“Under the Golden Dome”, is emailed weekly to subscribing members to keep them apprised of legislative developments at the Vermont Statehouse that affect agriculture. Legislative priorities are set annually by the organization following the elected delegate session determining policy in November.
April 4, 2018 / Montpelier, VT - This week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Boston regional office announced that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture has made significant progress toward meeting the state’s water quality goals.
In a letter to the Agency dated April 2nd, EPA regional administrator Alexandra Dapolito Dunn noted, “Your staff have clearly been working hard to get new programs off the ground, rapidly award large amounts of new funding to priority phosphorus reduction projects, ramp up inspection programs and establish the new comprehensive tracking and accounting system. The many milestones that have been completed reflect this excellent progress.”
The Statehouse has been quiet this week, although the session still has not ended. On Monday, Governor Scott received the second edition of the budget, as passed by both the Senate and the House last week. He had requested that the E Board (chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, House Ways and Means and Senate Finance) meet with his administration to discuss continued challenges, but the chairs sent their regrets. This stalemate threatens a government shutdown if not resolved by June 30, which would result in state offices and parks closing closed and no paychecks or payments would be issued. Treasurer Beth Pearce spoke forcefully on WDEV/AM today, asking that both sides come together and pass a budget so that the shutdown would not result in challenges for Vermonters and a possible downgrade of credit rating for the state. Word in the hallways is that the governor will also veto this budget. Neither the Senate nor the House is scheduled to return to the building at this time.
Extra "one time money" coming into Vermont has added to the controversy, as the governor wants to use most of it to buy down property taxes while the Legislature wants to use some of it to pay the spiraling debt on the teachers' pension fund AND keep taxes down.
In the meantime, some bills have been discussed and passed but nothing that would affect agriculture or forestry has come up - thankfully!
So, to keep you updated on events in other parts of industry, here are some stories we've been watching:
IMPORTANT NOTE TO DAIRY FARMERS
On Tuesday, June 12th, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the USDA has extended the deadline for producers to sign up for the Margin Protection Program until Friday, June 22. For more information, please visit:
There is money sitting in the budget on the governor's desk to pay every dairy farmer $600 towards the MPP insurance payment, but it won't be available until the session ends and the budget is passed.
FARM BUREAU HAILS DISTRICT COURT WOTUS DECISION
A federal district court ruling in Georgia last week has effectively suspended the flawed "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS) rule from taking effect in 11 more states that challenged its legality. The 2015 rule is now stayed in a total of 24 states. While the ruling was a clear validation of many concerns that American Farm Bureau has expressed about the rule, we need to continue to work diligently to support the EPA's efforts to formally repeal the rule. The illegal rule is overbroad, vague and confusing and it goes far beyond the intent of Congress when it passed the Clean Water Act. EPA should ditch this rule for good and replace it with a proposal that offers both clean water and clear rules - one that is easy to interpret and allows farmers to continue to feed, clothe and fuel our nation. - AFBF
VAAFM Announces Issuance of Revised Medium Farm Operation General Permits
June 12, 2018 - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets has issued a revised Medium Farm Operation (MFO) General Permit (GP), following a lengthy information gathering and revision process. The MFO GP sets standards for MFOs in the State of Vermont generating animal waste to ensure they do not have a discharge of waste to the waters of the State and operate in accordance with their Nutrient Management Plan. Unless otherwise given notice by the Agency, all farms meeting the definition of an MFO in the State of Vermont are required to operate under the coverage of the GP.
All MFOs must follow the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) in addition to requirements outlined in the MFO GP. The revision process focused on streamlining the MFO GP with the RAPs, removing duplicative language and increasing focus on nutrient management plan recordkeeping for MFOs. All MFOs currently covered, or farms seeking covering under the MFO GP, must submit a new Notice of Intent to Comply (NOIC) with 180 calendar days from the issuance of a new MFO GP.
MFOs should submit a new NOIC by December 12, 2018. All forms can be found on the Agency's website http://agriculture.vermont.gov/mfo or by contacting the Agency Water Quality Division. These forms are subject to revision so the applicant, prior to use of a form referenced in this MFO GP, should always consult the website above or the Agency to make sure that they are using the correct version.
The Agency is required to update the MFO GP every five years. The newly revised MFFO GP will be effective from 2018 to 2023.
For questions, please contact Kaitlin Hayes, Agricultural Water Quality Specialist, 802-622-4112 or Kaitlin.firstname.lastname@example.org .
SENATOR LEAHY AND THE FARM BILL
Vermont's senior United States Senator has several amendments tacked onto the current rendition of the Farm Bill working through his committee. One of particular interest and importance to the farming community would allow farms to prioritize implementation of whole farm plans and make progress towards implementing that entire plan with EQIP projects. It would allow farms to complete needed work into a subsequent Farm Bill cycle, when they would be eligible for another round of funds. This was brought to the attention of the Vermont Milk Commission by VFB President Joe Tisbert and Vermont Farm Bureau signed on in support of this amendment. Keep your fingers crossed the language makes it into the final bill. It appears after months of inaction, there is movement in both the House and Senate to get this done before year's end.
ACCURATE LABELS ACT WOULD BRING REASON BACK
Various US senators and representatives are sponsoring legislation to provide Americans nationwide with clear, accurate, meaningful nutrition information and prevent the issuance of inaccurate labels that mislead consumers and drive up prices.
"Consumers deserve full transparency on the products they're buying, no matter where they live or shop. Often times, due to various state laws, items are incorrectly labeled with warnings about harms that do not exist. The inaccuracy creates confusion and fear for the consumers, desensitizes the public from heeding serious warnings on health ricks and imposes unnecessary and cost regulatory burdens for producers," said US Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan).
"It's time to bring science and reason back into the way we label products for the benefit of the American people," said Rep. Schrader (D-OR). "We now have so many warnings unrelated to the actual health risk posed to consumers that most people just ignore them."
H.R.6022 ensures that consumers have access to accurate and easy-to-understand product information by:establishing science-based criteria for all additional state and local labeling requirements allowing state-mandated product information to be provided through smart phone-enabled "smart labels" and on websites, where consumers can find up-to-date, relevant ingredients and warnings ensuring that covered product information is risk-based
AFBF President Zippy Duvall spoke in favor of this legislation.
UPCOMING EVENTS IN VERMONT
Don't forget to volunteer for the Breakfast on the Farm! The Gervais Farm in Enosburg Falls is the host on June 23, and the Kayhart Family will host on July 28. For more information, please visit Vermont Breakfast on the farm volunteer!
Jackie Folsom, Legislative Director
Facebook: Look for articles relevant to agriculture at least five days a week on Facebook. Please join Facebook, like us and join in on the conversations.
How to submit written information to committees and how to get around the Vermont State House:
Newshounds: for those of you who want a daily dose please subscribe to Morning Ag Clips: Newshounds
Contacting representatives Email or In Person
At the beginning of each term we publish the member names on each committee of agriculture. The members are easy to contact. It's their first initial; last name @leg.state.vt.us with no spaces.
Please do not use their private home phone numbers, unless you have their permission.
Linda Leehman, Committee Assistant (802) 828-2233
Sen. Robert Starr, Chair, email@example.com
Sen. Anthony Pollina, Vice Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Brian Collamore, email@example.com
Sen. Carolyn Whitney Branagan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Francis K. Brooks, email@example.com
Contact me at 802-426-3579 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vermont Subsurface Agricultural TILE DRAINAGE REPORT. Submitted by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources January 31, 2017. Prepared for the Vermont General Assembly in Accordance with 2015 Act 64, Section 5.