FOR THE WEEK ENDING MARCH 1, 2019

UPCOMING EVENTS OF INTEREST

  Please plan on attending the Orleans County Farm Bureau Legislative Pancake Breakfast on Monday, March 4, at the Irasburg Town Hall beginning at 10:00 am. Please contact Scott Birch at sbirch23@gmail.com for more information.
  On the other side of the state, the American Legion in Middlebury is the place to be on March 18 th , as the Governor’s Breakfast (sponsored by Bridport Grange and Addison County Farm Bureau) will start at 7:00 am.

   And don’t forget Vermont Farm Bureau Day #2 at the Statehouse on March 20!!

SECRETARY PERDUE DISCUSSES FARM BILL IMPLEMENTATION

  Courtesy of Bob Gray of NDFC – the Secretary stated signups for the Dairy Margin Coverage Program will begin on June 17 th , and he expects the payments to be retroactive to January 1 st , 2019. Delay is due to the need to make rules, which couldn’t be done while the government was shut down. He expects payments will start by July 8 th . One challenge faced by USDA is calculating the refunds producers received that were paid under the old MPP from 2014 to 2017 and in which no insurance payments were received by farmers. USA says that during the first two years of the program, no electronic records were maintained - !!!
  Also, the Secretary was asked whether USDA would move to restore both 2% and whole milk back into the school lunch programs. Perdue said he would work with Congress on this issue. Congressman Thompson (R-PA) has reintroduced a bill to restore whole milk into the school nutrition program.

FDA ENFORCING LABELING OF “MILK” ON PLANT BASED BEVERAGES

  The head of FDA was quoted as saying “we are interested in whether or not data can demonstrate that consumers perceive a certain nutritional content associated with the use of the term “milk” that they are not actually getting with plant-based products, and as a result they are facing an adverse health impact when they purchase these products.” Data clearly shows plant-based products are much less healthy than milk.

NEW BILLS INTRODUCED

H.453 would ban the use of atrazine by January 1, 2024.
H.480 would expand the ability to sell raw milk (see separate article)
H.481 is almost a mirror of H.480 regarding raw milk.
H.487 would require the Department of Environmental Conservation to issue a decision within 20 days after the close of a hearing on any permit.
H.489 would allow farms to transport, accept and use food residuals for feeding poultry without getting a solid waste facility certification or hauler permit. This bill also contains language to change the definition of farming in the Act 250 statute.
H.507 offers different fee sources for water quality programs (barbering and cosmetology fees, income tax fee, fee on asphalt, etc.)
H.510 is the House version of the minimum wage bill, increasing it to $15.00.
H.301 would ban glyphosate from sale and use.
H.289 would clarify labeling on egg cartons.

H.235 and H.274 – LANGUAGE REGARDING ON-FARM SLAUGHTER

       Two bills were introduced this past week about the authority to conduct on-farm slaughter. H.235 would simply repeal the sunset of the current language; H.274 makes more changes to the current law as well as repealing the sunset.
       Rural Vermont was in the House Ag Committee this past week, advocating for the more comprehensive changes in H.274. Randy Quenneville from the Agency of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Inspection Division remarked that the registration and reporting requirements in current law were not being followed after two years. Rural Vermont noted the law was not user friendly and so farmers weren’t following it and her members didn’t like having to register with the Agency for fear of enforcement if they weren’t doing something per the law. Rural Vermont was extremely supportive of the current language when it was passed and vowed to work to educate their members on the requirements; they are making that offer again if the more comprehensive language is approved. I’ve asked Randy for the information about on-farm slaughter the Agency shares with farmers; he has complied and I’ll have Peggy put this up on our website. 
       Language questioned by Randy in H.274 included “The slaughter is performed by the individual who purchased the livestock or by the farmer who sold the livestock provided that the farmer is qualified to conduct the slaughter.” The question is who decides if the farmer is qualified? Also, there is an entirely new section about Best Management Practices for On Farm Slaughter that requires the Agency to recommend BMPs “designed to be reasonable to implement and based on the scale or size of the farm at which the slaughter is conducted.  Randy questioned whether this meant every farm needed their own BMP and he reminded Rural Vermont that Sanitation is NOT sized to scale but is a requirement for any slaughter of livestock. The Agency of Agriculture does not support this new language.

RURAL DEVELOPMENT FOR AGRICULTURE – SENATE COMMITTEE DRAFT BILL

       Senator Starr introduced this language with multiple purposes, including:
·          Requiring the Agency of Agriculture to develop a strategic plan for the stabilization and revitalization of the dairy industry in Vermont
·          Requiring the Dept of Economic Development to conduct an analysis of the feasibility of building a milk processing plant in Vermont
·          Requiring the Farm and Forest Viability Program (VHCB) to recommend financial incentives to encourage farmers to implement ag practices to improve soil health productivity, enhance crop resilience or reduce ag runoff to waters
·          Requiring the State Treasurer to establish and sponsor a Clean Water Affinity Card (credit card) for the benefit of water quality improvement
·          Repealing the sunset of the authority to conduct on-farm slaughter
·          Requiring commercial slaughterhouses to maintain records and to allow Agency of Agriculture to access those records (also in House Ag Housekeeping bill)
·          Establishing an animal welfare certification program
·          Establishing a forest carbon program
·          Establishing an accident prevention and safety training program for loggers
·          Providing grants to persons applying for master logger certification
·          Providing financial assistance to forestry operations to expand
After discussion, the Committee also added poultry composing and wood products heating language to the bill. This has just started its journey in Senate Agriculture; if you would be interested in testifying on any portion of this, please let me know.

WETLANDS DISCUSSION CONTINUES . . .

There is still no resolution to the wetlands controversy, as the Agency of Natural Resources and the House Agriculture Committee continue to go back and forth about definitions and jurisdiction. ANR introduced a draft of their own which was discussed on Thursday but there wasn’t time to do a side-by-side comparison of the House iteration.
VERMONT NORTHEASTERN ORGANIC FARMING ASSOCIATION VISITS
Members from VT/NOFA offered to the House Agriculture Committee their list of priorities for the upcoming session, including their support of H.205 (Neonicotinoids), assistance with hemp, promotion of regenerative agriculture for soil health, challenges with wetlands and Act 250 concerns.

RURAL VERMONT VISITS, TOO

Rural Vermont hosted its “Small Farm Advocates Day” at the Statehouse and had around a dozen folks into House Agriculture. They are asking for a sunset on the slaughterhouse bill (as well as the new language), assistance with the requirement for liability insurance for agritourism events (they want the liability for farmers lowered or removed), promotion and support of H.205, requesting money for scholarships to teach young people how to farm, lower health care, land access assistance, help with high taxes and would like to keep the farming and processing of both hemp and cannabis to small scale so that commercial entities don’t take over these promising future products.

H.205 NEONICOTINOID PESTICIDES

 More testimony was given by a variety of witnesses this week, including Sheri Englert, David Trombley (State Apiarist), Samantha Alger (UVM), Jack Rath (President of Vermont Beekeepers Association), Kevin Comer, (VT Golf Course Superintendents Association), Keri Carstens (Pioneer Seed Co), Dr. Frank Wong (Bayer), Meg Nelson (NE Feed Dealers Alliance) and several others. There will probably be more guests invited in to speak before this bill is passed out of committee.

RAW MILK SALES – H.480 AND H.481

       These bills are almost identical and in fact Representatives O’Brien, Bock and Strong sponsored H.480 while Representatives Strong and Bock sponsored H.481.
H.480 deletes the requirement that raw milk only be sold or given as free samples on the farm, removes the label requirement regarding health concerns, removes the need for signage regarding pasteurization and health concerns, removes the amount of sales of raw milk in one week (currently at 350 gallons), removes the sale and delivery requirements and allows selling at farmers markets and retail establishments as well as direct sales to consumers. It does include the sale of milk at a pre-determined location if the location is capable of maintaining 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower until pickup. 
A farmer selling to a retail establishment shall allow the Agency to inspect the facility twice a month to determine compliance with sanitation laws; testing of milk shall be done twice monthly; establish a written procedure for recall; obtain a license from the Agency to be renewed annually; requiring a retail store selling raw milk to register with the Agency and shall go into effect on July 1, 2019.
H.481 proposes a pilot program to assess the current and projected sales of unpasteurized milk at participating cooperatives and identify any health and safety impacts resulting from increased unpasteurized milk consumption. It also would eliminate labeling requirements as well as producer reporting requirements. The pilot program would be run by the Agency of Agriculture in consultation with the Department of Health and the Agency of Natural Resources. It requires the Agency of Ag to contract with a qualified economic consultant to conduct an assessment of sales in cooperatives of raw milk. The Agency is also required to contract with a qualified health consultant to conduct health and safety impacts. This bill requires the same inspections and milk testing as in H.480.
These bills were just introduced last week and haven’t as yet been assigned to any committee, although they assuredly will land in House Ag. Please let me know your thoughts on these two offerings and if you would like to testify.

ACT 250 OFFERINGS

The House Natural Resources Committee focused on climate change and planning issues this week, so we didn’t spend a lot of time up there. Another mark-up session was planned for today (Friday) but it is hard to say whether this bill will be completed by March 15 for cross-over. (Mark-up means the committee goes through the bill inch by inch and agrees to its content and then is ready to vote it out of committee). Farm Bureau has not testified as yet – we would like to see the committee get through the jurisdictional section before we offer comments.

S.96 CLEAN WATER ASSESSMENT TO FUND WATER QUALITY PROGRAMS

This bill has undergone a total rewrite and all the original language has been struck; it is now known as the Water Quality Restoration and Improvement Act. There are numerous definitions added, as well as implementation planning and targets language, quantification of pollution reductions, service providers designations, a water quality grant program, offers of technical assistance, changes to the duties of the Clean Water Board, additions to the duties of Regional Planning Commissions and development of Basin Water Quality Advisory Councils within each Planning Commission. There is no mention of per parcel fees or how to pay for the projects. President Tisbert monitored this discussion this past week and many witnesses were in committee (he said there were 22 people in that room!). This bill will be on the docket for the week after Town Meeting for continuing testimony.

BREAK FOR TOWN MEETING

The Statehouse is closed next week for Town Meeting, as all Representatives and Senators are back home in their districts attending community meetings. Please make sure you visit with your elected officials and offer your thoughts on legislation you have heard about or read about, whether here or from another source. It’s important they hear from you! From the Team – Joe, Humon, Lyn and Jackie
As always, any questions – 802-426-3579 or crkdbrks@aol.com