FOR THE WEEK ENDING MARCH 27, 2019
KUDOS TO ORANGE COUNTY FARM BUREAU!!
Many thanks to the farmers who pulled themselves away from sugaring this past Monday to visit with legislators at the Poulin Sugar House in Randolph. And many thanks to Rep. Jay Hooper, the only legislator who attended!! We had a great discussion. Jay had served on House Agriculture last session, so he had background on our issues and was a great listener. Farmers were updated on wetlands, Act 250, water quality, labeling and other items being discussed in the Statehouse. Rep. Hooper asked the crowd their opinion about raising the legal age to buy cigarettes to 21, and another member asked about the bill addressing wanton killing of animals.
ADDISON COUNTY FARM BUREAU/GRANGE BREAKFAST
ON MONDAY, APRIL 1
Please plan on attending the breakfast at the Salisbury Congregational Church in Salisbury, beginning at 7:00 am and ending by 8:45. This is a change from the previous schedule!! I hope you have a great crowd!
SO, WHAT DO LOBBYISTS ACTUALLY DO??
That would be a great question for anybody visiting the Statehouse this week, as both chambers spent time on the floor and we spent time – well, sitting! Some committees are actually scheduling time at 8:00 am, to get work done before the bells start summoning them to the floor.
S.160 SENATE HOUSEKEEPING BILL
Even though this bill hasn’t passed the Senate, the House Agriculture Committee had a walk-through with Legislative Counsel this morning. There will be much discussion around the on-farm slaughter language, as there is not consensus between House and Senate about whether to extend the sunset for four years and require outreach by the Agency of Agriculture and various organizations (including Farm Bureau), or whether to expand the language and allow more leeway for on-farm slaughter. Randy Quenneville from the Agency would like more time to do outreach and establish a database of on-farm slaughter activities as well as how much meat is actually being processed in this manner. Another issue has come up regarding itinerant slaughterers; no one seems to know who they are, how many there are, or how they operate. There was excellent testimony from Mary Lake, an itinerant slaughterer, who admitted to lack of certification and huge lack of adherence to sanitary conditions on farms. She offered an honest concern for what was going on and admitted not seeing the “owners” of the animal at the time of slaughter and processing. If you have an opinion on any of this or would like to testify, please let me know.
Kathy Jameson from ANR visited with the committee and asked them to strike Section 19 of S.160; this has to do with allowing on-farm use of food waste for composting to feed poultry. She noted ANR already has 6 farms registered and permitted with them, and ANR has staff available to help farms through the permitting process. There are 6 farms currently using food waste for poultry which is against the law AND under the purview of ANR as solid waste. The Agency of Agriculture does NOT want jurisdiction over food wastes and is happy with the current statute.
Dr. Kristin Haas also offered comments on the RFID animal tags, which will be required by the Federal government for all animals being transported off farms within the next 4 years. This includes heading to slaughterhouses, moving to other farms and also going to fairs for 4H. There are still metal ear tags available for free from the Agency, and she also has a small amount of RFID tags free for the asking; you would still have to purchase the scanner or wand.
MANY THANKS TO REP. RODNEY GRAHAM!!
H.439, the Home Weatherization Assistance Program which proposed increasing the tax on propane, coal and dyed diesel among other fuels, was successfully amended by Rep. Graham to read: :provided, however, that dyed diesel fuel delivered to a farm business regulated under 6VSA chapter 215 or to a forestry operation, as that term is defined under 10 VSA 2602, shall be exempt from the tax under this subdivision.”
On a roll call, the amendment passed 74-66. There was a total of 4 roll calls on this entire bill. In the end, Rep. Graham’s amendment was included. Unfortunately, there are many representatives in rural communities who voted against this amendment.
Please check the House Journal of Wednesday, March 27, 2019, page 696 to see if your representative voted against supporting our industries. You can also check page 695 and thank your representative if they voted to uphold the amendment.
ACT 143 FARM ACCESSORY BUILDINGS
The House Agriculture Committee listened to concerns from Vermont Farm Bureau and Rural Vermont regarding last year’s H.663, which attempted to find some common ground and understanding with zoning and agritourism sites. Several members were concerned about sections of the Act and there may be an opportunity to ask members to testify about their challenges with the current language.
WETLANDS . . . STILL
Another draft of the wetlands language was delivered to the Senate Agriculture Committee today. Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts was on hand to say the Agency supported this version and hoped it would work for everyone. No other staff from Ag was there and the Secretary had another appointment, so further discussion was a bit hindered since only ANR staff remained. Legislative Counsel worked through the new offering and noted several key words in this draft had no specific definition, including “Structure”, “Farming” and “Permanent”. The language was also silent on tile drainage issues, which made some of the members uncomfortable given the amount of time spent discussing this last week. There is also concern that the $200 permit fee only applies to projects which are “water quality improvement projects”; ANR does not feel manure storage systems do that and they would fall under the 75 cent/square foot fee. There were also questions on what a production area was, since new language includes the term “agricultural production area which includes a 200-foot buffer around such areas”; ANR suggested the language was in the RAPS but no one was there from Agriculture to confirm. Other challenges to the new draft included whether greenhouses that were not built on fill, footings or foundations would require a permit; the same questions were targeted at poultry hoop houses.
Senator Pollina was also insistent on including language surrounding surface inlets connected to tile drainage; ANR or AAFM will be contacting farmers to remind them these devices on tile drainage are considered direct discharge and should be cut off, filled in or removed before January, 2020. Since there is no statewide map on where tile drainage has been constructed, there is no indication of how many tile inlets need to be capped or destroyed.
The Committee met again Friday morning, beginning with Secretary of ANR Julie Moore, who presented draft language regarding Sen. Pollina’s concern on surface inlets. After much discussion, the draft was changed from required reporting on how many inlets were found and discontinued and where they were to reporting by the ANR on how outreach was handled and reporting by AAFM on how many were found and capped. It was decided to try and add a box for farmers to check on the LFO/MFO/SFO annual reports as to whether farms had surface inlets and let AAFM inspect these and make sure they are capped. Sec. Moore admitted there had been outreach to UVM Extension and the Conservation Districts but not directly to farmers as yet.
THIS IS A REMINDER FOR FARMERS
– all surface inlets need to be cut off and capped or covered by January 1, 2020!! These are considered direct discharges and under the purview of ANR. If you have any questions, please let me know.
There was also more tweaking of the wetlands draft and further discussion will consider how to make the $200 permit cost for water quality improvements apply to ALL agricultural projects in wetlands. Currently, if you are building a manure storage system in a wetland, you will be charged the 75 cent/sq. ft fee, NOT the $200. ANR seems disinclined to allow any changes but the conversation will continue next week in Senate Agriculture.
Also, the Memorandum of Understanding draft language to ensure both ANR and AAFM work together on determining Class II wetlands will be re-visited next week.
Remember this whole discussion about permitting is focused on projects in Class II wetlands, NOT general permits for construction or other projects.
ACT 250 CONTINUES
Diane Snelling, Chair of the Natural Resources Board, and Billy Coster, ANR, visited with the House Natural Resources Committee this week and commented on the inadequacy of funds coming into both areas for continued work on Act 250 issues. Mark Hughes, Executive Director for Justice for All, attended and noted there was no language for social justice concerns within the current Act 250 draft and commented on the need for land acquisition by all.
DAIRY SUMMIT AT JAY PEAK
It sounds like there will be quite a crowd at the Dairy Summit hosted by the Agency of Agriculture on Monday and Tuesday of next week. Over two days, a variety of speakers will talk about their vision of a dairy future in Vermont, how to work through diversification, marketing, grazing, producing value added products and more. Both Joe and I will be attending and will follow-up with results and outcomes next week.
As always, any comments or questions can be directed to Jackie
From the team: Joe, Lyn, Humon and Jackie