Chelsea St., South Royalton, VT 05068

Required Agricultural Practices Proposed Rule Public Hearing

June 27, 2016 | 12:30–3:30 PM

Fraternal Order of Eagles | 2282 VT-11, Manchester Center, VT 05255

Required Agricultural Practices Proposed Rule Public Hearing

June 28, 2016 | 12:30–3:30 PM

Newport American Legion | 160 Freeman St., Newport, VT 05855

Required Agricultural Practices Proposed Rule Public Hearing

June 29, 2016 | 12:30–3:30 PM

Brattleboro American Legion | 32 Linden St., Brattleboro, VT 05301

For more information about the RAPs, and the Agency’s efforts to implement Act 64 of 2015, please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap or contact the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets at (802) 828-2431.

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May 31, 2016

Shoppers pose for a photo in front of Green Mountain Girls Farm Stand in Northfield, VT

By Hailee May & Abbey Willard, VAAFM

A new on-line directory of Vermont farm stands is now available on the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) website to help facilitate connections between the producers and consumers of local Vermont products, and to support Vermont shoppers in making informed decisions about their food purchases.  Utilizing recent data collected in a 2015 farm stand survey conducted by the VAAFM’s Food System team, the new farm stand directory will allow consumers to search for farm stands by name, location, season, product, organic/non-organic certification, pick your own, and EBT availability.  The new directory also includes a map feature that will allow consumers to search for farm stands in a particular area.  The new directory can be accessed on the VAAFM website here: http://bit.ly/257E0Hr

In November of 2015, the VAAFM developed a Vermont Farm Stand survey to not only assess the number of farm stands currently operating in Vermont, but also collect data on farm stand product offerings, hours of operation, as well as location and payment options.  According to the survey results, there are over 98 operating farm stands geographically distributed across Vermont, which collectively served over 6,000 customers daily during 2015’s peak season.

While Vermont food and farm businesses produce a vast diversity of products, the farm stand survey results showed that fruits, vegetables, berries, eggs, honey, maple syrup, and flowers were the most popular items available at farm stands.  Although some farm stand operators reported offering products made by other producers, and in a few cases, other states, 95% of reported sales at Vermont farm stands were derived from products produced on their own farms.

The Farm Stand Survey responses also demonstrated a 4% increase in customer visits between 2014 and 2015, from 212,000 to 220,000 visitors, and a 7% increase in farm stands sales, from $2,268,449 to $2,431,342 over the same time period.  While historical farm stand data is limited, the growth trends in both customers and sales over the last two years suggests expanding market opportunities for the promotion and sales of local products via farm stands. 

Going forward, the VAAFM’s Food System team will work to ensure the accuracy and utility of the Farm Stand Directory by maintaining strong partnerships with Vermont farm stand operators to keep data up-to-date and add additional information and features over time.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) is partnering with VAAFM to conduct similar surveys of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms and farmers’ markets with the intent of sharing the results in both a comprehensive online directory at VAAFM and a listing of organic and NOFA-VT membership operations at nofavt.org. Later this summer, consumers can expect to see the addition of CSA and farmers’ market data to the Farm Stand Directory, creating a comprehensive source of direct to consumer local product marketing opportunities.

If you operate a farm stand that is not currently listed on our directory and you would like to be listed, please complete this brief survey and you will be added to the website: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FarmStandList

For more information about the Vermont Farm Stand Directory and the VAAFM’s food system and market access programs, please visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources

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