Working lands, dairy, hemp, water quality and pollinators highlight legislative session

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Working lands, dairy, hemp, water quality and pollinators highlight legislative session

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 9:00am -- Brandon

Vermont Business Magazine The recently completed legislative session was dominated by a host of new legislative initiatives that will help those who make their living working the land, will grow the Vermont economy and make the Green Mountains more affordable.  Legislators and Governor Phil Scott directed more dollars toward the Working Lands program, an investment that will help support viable agriculture, food and forestry businesses, with a specific focus on dairy farmers with valued-added production.

“We are pleased that the Legislature prioritized farms and farmers by helping to create and expand new dairy products, in a reflection of what we learned at the Northern Tier Dairy Summit held mid-session,” said Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “The momentum for innovation continues.” In addition, the legislation will offer support to the forestry sector, which is also identifying new ways to create valued-added products.

The Governor signed legislation that will expand Vermont’s fast-growing hemp program. The Agency’s hemp program has already registered 570 hemp growers and 158 processors in Vermont. The new legislation will ensure Vermont builds a program based on, consumer protection and quality control, focusing on a Vermont hemp brand that mirrors the high quality of other Vermont products like cheese, beer, wines and spirits.

The Governor also signed a pollinator protection bill into law that emphases protecting both managed and native pollinators with the requirement that bee keepers submit mite management plans and restricting homeowner use of some acutely toxic insecticides.  Pollinator protection education and outreach materials for multiple sectors of the regulated community and the general public will also be made available.  The new law also gives Vermont more authority to track and report risks to bees. The Agency’s apiary program was given a boost with this new law and that’s good news for protecting pollinators that play a critical role in Agriculture and our environment.

Significant investments were also made to ensure Vermont’s farmers have the resources to install conservation practices that protect water quality. Together, the Governor and Legislature finalized a long-term funding source for water quality that will help farmers for several years.

Farm to School programs received significant support, both financially and with additional attention to tracking local purchases and investing in child nutrition and school meal programs. The goal is to see 20% of school food purchased from local sources and more resources to provide healthy school meals to more students.

The state’s produce growers will see additional grant funds to help implement on-farm food safety practices in compliance with new federal rule requirements under the Food Safety Modernization Act.  The meat inspection laws were also changed. The law expanded the on-farm slaughter exemption to allow farmers to sell an animal to multiple owners.

The Agency thanks the Legislature and its partners for their ongoing support of Agriculture. Senator Bobby Starr and Rep. Carolyn Partridge in the Senate and House Agriculture Committees are staunch advocates for Vermont farmers along with a host of farmers and farm groups. .

“Together, we worked hard to protect and advance rural Vermont and create mechanisms for a stronger agricultural economy,” noted Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Secretary Alyson Eastman.

“Under the Golden Dome, Vermont’s resounding commitment to Agriculture is encouraging,” said Tebbetts. “Our work continues over the next few months as the Agency collaborates with farmers and the public on implementing 2019’s new laws and policies for a better Vermont.”

Source: Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets