Under the Golden Dome

“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.

Under the Golden Dome February 22, 2015

SAVE THE DATE:

Review of the 2nd Draft of the RAP's  – Tuesday, March 15, 2016 10 am  

VTC in Randolph at the Little Red School House.   Please RSVP. Email vtfb@vtfb.org  or call Ginny Wheeler at 802-434-5646.  Apologies to those of you who slipped through the cracks and attended the canceled RAP’s meeting on 2/18. We had two days to get the word out that the draft was not done.

Dairy Night at the Statehouse – Thursday, March 31, 2016 4-6pm  

Please come for a great opportunity to meet your legislators, neighbors and friends. Free food and drink will be provided.

Current Use

No legislative action was taken.  The two bills in House Ways and Means have not been acted upon.

Education

No legislative action was taken on VTFB’s education issues.

Equine Equity

No legislative action was taken.

Pollinator Protection:

H 539 Creation of a Pollinator Protection Committee H 539

This bill to create a Pollinator Protection Committee was voted on by the House of Representatives on February 18, and approved. It will now go to the Senate for action.

Siting of Solar and Wind Facilities S.205

The Senate Committee on Agriculture heard continued testimony on this bill which seeks to consider agricultural and forestry soils, when siting renewable energy development. Legislative counsel has been asked to alter the language of this bill which the committee is still discussing. Testimony this week focused on decommissioning and the role the Property owners may have to play in any environmental clean up required. Senate Agriculture has asked ANR and the PSB to tell them what is contained both in the panels and in any other part of the structures and the likelihood that they can be cleaned up when their usefulness ceases or new technology been replaced it. One witness said that the farmland once used as a solar facility is lost permanently and described why: dismantling the cement posts and poured cement foundations to the rationale that farms that needed that land will have gone elsewhere after 40 years. The committee heard from several town select board members. There was general consensus that the PSB, although having the discretion to take into consideration a community’s concerns, does not seem to do so. These witnesses are therefore asking for a bill that forces the PSB to give more power to a community’s concerns. Chairman Starr explained that that bill was in Senate natural resources and energy S 230.

Vermont Sales Tax and Exemptions 

The House Committee on AFP continued to discuss this issue and worked on alternate language with legislative counsel. If any of VTFB’s members have been impacted by this issue, for example, not getting an exemption from an equipment dealer, or equipment dealers who have had the tax department audit them, please contact me. The committee has examples of both but wants to get this right and give clarity and certainty to the farmers, dealers and tax department. Multiple examples really help.

Water Quality 

The House Committee AFP and Senate Agriculture Committee heard from the conservation districts this week, who gave a thorough overview of their programs in each watershed area which roughly coincides with the 14 counties in Vermont, and on how they work very closely with NRCS in helping with water quality issues. They said they are ready now to assist farmers with every part of the application process for funds. We are anticipating the draft RAPs this week. Please VTFB members, start the process now with either your local conservation district or with Jeff Sanders, Agronomy Specialist, Jeffrey.sanders@uvm.edu

Miscellaneous: 

Agritourism Immunity S.231

This bill heard more testimony this week. It is an area of concern for many VTFB members. The Senate Judiciary Committee decided to not move it forward at this time. The issue is being looked into by the Agency of AFM and VTFB will work closely with them. At the end of the day the proponents of this bill weren't as persuasive as the opponents, the personal injury and insurance industries. The Judiciary Committee was not persuaded that there was enough of a problem out there. Again VTFB needs to ask its members to be in touch if they have had or know of claims against farms or Agritourism businesses in Vermont. VTFB needs to know about them to work with proponents of this issue to build a case that it is needed. It would mirror similar laws in the skiing and horse industries.

Farm to School and universal school meals pilot program S.169 and S.202 

The Senate Committee on Agriculture met with more representatives of this program and has agreed to ask the legislature for continued and increased funding for the next fiscal year. They also discussed how to plan for future funding.

Independent Contractors Committee Bill 

The House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development continues to take testimony on this issue. If any VTFB member would like to give testimony on behalf of their business please contact me. I have had one member email me with how many independent contractors they use in a year and for what tasks. I would appreciate hearing from more of you on this issue.

Miscellaneous Forestry Bill H.584

This bill, which has been broken into component parts, began testimony in House AFP on a few distinct sections and will continue this next week. Opponents of the trip ticket and harvest notification testified on Thursday afternoon.

Paid Sick Leave 

Paid sick leave passed the House this week which approved the Senate’s version despite some last minute amendments to exempt small businesses. Therefore the law for employers with more than five employees goes into effect January 1, 2017 and a year later for employers with five or fewer employees, January 1, 2018.

To establish a Regenerative Agricultural Certification Program S.159 

The Senate Committee on Agriculture continued to take testimony on this bill which seeks a new labeling and certification program for agricultural products that are sustainable and rejuvenate soils. Although all parties agreed on the idea of the bill no one wants to administer to and everyone has urged it tabled for another year or more until it can find a champion and can prove that it fills a need.

Regulation of raw agricultural commodities, value-added agricultural products accessory uses on farm, H. 779 

House AFP has begun to hear testimony on this bill.

Stay Involved

To contact your Senator or Representative by email: first initial followed by last name with no space@leg.state.vt.us, for example Bobby Starr would be: rstarr@leg.state.vt.us to call your Senator or Representative by phone call the Sergeant-at-Arms 1-802-828-2228

Agency of Agriculture Food and markets. General number: 1-802-828-2416

 Contact Lyn Des Marais at 802-345-2958 or email lyn.desmarais@gmail.com 

 

House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products

Chair

Rep. Carolyn Partridge

Windham-3
EMAIL CAROLYN

Vice-Chair

Rep. Richard Lawrence

Caledonia-4
EMAIL RICHARD

Ranking Member

Rep. John L. Bartholomew

Windsor-1

EMAIL JOHN

Committee Assistant

Linda Leehman

1-802-828-2256 

EMAIL LINDA

Rep. Dan Connor

Franklin-6
EMAIL DAN

Rep. Alyson Eastman

Addison-Rutland

EMAIL ALYSON

Rep. Rodney Graham

Orange-1

EMAIL RODNEY

Rep. Joey Purvis

Chittenden-9-1

EMAIL JOEY

*Rep. Tristan Toleno

Windham-2-3, 

EMAIL TRISTAN

Rep. Harvey Smith

Addison-5
EMAIL HARVEY

Rep. Don Turner 

Chittenden-10

EMAIL DON

Rep. Teo Zagar

Windsor-4-1
EMAIL TEO

>Senate Committee on Agriculture

Chair

Sen. Bobby Starr

Essex-Orleans
EMAIL BOBBY

Vice-Chair

Sen. David Zuckerman

Chittenden
EMAIL DAVID

Sen. John Campbell, (President Pro-Tem)

Windsor

EMAIL JOHN

*Sen. Dick Mazza

Grand Isle 

EMAIL DICK

Sen. Michael Sirotkin

Chittenden
EMAIL MICHAEL
*denotes new committee members