By Noah Gilbert-Fuller, VT Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
March 1, 2023 | Montpelier, VT - Every year in January the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (Agency) delivers a report to the legislature highlighting the efforts that we have made to deliver agricultural water quality results in the past state fiscal year. Here are some highlights from State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2022, which covers June 31, 2021 to July 1, 2022.
A total of $7.3 million dollars went out to farmers for the Best Management Practices (BMP) program, comprised of $4.7 million of Agency funds matched with $2.5 million in federal dollars. BMP project investments help farmers to achieve compliance with production area and manure storage requirements and made up 60% of total water quality investments by AAFM in SFY 2022. The majority of BMP practices were implemented in the Missisquoi tactical basin, with the most funding going to Franklin and Orleans counties. Addison, Orange, and Caledonia counties represented the other major areas of BMP investment, receiving over $1 million dollars apiece.
In the same time period, 20,389 acres of conservation practices were implemented through cost-share programs such as the Farm Agronomic Practices program (FAP) and the Pasture and Surface Water Fencing Program (PSWF), with an additional 15,808 acres treated through innovative equipment purchased through the Capital Equipment Assistance Program (CEAP). We also saw increases in agricultural forest and filter strip buffer installation, at 53 acres.
The number of outreach events by the Agency and partner organizations also increased in FY 2022 over FY 2021, with 114 events documented statewide with a total of almost 3,000 attendees. Almost 900 farm visits were conducted through our water quality partnership, and half of these visits were conducted by Agency staff. Close to half of these visits overall were conducted at CSFOs, making up the largest share of visits.
Thanks to the effort and engagement of Vermont farmers, we have been able to document continual reductions in the amount of phosphorus going into our waters year after year. State funding programs are estimated to have reduced approximately 29 metric tons of total phosphorus loading to Lake Champlain and Lake Mephremagog in SFY 2022. The agricultural sector contributes over 96% of these reductions overall, and has maintained a >95% contribution to phosphorus reductions overall for the last seven years!
It is our pleasure to support practices that are beneficial to our environment and for the stewards of our agricultural lands. We can look forward to more opportunities in the new year, as we continue to show the legislature the impact of the work our farmers do!
For more information on the effects of implementation efforts led by the Agency of Agriculture, visit agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/additional-resources-and-reports. Federal and local partners from across the Vermont Agricultural Water Quality Partnership have contributed to outreach, funding, tracking, and reporting on farm water quality reductions across the state. To learn more, visit vtagcleanwater.org
Figure 1. Ultimately, all AAFM’s regulatory visits, outreach, and practice installation cost-share supports Vermont farmers to come into compliance and to implement voluntary conservation on their farms. This information is documented and used to calculate phosphorus (P) reductions coming from your land management. Across all years, cover crops have represented the highest share of reductions, followed by production area compliance, manure injection and conservation tillage.
Figure 2. Annual estimated total phosphorus load reductions (metric tons per year) associated with state-funded clean water projects in the Lake Champlain and Lake Memphremagog basins by land use sector, SFY 2016–2022. Phosphorus reductions from state regulatory programs (e.g., production area compliance) contribute additional reductions not shown here. Find this graph and more information in the statewide Clean Water Initiative 2022 report at https://dec.vermont.gov/water-investment/cwi/reports.