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Cannabis seeds for sale in vermont

Dear Senate Committee on Agriculture,

We are writing to you in support of your efforts to look at more systemic and long-term planning for the future of Vermont agriculture in the face of the continuing challenges presented by the COVID-19 and climate change crises.

Our dairy farms are in crisis. Milk dumps are happening across the state. The consumption of milk continues to fall, and with it compensation for dairy farmers, with no end in sight. The dairy workforce, predominantly composed of migrant farmworkers, is exceedingly vulnerable in light of COVID-19. Rural Vermont fundamentally believes in the need for a just transition to an agricultural system that supports farmers and farmworkers, feeds our communities, and nourishes the land that sustains us all.

The dairy brief of the Vermont Agriculture and Food System Plan: 2020 (Part One, January 15, 2020) shows:

● The decline of dairy farms has affected conventional farms more than organic farms (-42.1% decline in comparison to -7.4%, see figure on p. 20)

● Despite the consolidation and dramatic loss of about a third of small and medium farms since 2011, the vast majority of Vermont’s dairy sector still consists of small farms with less than 200 cows (81%, see graphs on p. 21).

● The report highlights consumers “significant concern about dairy farm practices which could impact the entire supply chain as consumers move away from products that do not meet their values.” (p. 22)

● Simultaneously, changing consumer values not only results in a shift to dairy alternatives, but to dairy production systems that do align with these values. Grass-fed organic dairy products have gained 56% of growth in 2018 alone (p. 23).

◦ Opportunity: “Converting more farms to grass-fed production may improve consumer perception of dairy, help alleviate water and environmental quality concerns, and maintain the working landscape in a way that supports both economic and tourism purposes.”(p. 23).

● Rural Vermont has advocated for over a decade to improve the regulations governing raw milk production to make raw milk more economically viable to produce and more directly accessible for consumers. Farmers can receive $10/gallon, the equivalent of $120/cwt for raw milk. Farmers shipping milk in Vermont into the global commodity supply chain are netting around $11/cwt (or less) and losing money each day. Milk prices are projected to continue to decline. The strategic plan for agriculture also shows the importance of expanding the market for VT raw milk, as artisanal cheese makers require raw milk (p.17).

◦ Opportunity for market growth of raw Milk, Goat milk, and non-traditional dairy products (see also p. 24, 30).

Rural Vermont supports the Senators’ intent to help all farmers and farm workers across agricultural sectors (including dairy, poultry, meat, vegetable and berry producers), with short-term financial relief during the COVID-19 crisis, and long-term incentives to create a just transition to more sustainable and regenerative practices.

Create a Vermont Coronavirus Relief Fund to administer direct payments to immigrant and migrant workers who have been excluded from the federal stimulus and other benefits.

Support farmer livelihoods and food access with funding of $500,000/year to enable state institutions and organizations in the charitable food-system to buy food directly from Vermont farmers (e.g. Vermonters feeding Vermonters, Farm to Institution).

Financial support for farms (debt relief, forgivable loans, low-interest loans, grants, premium checks), to

▪ to adapt farm infrastructure to enable online marketing, local processing, shared storage, and cooperative distribution.

▪ to incentivize a just transition of conventional dairy farms to grass-fed organic dairy operations, goat dairies, and raw milk dairies

▪ to provide a moratorium on all farm foreclosures

▪ to incentivize a just transition of conventional dairy farms into other agricultural sectors like the grass-fed beef sector, local grain production, alternative cash crops such as hemp for fiber and building materials or other value-added agricultural products.

▪ The Legislature and Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets publicly support the expansion of the Milk with Dignity Program, which pays dairy farmers a premium for their milk while ensuring basic human rights are met for vulnerable migrant workers that currently sustain our dairy industry.

Include dairy farmers voices in the just transition by activating relief milkers
Rural Vermont believes long term planning for systemic agricultural change must be based on the perspective, expertise and experiences of farmers, particularly those most vulnerable, such as conventional dairy farmers. NOFA-VT has developed a database of

200 relief milkers to support dairy farmers through COVID-19. The possibility of activating and funding the relief milker workforce could allow for additional participation and input from the dairy farmer community around how to equitably achieve a just transition to regenerative and economically viable farms. Due to the intense nature of their work, it is both essential and exceedingly difficult to bring diverse voices of dairy farmers into this conversation, and we see the relief milker workforce as a possible way of achieving this.

Rural Vermont is able to provide witnesses and other information in support of the suggestions above. Please contact us to discuss how we can assist your efforts.

Rural Vermont Policy Team

Caroline Gordon – Legislative Director, [email protected]

Mollie Wills – Grassroots Organizing Director, [email protected]

Andrea Stander – Policy Consultant, [email protected]


4/29/2020
Policy Update: COVID-19 Issues Affecting Migrant Farm Workers

Rural Vermont is working with Migrant Justice, NOFA-VT and other human rights organizations to support efforts to ensure that Vermont’s essential migrant farm workers are protected and not denied access to resources to help with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate Agricultural Committee took testimony last week from Migrant Justice who proposed multiple ways the state can support migrant workers and suggested creating a “Vermont Coronavirus Relief Fund” to administer direct payments to immigrant workers who have been excluded from the federal stimulus and other COVID-19 relief resources. Rural Vermont, NOFA-T and the VT Human Rights Council have requested the opportunity to testify in support of these proposals. We expect to have that opportunity next week. We anticipate that there will be a need to mobilize people to contact their legislators on this issue. If you are interested in being part of a strategic legislative outreach effort, please contact Mollie at Rural Vermont and provide your complete contact information and, if you know them, the names of your legislators. We will be in touch with information on when and how to reach out to your legislators.

Background Information from Migrant Justice:

Many immigrants in Vermont are being deemed “essential workers” but are being excluded from federal and state responses to the crisis. An effective response to a public health emergency necessarily means including everyone. We see a dire and urgent need for the state to take swift action to allocate resources – including money allocated to the state from the CARES Act – to protect immigrant workers.

Update: See our joint letter to the Senate Agricultural Committee here.

3.25.2020

It’s a good thing that spring came early this year. We need the promise of things green and growing to get us through this “ long emergency ”. I have new empathy for the Chinese people who faced this threat in the depths of winter.

As most of you know by now, in response to the growing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vermont Legislature adjourned its 2020 session on March 13th. Originally they planned to return en masse on Tuesday, March 24th. However, as the crisis has deepened, both chambers are now grappling with how to legally and safely take necessary action on emergency relief bills and constitutionally mandated passage of budget, tax and transportation bills through a combination of electronic committee sessions and carefully orchestrated floor votes.

All the Legislative staff and the legislators themselves deserve much credit for having shifted gears so swiftly – essentially flying the plane while building it. It has even been possible for ordinary citizens to listen in to most deliberations via conference call. You can find information on ways to follow committee and other meetings on the Legislative Website. If you would like assistance in finding out how you can follow the “virtual” legislative activity, please contact Rural Vermont Policy Consultant, Andrea Stander.

Because the Legislature’s and state government’s priority is now exclusively focused on developing, debating and passing essential COVID-19 emergency response bills, all of Rural Vermont’s priority bills (indeed virtually all policy focused bills) are on hold for the foreseeable future. Below is the status of Rural Vermont’s priority bills at the time the Legislature adjourned its regular session.

S.180 – Pesticide Reform Bill – This bill passed the Senate unanimously on the day the Legislature adjourned and if/when the regular session resumes it will move over to the House Ag Committee. This bill bans the use of the dangerous pesticide Chlorpyrifos, makes reforms to the composition and responsibilities of the VT Pesticide Advisory Council and directs the Agency of Agriculture to develop best management practices to be used by farmers using herbicides on field corn.

S.265 – Use of Food Residuals for Farming – This bill was passed by the Senate Ag Committee unanimously on March 11th and was scheduled for a Senate floor vote later that week. Floor action was then delayed because the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee negotiated to have the opportunity to consider the bill. As a result of the shut-down of the regular legislative session, this bill is now on hold. S.265 would establish a structure for the use of food residuals on farms in creating compost and foraging poultry. It would also place regulatory authority with the Agency of Agriculture instead of the Agency of Natural Resources. Rural Vermont did a petition in support of the bill that received 339 signatories

S.54 – Regulation of Cannabis – When the Legislature shut down on March 13th, the Senate had considered the House amended version of the bill, declined to concur with its changes and referred the bill to a conference committee. Like other non-essential bills it is now in limbo until the Legislature resumes its regular session. Rural Vermont now opposes this bill as amended and passed by the House for a variety of reasons which you can read more about here .

S.336 – Standards for Sale of Hemp Seeds – The Senate passed this bill on Feb 28 and on March 11, the House took up the bill and referred it to the House Committee on Ag & Forestry. The House Ag committee did not have the opportunity to consider the bill before the legislature shut down on March 13. This bill would establish standards and labeling requirements for the sale of Hemp seeds and it also provides a process for relief if a farmer buys seeds that do not perform as labeled. It also enables the VAAFM to establish rules for implementing the provisions of the bill.

H.656 – 2020 VAAFM Housekeeping Bill – This annual bill, which addresses a broad array of agricultural issues, was passed out of the House Ag & Forestry Committee on March 13th. If/when the Legislature resumes its regular session work, this bill will likely go next to the House Appropriations Committee. Rural Vermont has been monitoring this bill primarily because it contains a provision that would provide authority and funding to continue the activity of the Payment for Ecosystem Services and Soil Health Working Group. The bill also contains many other provisions that have impacts for Vermont farmers and food producers.

3.9.2020
Opposition to S.54!

Rural Vermont supports ending the prohibition of cannabis; providing a just, equitable, and accessible economic opportunity for Vermont farmers, small businesses, and community members in this marketplace; as well as adequately reforming the criminal justice system and providing reparations to communities and individuals harmed throughout prohibition. For these reasons among others, Rural Vermont, the Vermont Growers’ Association, and NOFA Vermont have all come out opposed to S.54, the bill to legalize marijuana and create a regulated marketplace.

This bill has a number of problematic aspects with respect to the agricultural community and equity for small businesses, as well as criminal and racial justice reform. S.54 was never seen before an agriculture committee, and evidences a significant degree of questionable agricultural literacy, including the recent addition of the following clause: “a cannabis establishment shall not be regulated as “farming” under the RAPs… or other State law” (which poses a number of unanswered questions related to Current Use, Agricultural Easements, and any barriers for existing farm operations which may want to join this marketplace). S.54 has now passed the House Floor (see how your representatives voted here) and it will head to Conference Committee before going to the desk of the Governor. We do not know what potential changes to expect in Conference Committee – and do not know who will constitute the Committee – but we are not hopeful of a positive outcome given the significant problems in this bill. Please see Rural Vermont’s comments here, and check out the VT Growers’ Association website (which links to a petition from VT Hemp Farmers opposing the bill) for more information. We are working on sending out more information soon – and encourage you to inform farmers, your representatives, and other community members about the ways in which this bill, and its process, do not include our agricultural communities’ voices or interests, and does not embody equity and justice more broadly.

2/12/2020 

Agriculture & Food System Strategic Plan

Last year, Act 83 tasked the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets in consultation with Farm-to-Plate to produce a report with “recommendations for the stabilization, diversification, and revitalization of the agricultural industry in Vermont.” On January 22, the Vermont Agriculture and Food System Plan: 2020 – Part One (the “Strategic Plan”) was presented to the agriculture committees of the legislature. In a collaborative effort, the report features the first set of 23 briefs that each summarize what’s at stake, current conditions, bottlenecks and gaps, and recommendations for the agricultural product, market or issue presented. The second set of briefs is in the works to cover even more of the diverse agricultural landscape of Vermont.

Among the critical needs identified were an additional 21 full-time positions across the agriculture sector in Vermont to support farmers, and a total annual need of investment over approximately $22.7 million.

Here are a few highlights: Despite the devastating dairy crisis, grass-fed organic dairy product sales grew by 56% in 2018 alone. A fact that signifies that consumers move away from products that do not meet their values but not necessarily away from dairy. Yet, the systemic challenges present in the dairy industry are surely also burdensome to this specific sector. Also, the consumption of cheese is increasing, and much of Vermont cheeses rely on raw milk so that there are opportunities for growth, also for goat dairy/meat farms.

These are just a few highlights, to learn more about how these analyses may relate to your farm, check out the report.

The report provides a variety of resources including a “Masterlist” of recommendations for legislators which can be found here. A second resource provided by the report is an updated list of capital resources. Lastly, the recommendations from part one of the plan are included in two proposed bills: House Ag draft bill & Senate Ag draft bill. Rural Vermont will monitor how these efforts shake out and will keep you posted.

Legislative Update

With the Town Meeting week break just two weeks away and the specter of “crossover”*
looming in early March all the committees are facing tough choices about which bills they
have time to work on and which will die. The legislative schedule in the second year of the
biennium is relentless and only legislation that has broad and strong support from legislators
AND their constituents will make it through the gauntlet to final passage. Please see our
updated comprehensive list of the bills we are working on and following to see which of our
priorities are still in the game.

1/22/2020

Rural Vermont Legislative Preview – 2020 Session

2020 marks the second year of the legislative biennium and is characterized by a faster pace and more urgency because all bills currently under consideration must pass or die this session. 2020 is also an election year and early declarations of intentions by legislators and statewide office holders has a big impact on the politics that are part of the legislative process.

Another significant influence in the 2020 session is the impact of vigorous and passionate activism, primarily by young Vermonters, urging the legislature and the Governor to take immediate and meaningful action to address the climate change crisis. Rural Vermont supports the demands of the VT Youth Climate Congress.

Rural Vermont is working to build on our successes from the 2019 session and continue to support a broad range of policy efforts that extend well beyond those at the Statehouse to address the needs and challenges faced throughout the agricultural community. All of our work requires grassroots support to be effective so please stay alert to our “calls to action.” Once again we will be hosting monthly Small Farm Action Days – learn more about the events here .

LEGISLATION TO WATCH
The 2020 session kicked off with the introduction of over 30 new bills related to Rural Vermont’s policy priorities, some of which you can browse below. A comprehensive list of all the bills we are following is available on the Rural Vermont website and will be updated regularly. It’s unclear which of these bills will gain traction in the legislature at this time, but we will keep you informed with additional updates as the session progresses. Please contact [email protected] for more information or to get involved.

ADVOCACY AND ORGANIZING Bills for which Rural Vermont is advocating for and organizing our constituency around

Pesticides

H.759 & S.266 – “An act relating to the use of neonicotinoid-treated article seed”

The Pesticide Coalition succeeded in 2019 with Act 35 in making neonicotinoid pesticides “restricted use” pesticides thereby limiting their use to trained and licensed applicators. However, agricultural seeds treated with neonicotinoids were exempted from the Act 35 registration requirement. These bills propose to prohibit the sale, offer for sale, distribution, or use of neonicotinoid-treated article seeds in the State beginning July 1, 2023 and require authorization to use neonicotinoid-treated article seed from the Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets upon a showing of a “need”. Rural Vermont is advocating with the Pesticide Coalition for passage of this bill as the next step to reduce the use of pesticides in Vermont.

Food Residuals

S. 265 & H. 830 – “An act relating to the use of food residuals for farming”

Beginning on July 1, 2020, the Vermont Universal Recycling Law (URL) will require every household to separate and recycle all of their food residuals. Rural Vermont advocates with the Don’t Waste Food Coalition for these identical bills that will allow for local and decentralized systems that close the nutrient loop and return food scraps to farms where they serve as a chicken forage, a composting compound, and finally, a soil enhancer. Learn more about these bills and support our efforts during the “No Food Waste Day” on January 29th at the State House.

Hemp

S. 194 – “An act relating to standards for the sale of hemp seeds”

After cultivators complaints about the quality of hemp seeds, especially occurrences of almost 50% male seed, this bill establishes standards for the sale of hemp seed in the State that also entail certification or germination standards set by rule.

For a more comprehensive overview of the bills Rural Vermont is organizing around and following, please go here. 

5/30/19

Rural Vermont’s Advocacy Achieves Major Victories in 2019 Legislative Session

2019 Legislative Victories Recap – The juicy details

Pollinator Protection Bill, H.205

As part of a larger coalition, our goal was to achieve changes in policy that will advance the existing state goal of reducing the use of pesticides in Vermont. H.205 was signed by the Governor on May 28th. During the legislative process, the coalition submitted a letter of support for this bill which had over 230 signatories. The bill regulates the sale and application of neonicotinoid pesticides by classifying them as “restricted use” in order to protect pollinator populations. This means that only trained and licensed applicators may use these pesticides when necessary and according to prescribed methods. There are some exemptions for consumer use of pet care and personal care products (flea, tick, and lice preventatives), indoor pest control products, and treated article seeds. A portion of increased registration fees for all pesticides will be used to support two new positions within the VAAFM and to provide public awareness and educational services in cooperation with the Vermont Beekeepers Association. Also, the registration, transportation and reporting requirements for beekeepers have been amended and include a varroa mite and pest mitigation plan for each registered apiary.

H.205 represents a small step in the right direction that will allow us to continue to work on this issue next year more broadly (NOTE: H.525, Senate Journal p. 1660, includes an annual report on the quantity of treated and untreated seed sold in Vermont in order to get more data around the use of treated seeds.)

After more than a decade of championing Hemp, our goal this year was to ensure that the implementation of the new Hemp law is fair and economically viable for small-scale producers and that it supports diversified uses of Hemp. The registration fee for persons growing less than 0.5 acres for personal use is $25 and $100 for small-scale producers. The next highest tier is 0.5 to 9.9 acres for $500. The registration to grow or process hemp seed for food oil production, grain crop, fiber, or textile costs $100 annually. S.58 was delivered to the Governor on May 24 and is expected to be signed.

On-Farm-Slaughter / Rural Economic Development Bill, S.160

This year’s top priority was to remove the July 1, 2019 sunset of the on-farm-slaughter law (OFS which applies cattle, sheep, pigs and goats) and, if possible, to make meaningful improvements to the law. The original House bill that facilitated changes to the OFS sunset (H.235) got stuck in the Senate Committee on Agriculture. Instead, we successfully advocated to add our improvements to a large rural economic development bill, S.160 (Senate Journal, 05/23/2019, p. 1620). With supportive testimony from itinerant slaughterer Mary Lake and other farmers, the bill made it through the process and is currently on its way to the Governor. Sections 5 & 6 extend the sunset of the law to July 2023 and allow farmers to sell live animals raised on their farm to more than one person and for carcass to be halved and quartered at the time of slaughter. Selling to multiple owners is a change that Rural Vermont and the on-farm slaughter community has been seeking for many years. It also requires that the on-farm slaughter be performed according to humane standards that already exist in Vermont law.

Raw Milk/ AAFM Housekeeping Bill, H.525

Raw Milk is another one of our core issues, Rural Vermont is committed to further reducing barriers to its availability and economic viability as a farm product. However, making changes to the law was not our priority for this year, it was solely due to the advocacy of farmers (Frank Huard of Huard Family Farm and Steve Fortmann of Ghost Dog Dairy/Fortmann Farm) during our final Small Farm Advocacy Day on April 25th that changes to the raw milk provisions were added to H.525 (Senate Journal, 05/23/2019, p.1660, 1678). Even though heated debate continued during the committee of conference, this bill is now also waiting for the Governor’s signature. The amendments to the law change the size of the “warning” sign to 8 and one-half inches by 11 inches with the words “Unpasteurized (Raw) Milk. Keep Refrigerated. Consuming raw unpasteurized milk may cause illness, particularly in children, seniors, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women.” Direct sales to customers at farmers markets will be allowed for Tier 2 producers. Thiseliminates the current requirement that milk must be pre-sold before delivery to farmers markets – which will hopefully be a significant improvement for these farmers and market customers. Farmers will be required to verbally advise “walk-up” customers at a farmers’ market to keep the milk refrigerated and they will also need to collect the same contact information and record of the transaction as required under the current law.

Raw milk used as an ingredient in commercial pet food may be sold in Vermont when it is “decharacterized” which meansaking it clearly distinguishable from products for human consumption, is labeled “not for human consumption”, and is not placed for retail sale with milk products intended for human consumption.

More work still needed.

With the legalization in 2018 of the possession of cannabis (marijuana), the State is now tackling the challenge of creating a tax and regulate system for the cultivation, processing and legal sale of cannabis for recreational use. As with hemp, Rural Vermont is advocating for fair and just rules and regulations that ensure small-scale operations the same support and protection as larger-scale enterprises; as well as adequate and inclusive reparations processes for individuals and communities impacted by historical prohibition and criminalization. Rural Vermont provided written testimony in addition to the oral testimony by our board chair Nick Zigelbaum. The House Government Operations Committee made some substantive changes to S.54 including a controversial provision for a roadside saliva test (S.54, p. 73). The bill got stuck in the House Ways & Means Committee due to several unresolved issues that stalled the bill and the clock ran out on the session.

Poultry Farmers for Chicken Foraging (PFCF) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

In 2012, the Vermont Legislature unanimously passed the Universal Recycling Law (Act 148), which also mandates that, by 2020, all food scraps will be composted. Rural Vermont has been working with Poultry Farmers for Chicken Foraging (PFCF) with the goal to ensure that incorporating food scraps into poultry and composting operations is recognized as a farming practice and does not require a solid waste permit and to develop best management practices that ensure safe and effective operations. Due to the complexity of the issue, we could not come to legislative solution this session. Instead we are happy to announce that we have signed on to a Memorandum of Understanding with the PFCF, ANR, AAFM, and Representatives Carolyn Partridge and Charen Fegard to continue to work on this issue during the summer and fall. The goal of the MOU group will be to develop a legislative solution that meets the needs of farmers, communities and the state. We want to recognize that thoughtful testimony and the persistent voices of the members of the PFCF, especially of Kurt Ericksen and Tom Gilbert, led to this success.

Changes to Act 250 – The House Natural Resources Committee spent the majority of the 2019 session working on a draft of legislation to make significant changes to Vermont’s Act 250 land use law. The committee expects to introduce a final version of that legislation early in the 2020 session. The most recent draft of the proposed legislation can be found here.

A Brief Look Ahead

With these victories comes a lot of work including: Informing Rural Vermont’s constituents of the changes and their impact and following up with the regulators and our allies to ensure that the new laws are effectively implemented. I

In addition to outreach about changes to the On-Farm Slaughter and Raw Milk Laws and the new Pollinator Protection Law, Rural Vermont will be paying close attention to how the following sections of S.160 are implemented:

A strategic planning process and report by the VAFFM in consultation with the Vermont Farm-to-Plate Investment Program on revitalizing and stabilizing VT’s agricultural economy (Section 1);

A report by VAAFM that provides an assessment of marketing opportunities in major metropolitan markets in the Northeast for VT dairy products (Section 2);

A Soil Conservation Practice and Payment for Ecosystem Services Working Group – Rural Vermont was successful in advocating for a representative from the VT Healthy Soils Coalition and a small-scale diversified farmer to be part of the Working Group (Section 3);

A report on radio frequency identification tags for livestock (Section 7). Since scale appropriate and humane identification of livestock is one of Rural Vermont’s core issues, it was important for us to successfully include that the Secretary shall consult with the Vermont Grass Farmers Association and the Vermont Sheep and Goat Association during the development of the report so that the concerns and needs of small-scale and small-size livestock producers are taken into consideration.

It also establishes a Forest Carbon Sequestration Working Group (Section 9);

Genetically engineered seeds will be subject to a seed review committee prior to sale, distribution or use in Vermont (Section 18).

And in H.525, Rural Vermont is eager to keep an eye on:

Legislative Study Committee on Wetlands (Section 21);

The Environmental Stewardship Program (Sections 11 & 12);

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (Section 13);

The Agricultural Environmental Management Program (Section 14).

Rural Vermont is making plans for a celebration of these victories in early summer. Stay tuned for details and prepare to party!

5/6/19

If you have questions and/or want to get more involved in Rural Vermont’s advocacy work (which goes on year-round!) please contact Andrea Stander.

Status of Bills that we are following most closely: latest update is in italics

HEMP S.58 – This bill proposes to amend the requirements of the State hemp program to conform to new federal requirements for the cultivation of hemp. It also establishes new registration fees for Hemp growers and processors. The bill now contains a new fee structure for hemp growers and processors but the new higher fees will not be imposed until 2020. S.58 has made its way through almost all the final legislative steps. It will be taken up by the House Appropriations Cmte on Tues morning and with a little luck it will be on the Floor of the House for a vote later in the week. We are hopeful that the Senate will agree to concur with the few changes the House made to the bill – thus avoiding a conference committee. ACTION: Please contact your House representatives and urge them to support S.58.

PESTICIDES H.205 – This bill proposes to regulate the sale and application of neonicotinoid pesticides in order to protect pollinator populations. It represents a small step in the right direction. Rural Vermont has been working with a broad coalition of organizations and individuals to support passage of this bill. The coalition submitted a letter of support for this bill which had over 230 signatories. H.205 is now scheduled for a final vote on the Floor of the Senate on either Tues or Wed. of this week. Again, we are hopeful that the House will agree to concur with the minor changes the Senate made to this bill and thereby avoid a conference committee. ACTION: Please contact your Senators and urge them to vote for H.205 and take a small but necessary step to protect our pollinators.

RURAL DEVELOPMENT BILL S.160 (most recent version dated 4/23) – This is a large bill with many sections. The provisions of highest interest to Rural Vermont are Sec. 6 & 7 which repeal the sunset of the current on-farm slaughter law and make several critical improvements to the law: it now extends the sunset of the law to July 2023; it allows farmers to sell live animals raised on their farm to more than one person and for the carcass to be halved and quartered at the time of slaughter. It also requires that the on-farm slaughter be performed according to humane standards that already exist in Vermont law. There are also sections that address the following issues – among many others:

A strategic planning process and report on revitalizing and stabilizing VT’s agricultural economy

Establishes a Local Food Working Group to help schools increase their purchase and use of local foods.

Directs the VAAFM to present a report that provides an assessment of regional marketing opportunities for VT dairy products

It establishes a Soil Conservation Practice Working Group – Rural Vermont was successful in advocating for a representative from the VT Healthy Soils Coalition to be part of the Working Group

It also establishes a Forest Carbon Sequestration Working Group

This bill has passed the Senate and is now being amended by the House Ag Committee. We expect to see a new draft of the bill on Tues 5/7 afternoon. (check back here for an updated link to the new version of the bill). It is expected this bill will go to a conference committee and given the broad range of topics addressed in it, it is impossible to predict whether the House and Senate will be able to reach agreement before the legislative session ends. ACTION: Stay tuned for updates and the possible need to contact members of the conference committee.

MISC. AG “HOUSEKEEPING” BILL H.525 (as passed by the House) – This is an annual bill that generally contains updates and technical corrections to agricultural law. This year this bill also contains MANY other provisions including some significant initiatives at the VAAFM including making the Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) permanent, establishing a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and creating an Agricultural Environmental Management Program (AEM). This bill is also where changes to the pet food regulations and some changes to the Raw Milk Law are to be found. This bill is still being amended by the Senate Ag Committee and it is expected it too will go to a conference committee. We are hoping to have an updated version of this bill by Tuesday morning so check back here for a new link. ACTION: Stay tuned for the possible need to contact members of the conference committee.

CANNABIS TAX & REGULATE BILL S.54 – This is another large bill that proposes a system for taxing and regulating the cultivation, processing and legal sale of cannabis for recreational use. This bill has passed the Senate. The House Government Operations Committee has made some substantive changes to this bill including a provision for a roadside saliva test . It has now been referred to the House Ways & Means Committee (on 5/3). There is uncertainty about whether the Senate will agree with the changes made by the House and time is running out for this session. ACTION: Stay tuned and contact Rural Vermont’s Legislative Intern, Caroline Gordon for an update.

ON-FARM SLAUGHTER H.235 – This bill was amended by the House Ag Committee and now proposes to extend the sunset of the authority to conduct on-farm slaughter until July 1, 2023. This bill also met the crossover deadline and was passed by the full House on 3/20. Rural Vermont has asked the Senate Ag Committee to add the improvements to the On-Farm Slaughter law that are in S.160 (see above) to this bill and move it to the floor of the Senate – if this happens it will provide some insurance because S.160 is a bill that will definitely end up in a conference committee where anything can happen.

CHANGES TO WETLANDS REGULATIONS – It is now looking like there will be a summer study committee or working group charged with continuing to work on the very challenging issues related to wetlands regulation.

CHANGES TO ACT 250 – The House Natural Resources & Fish & Wildlife Committee has worked throughout this session on a draft bill to make significant changes to Act 250. They recently announced that work will continue next January.

With just two weeks left in the session, both the House and Senate Committee schedules are subject to daily if not hourly changes. PLEASE contact Andrea or Caroline if you have questions about the status of the bills we are tracking.

5.7.19 Small Farm Advocacy Recap by Caroline Gordon

Small Farm Advocacy Days provide the chance for Vermont farmers to share their stories, challenges and concerns with their legislators. It is an essential component of Rural Vermont’s mission to ensure that the voices of those most concerned and impacted by agricultural legislation are heard and to educate Rural Vermont members about relevant issues and the status of accompanying bills. It is also a great chance for members to become more informed about the legislative process in general, and is a driver for taking additional political action.

Rural Vermont is fortunate to work with House and Senate Committees that regularly give the time and attention needed for farmer testimony via informal conversations. It is true that in Vermont, legislators are more accessible than in most other states, and Vermont’s agricultural heritage encourages legislators to really consider the farmer concerns brought before them. This increases the chances that the Committees will incorporate the information learned from the testimony provided through SFAD in their work.

For example, during our latest and final SFAD, issues related to raw milk have been raised by two farmers, which caused the Senate Committee on Agriculture to take further testimony on the issue this late time of the session. Even though related bills (H.480 and H.481) have not been worked on in the House Ag Committee these past months, the issues are now reflected in H.525 due to the Senate Agricultural Committee.

As space in the State House is scarce, Rural Vermont is also fortunate to have Lt. Governor Zuckerman and his Chief of Staff Megan Polyte offer their office as a meeting space, as well as act as our allies in our mission. During every SFAD we made use of this space differently, whether that be preparing for testimony, talking about Rural Vermont’s policy priorities, sending messages to legislators through the page system, demonstrating how to navigate the State House’s homepage, or having lunch together.

For me, the greatest value of the Small Farm Advocacy Day was to build relationships with the people we are advocating for and with our board members. I enjoyed helping to facilitate this relationship building with the legislators as well. For Rural Vermont, this relationship-building is key to building a strong foundation of which advocacy work can emerge from.

4/23/19

If you have questions and/or want to get more involved in Rural Vermont’s advocacy work please contact Andrea Stander.

Status of Bills that we are following most closely: latest update is in italics

HEMP S.58 – This bill proposes to amend the requirements of the State hemp program to conform to new federal requirements for the cultivation of hemp. It also establishes new registration fees for Hemp growers and processors. The bill now contains a new fee structure for hemp growers and processors but the new higher fees will not be imposed until 2020. The House Ag Committee is making some minor changes to the bill and will likely vote it out of committee this week. Because the bill contains both revenue and expenditures it will also have to go through the House Ways & Means and Appropriations committees in order to reach passage this session. Stay tuned for news on when the bill will be voted on by the House Floor. To read the latest draft of the Vermont Hemp Program Rules, click here.

PESTICIDES H.205 – This bill proposes to regulate the sale and application of neonicotinoid pesticides in order to protect pollinator populations. It represents a small step in the right direction. Rural Vermont has been working with a broad coalition of organizations and individuals to support passage of this bill. The coalition submitted a letter of support for this bill which had over 230 signatories. H.205 was amended slightly and voted out of the Senate Ag Committee last Friday 4/19 and it will be referred to the Senate Finance and Senate Appropriations Committees this Wed. NOTE: This Thursday 4/25 from 9-11AM the Agency of Ag will give a presentation on their research into neonicotinoids to a joint hearing of the House and Senate Ag Committees. You are welcome to attend this presentation.

RURAL DEVELOPMENT BILL S.160 – This is a large bill with many sections. The provisions of highest interest to Rural Vermont are Sec. 6 & 7 which repeal the sunset of the current on-farm slaughter law and make several critical improvements to the law: it now extends the sunset of the law to July 2023; it allows farmers to sell live animals raised on their farm to more than one person and for the carcass to be halved and quartered at the time of slaughter. It also requires that the on-farm slaughter be performed according to humane standards that already exist in Vermont law.

This bill, which has many sections, is going through extensive amendments in the House Ag Committee so it is likely that it will go to a conference committee toward the end of this legislative session. Rural Vermont is continuing to monitor the progress of the bill and testify on proposed amendments – stay tuned for further updates.

MISC. AG “HOUSEKEEPING” BILL H.525 – This is an annual bill that contains updates and technical corrections to agricultural law. This year this bill also contains some significant new initiatives at the VAAFM including making the Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) permanent, establishing a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and creating an Ecosystems Services Incentive Program. This bill has passed the House and is still being considered in the Senate Ag Committee. The Committee will likely make further amendments before it goes to the Floor.

ON-FARM SLAUGHTER H.235 – This bill was amended by the House Ag Committee and now proposes to extend the sunset of the authority to conduct on-farm slaughter until July 1, 2023. This bill also met the crossover deadline and was passed by the full House on 3/20. It is now in the Senate Ag Committee. Rural Vermont has asked the Senate Ag Committee to consider adding the improvements that are in S.160, to be added to H.235.

CANNABIS TAX & REGULATE BILL S.54 – This is another large bill that proposes a system for taxing and regulating the cultivation, processing and legal sale of cannabis for recreational use. This bill has passed the Senate. The bill is now being considered by the House Government Operations Committee which will continue to take testimony on it this week. At this point it is unlikely this bill will pass the House this session. If you are interested in this issue and would like to receive a copy of Rural Vermont’s testimony , please contact Rural Vermont Legislative Intern, Caroline Gordon.

In addition to the above bills, Rural Vermont is continuing to monitor other legislation that is not likely to pass this session but is still being debated that propose to make changes to regulation of wetlands and changes to Act 250.

Links to Committee Agendas for this week (April 23-26) are below.

REMINDER: These agendas are subject to change sometimes daily so check them frequently – especially if you are making plans to come to State House to visit any committee sessions AND PLEASE give Andrea or Caroline a heads up if you do plan to visit!

April 23-26, 2019:

4/8/19

If you have questions and/or want to get more involved in Rural Vermont’s advocacy work please contact Andrea Stander.

Status of Bills that we are following most closely: latest update is in italics

HEMP S.58 – This bill proposes to amend the requirements of the State hemp program to conform to new federal requirements for the cultivation of hemp. It also establishes new registration fees for Hemp growers and processors. The bill now contains a new fee structure for hemp growers and processors but the new higher fees will not be imposed until 2020. This bill has now passed the Senate and will be taken up for the first time by the House Ag Committee this coming Thurs. 4/11. Because the bill contains both revenue and expenditures it will also have to go through the House Ways & Means and Appropriations committees in order to reach passage this session.

PESTICIDES H.205 – This bill proposes to regulate the sale and application of neonicotinoid pesticides in order to protect pollinator populations. It represents a small step in the right direction. Rural Vermont has been working with a broad coalition of organizations and individuals to support passage of this bill. The coalition submitted a letter of support for this bill which had over 230 signatories. H.205 passed the House almost unanimously on March 27th. It will be taken up for the first time in the Senate Ag Committee this Thurs. 4/11 from 9-11AM. Rural Vermont is hopeful there may be opportunity to strengthen this bill and set the stage for more comprehensive reform during the 2020 legislative session. Stay tuned for opportunities for action on this bill soon.

ON-FARM SLAUGHTER H.235 – This bill was amended by the House Ag Committee and now proposes to extend the sunset of the authority to conduct on-farm slaughter until July 1, 2023. This bill also met the crossover deadline and was passed by the full House on 3/20. It is now in the Senate Ag Committee. Rural Vermont is planning to advocate for additional improvements to be added to H.235 when it is taken up by the Senate Ag Committee. These improvements would mirror the changes that are proposed in S.160 (see below for more details), a large rural development bill. Including the changes we seek in two bills provides extra insurance that we can get them passed this year. Check out the Action Alert for On-Farm Slaughter here.

Mary Lake testifying in Senate Ag with son Garth

MISC. AG “HOUSEKEEPING” BILL H.525 – This is an annual bill that contains updates and technical corrections to agricultural law. This year this bill also contains some significant new initiatives at the VAAFM including making the Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) permanent, establishing a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and creating an Ecosystems Services Incentive Program. This bill passed the House on March 22nd and is now being considered in the Senate Ag Committee. The Committee took testimony on the bill last Thursday but it is not yet on their schedule for further discussion.

RURAL DEVELOPMENT BILL S.160 – This is a large bill with many sections. The provisions of highest interest to Rural Vermont are Sec. 6 & 7 which repeal the sunset of the current on-farm slaughter law and make several critical improvements to the law: it completely removes the July 1, 2019 sunset of the law; it allows for farmers to sell live animals raised on their farm to more than one person and for the carcass to be halved and quartered at the time of slaughter. It also requires that the on-farm slaughter be performed according to humane standards that already exist in Vermont law.

This bill also includes sections that direct the Agency of Ag to:

develop a strategic plan to stabilize and revitalize Vermont’s agricultural industry;

convene (with the VT Housing Conservation Board) a “Soil Conservation Practice Working Group” with a goal of developing financial incentives for farmers to implement soil conservation practices;

There is also a provision that delays, until 2020, ANR’s requirement that farms accepting food scraps for composting and poultry foraging must obtain a compost and/or solid waste permit.

There are many other provisions in this bill and we encourage you to read the whole bill. Here is a link to a section-by-section summary of the bill as it was passed by the Senate. Rural Vermont has provided testimony to the House Ag Committee on relevant sections and will continue to monitor the progress of the whole bill.

CANNABIS TAX & REGULATE BILL S.54 – This is another large bill that proposes a system for taxing and regulating the cultivation, processing and legal sale of cannabis for recreational use. The bill has passed the Senate and is now being considered by the House Committee on Government Operations. Rural Vermont’s Board Chair, Nick Zigelbaum provided testimony to the Committee last Friday April 5th. The focus of his testimony was on ensuring that the bill provides economic fairness and scale appropriate regulation for small-scale producers and processors. Rural Vermont will be submitting more detailed written testimony this week. If you are interested in this issue and would like to receive a copy of Rural Vermont’s testimony , please contact Rural Vermont Legislative Intern, Caroline Gordon.

In addition to the above bills, Rural Vermont is continuing to monitor other legislation that is not likely to pass this session but is still being debated that propose to make changes to regulation of wetlands and changes to Act 250.

Links to Committee Agendas for this week (April 9-12) are below.

REMINDER: These agendas are subject to change sometimes daily so check them frequently – especially if you are making plans to come to State House to visit any committee sessions AND PLEASE give Andrea or Caroline a heads up if you do plan to visit!

April 9-12, 2019:

3/25/19

If you have questions and/or want to get more involved in Rural Vermont’s advocacy work please contact Andrea Stander.

STATUS OF BILLS THAT WE ARE FOLLOWING MOST CLOSELY:

HEMP S.58 – This bill proposes to amend the requirements of the State hemp program to conform to federal requirements for the cultivation of hemp. It also establishes new registration fees for Hemp growers and processors. There were some changes made to the fee structure for hemp growers and processors but the new higher fees will not be imposed until 2020. The Hemp Bill was passed by the Senate on 3/27/19 and has now been referred to the House Ag Committee.

PESTICIDES H.205 – This bill proposes to regulate the sale and application of neonicotinoid pesticides in order to protect pollinator populations. Rural Vermont has been working with a broad coalition of organizations and individuals to support passage of this bill. The coalition submitted a letter of support for this bill which had over 230 signatories. We see this bill as a small but necessary step to re-energize debate over the State’s long-standing, but languishing, mandate (Act 141 passed in 2000) to systematically reduce the use of pesticides statewide. H.205 was passed by the House on 3/27/19 and has now been referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture.

ON-FARM SLAUGHTER H.235 – This bill was amended by the House Ag Committee and now proposes to extend the sunset of the authority to conduct on-farm slaughter until July 1, 2023. This bill also met the crossover deadline and was passed by the full House on 3/20/19. It is now in the Senate Ag Committee. (See S.160 below for more action related to on-farm slaughter)

MISC. AG “HOUSEKEEPING” BILL H.525 – This is an annual bill that generally contains updates and technical corrections to agricultural law. This year this bill also contains some significant new initiatives at the VAAFM including making the Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) permanent, establishing a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and creating an Ecosystems Services Incentive Program. This bill has passed the House on 3/22/19 and has been referred to the Senate Ag Committee.

RURAL DEVELOPMENT BILL S.160 – This is a large bill with many sections addressing multiple areas of current law as well as creating some new programs. The provisions of highest interest to Rural Vermont are Sec. 6 & 7 which repeal the sunset of the current on-farm slaughter law and make two critical improvements to the law: it allows for live animals to be sold to more than one person and for the carcass to be halved and quartered at the time of slaughter. It also codifies that the on-farm slaughter must be performed humanely according to standards that already exist in Vermont law.

This bill also includes sections that direct the Agency of Ag to:

– develop a strategic plan to stabilize and revitalize Vermont’s agricultural industry;
– convene (with the VT Farm Viability Program) a “Soil Conservation Practice Working Group” with a goal of developing financial incentives for farmers to implement soil conservation practices;

There is also a provision that delays, until 2020, ANR’s requirement that farms accepting food scraps for composting and poultry foraging must obtain a compost and/or solid waste permit.

There are many other provisions in this bill and we encourage you to read the whole bill to see if there are other areas of interest to you or your community.

S.160 was passed by the Senate on 3/29/19 and has now been referred to the House Ag Committee which will be taking testimony the first week of April.

In addition to the above bills, Rural Vermont is continuing to monitor bills that propose to make changes to regulation of wetlands; changes to Act 250; and a tax & regulate system for cannabis.

Links to Committee Agendas for this week are below.

REMINDER: These agendas are subject to change sometimes daily so check them frequently – especially if you are making plans to come to State House to visit any committee sessions AND PLEASE give Andrea or Caroline a heads up if you do plan to visit!

April 2-5, 2019:

3.12.19

If you have questions or want to get more involved in Rural Vermont’s advocacy work please contact Andrea Stander.

The “PAUSE” that Refreshes

Last week’s Town Meeting Week break was a welcome change – for everyone – from the relentless schedule at the State House. This “break” always seems to come just at the point when half the legislators are sick (or about to be) and in need of rest, and the other half just want to get away from their colleagues, their cramped committee rooms and the cafeteria food.

For the Rural Vermont team, it was a chance to catch our breath, take stock of where our issues stand and make strategic plans for the second half of the legislative session.

Insider Baseball under the Golden Dome

The end of this week (March 15th) marks the “crossover” deadline for all policy bills. This means that any bill that seeks to gain passage by the end of this year’s legislative session, must be passed out of its committee of origin. This applies to both the House and the Senate. As always there are exceptions to be had but the push is on to move bills to the next step in the process. It is important to know that the major “money” bills have another week (March 22) before they must meet the crossover deadline.

All this means that by the end of this week we will have a much better idea of which bills will begin the sprint to the finish line this year and which will continue to be debated into 2020.

Status of Bills that we are following most closely:

HEMP S.58 – This bill proposes to amend the requirements of the State hemp program to conform to federal requirements for the cultivation of hemp. It also establishes new registration fees for Hemp growers and processors. The bill is currently in the Senate Finance Committee and is expected pass the full Senate soon.

PESTICIDES H.205 – This bill proposes to regulate the sale and application of neonicotinoid pesticides in order to protect pollinator populations. Rural Vermont has been working with a broad coalition of organizations and individuals to submit a letter of support for this bill which has over 230 signatories. Read the letter here. We are hopeful that the House Ag Committee will vote this bill out of committee in time for the “crossover” deadline this Friday.

ON-FARM SLAUGHTER H.235 – This bill proposes to repeal the sunset of the authority to conduct on-farm slaughter. Again, we are hopeful that this will be passed by the House Ag Committee this week to meet the crossover deadline.

POULTRY FORAGING & COMPOST H.489 – This bill will amend existing law and definitions to codify as farming the practice of incorporating residual food scraps into poultry and composting operations. It is not clear whether this will be taken up by the House Ag Committee but the Senate Ag Committee has already taken some testimony on this issue and may include some changes to the law in another bill.

In addition to the priority bills above, Rural Vermont is also monitoring draft bills in the House and Senate Agriculture Committees that address changes to regulation of wetlands, a broad range of rural economic development initiatives and the annual Agency of Ag’s “Ag Housekeeping” bill which contains numerous provisions. With the help of allied organizations working at the State House, we are also monitoring the draft bill which proposes changes to Act 250.

Links to Committee Agendas for this week are below.

REMEMBER – These agendas are subject to change sometimes daily so check them frequently – especially if you are making plans to come to State House to visit any committee sessions AND PLEASE give Andrea or Caroline a heads up if you do plan to visit!

March 12-15, 2019

2.25.19

Below is the Policy/Advocacy Update which covers 2/18-22/19 and looks ahead at the coming week. If you have questions or want to get more involved in Rural Vermont’s advocacy work please contact Andrea Stander.

GENERAL LEGISLATIVE INFO

This is the current list of Bills that we are following most closely:

S.58 – This bill proposes to amend the requirements of the State hemp program to conform to federal requirements for the cultivation of hemp. It also establishes new registration fees.

H.205 – This bill proposes to regulate the sale and application of neonicotinoid pesticides in order to protect pollinator populations.

H.268 – This is another bill that would ban the sale and use of neonicotinoids and also ban atrazine and glyphosate.

H.235 – This bill proposes to repeal the sunset of the authority to conduct on-farm slaughter.

H.274 – This bill proposes to amend the requirements for on-farm slaughter of livestock to allow the farmer who raised the livestock to slaughter the animal. The bill would also allow multiple persons to have an ownership interest in the livestock for slaughter. In addition, the bill would repeal the sunset of the on-farm slaughter authority.
NOTE: We are still waiting for a House bill, sponsored by Rep. John Gannon, addressing the issue of regulation of poultry foraging and compost. We now expect this bill to be released for introduction this week.

We are also following several “committee bills” that are still in draft form: PLEASE NOTE: These bills are changing weekly, if not daily, so these links may not represent the latest version of the bills.

The Senate Ag Committee also has a bill making changes to regulation of wetlands but the Committee Chair, Sen Bobby Starr does not make electronic copies available. Contact Andrea if you would like to receive a copy of the current version of this bill.
REMINDER: Small Farm Advocacy Day #2 is Thursday Feb 28, 9:30-2:30. We have secured time on the agendas for both the House and Senate Ag committees that morning. This is a unique opportunity for farmers to share info about their farms as well as their perspectives on issues being considered by the committees: On-Farm Slaughter; Hemp; Wetlands regulation; Poultry foraging and compost, regenerative ag practices, water quality regulation and funding or any other issues of concern to them. IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW ARE INTERESTED IN ATTENDING – PLEASE CONTACT Andrea or Carolin e

ISSUE UPDATES:

Hemp – The Sen Ag Cmte passed S.58 on Fri. 2/15. The bill has been referred to Senate Finance because of the proposed new fees. Senate Finance has scheduled a walk-through of the bill for Thurs. 2/28 at 3:30PM. If you are interested in learning more about this and all things Hemp, I strongly recommend subscribing to and following Netaka White’s Blog: “Tak About Hemp.”

On-Farm Slaughter – Two bills have now been introduced on the House side: H.235 sponsored by Rep. Charen Fegard and 30 co-sponsors. This bill would simply eliminate the sunset clause without making any changes to the law. H.274 , sponsored by Rep. Sam Young, also removes the sunset clause and makes amendments to the law which would enable the farmer to perform the slaughter and allow multiple people to purchase the animal. It also directs the VAAFM to develop, in consultation with farmers, best management practices for on-farm slaughter. The House Ag Committee has scheduled testimony on both these bills on Wed. at 10AM. If you are interested in testifying about on-farm slaughter as a farmer or consumer or if you just have questions, please contact Andrea

Tom Gilbert of Black Dirt Farm testifies before the Senate Agricultural Committee about poultry foraging.

Poultry Foraging & Compost – We expect Rep. Gannon’s bill on this issue to be introduced this week. The group Poultry Farmers for Compost Foraging met last week with Rep. Gannon to discuss strategy for building support for this bill. If you are interested in this issue please contact Andrea.

Pesticides – Rep Troiano’s bill H.205 banning the retail sale of neonicotinoid pesticides has been introduced. The House Ag committee took two hours for testimony last week. Thanks to all the citizen advocates who came to the State House to testify. There willb e additional testimony taken this week and Rep. Partridge has indicated that her committee wants to move this bill to meet the crossover deadline. The Pesticide Coalition will be meeting again on 2/26 and will be discussing this bill in addition to other policy initiatives.

Changes to Wetlands Regulation – The House and Senate Ag Committees continue to work and take testimony on their respective committee bills that seek to amend regulation of wetlands. This is proving to be a VERY complex issue because of the intersection of state and federal laws and regulation and the many entities that are involved in regulating wetlands. Rural Vermont is eager to hear from farmers who have or anticipate issues with wetlands on their farms. Please contact Andrea if you have info or questions.

Links to Committee Agendas for this week are below. REMEMBER – These agendas are subject to change sometimes daily so check them frequently – especially if you are making plans to come to State House to visit any committee sessions AND PLEASE give Andrea or Caroline a heads up if you do plan to visit!

Feb 26 – March 1, 2019

House Ag Committee Schedule

2.12.19

It’s all about the Committees now! As we enter the second month of the legislative session, bills are being actively debated in committees and some are beginning to move to the floors of both chambers for votes. Also, major issues are now having public hearings scheduled. There was a huge public hearing on the Abortion Rights bill last week and the Governor’s office has announced 5 community-based public hearings on the Gov’s Budget. You can see the schedule here.

Rumor has it that there are close to 900 bills in the House bill drafting “hopper”. They all have a deadline of Feb 21st to get drafted and released for introduction. The Senate now has almost 100 bills introduced and they have no deadline for bill drafting requests during this session of the biennium. Consequently, the bulletin boards in each of the committee meeting rooms are filling up with the small white index cards that list each bill number and title that has been assigned to that committee.

ISSUE UPDATES:

Hemp – Both the House and Senate Ag Committees, along with the House Economic Development Cmte all heard more testimony from hemp producers and processors last week. RV’s volunteer Hemp Advisor Netaka White testified to Senate Ag. He alerted the Cmte to an emerging federal regulation issue (FDA) that has caused some states (NY, Maine) to require that consumable CBD products be pulled from store shelves pending a ruling from the FDA on whether they will be classified as drugs. If you are interested in learning more about this and all things Hemp, I strongly recommend subscribing to and following Netaka’s Blog: “Tak About Hemp.” Both the House and Senate Ag committees, as well as the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee. heard a presentation from entrepreneur David Muller who has a proposal to develop the old Windsor prison as a state-of-the-art hemp processing facility. This proposal is in the early stages, but there was a lot of interest from legislators.

Taxing & Regulating Adult-Use Marijuana Sales – Testimony will continue to be taken on S.54 in Senate Judiciary this week, and they intend to vote the bill out of committee by the end of the week. The current bill does not embody equity and access to markets and viability for small farmers and growers, it does not embody adequate criminal justice reforms or reparations for those directly and indirectly impacted by prohibition and criminalization, it limits participation in the industry for people with criminal records, and ultimately; does not it treat this as an agricultural issue and is not being approached with adequate agricultural literacy. H.196 is the House bill addressing taxing and regulating marijuana sales. It has been assigned to the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs but they have not yet taken any testimony on it. It is expected that the Senate will be the active bill this session. Contact your representatives if you want to see a more just and equitable bill.

On-Farm Slaughter – Rep. Sam Young of Greensboro has submitted a bill drafting request for a bill to maintain and improve the on-farm slaughter law. We should see that bill sometime next week. Rep. Charen Fegard, a new legislator from Franklin County who serves on House Ag will be introducing a simple bill to remove the sunset. We continue to talk to legislators about co-sponsoring Rep. Young’s bill to maintain and improve the current on-farm slaughter law. Sen Ag Committee Chair Bobby Starr has also mentioned that he is interested in “fixing” problems with the law, including eliminating the sunset.

Poultry Foraging & Compost – The Poultry Farmers for Chicken Foraging group is working this week to provide potential edits to the poultry foraging bill that is being drafted at the request of Rep. John Gannon of Wilmington. We are also seeking co-sponsors for this bill.

Pesticides – This week’s scheduled meeting of the Pesticide Coalition will focus on identifying possible campaign goals that members of the Coalition can collectively support and that meet a set of criteria.

Rep. Chip Troiano of Stannard will finally be introducing a bill this week that will seek to ban consumer use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Water Quality Funding – This week the Senate Natural Resources Committee will be taking testimony on various clean water funding proposals. On Thurs & Fri of this coming week, the committee will be marking up their committee Clean Water Funding bill – which is not yet available online.

Changes to Act 250 – The House Natural Resources Committee spent the past week taking testimony on various issues that are addressed in their committee bill to make changes to Act 250. This week they are continuing to take expert testimony focused on the major sections of the bill. IMPORTANT: One change that is being proposed is to lower the elevation threshold for activities that would require an Act 250 permit from 2500 feet to 2000 feet. Please contact Rural Vermont if this change would impact your farming or forestry operations.

Changes to Wetlands Regulation – Both the House and Senate Ag Committees held discussions last week about committee bills they are developing to address proposed changes in the way wetlands are regulated. That work will continue this week. Rural Vermont is eager to hear from farmers who have or anticipate having issues with wetlands on their farms.

If you have questions about Rural Vermont’s Policy & Advocacy work or would like to get involved please contact Rural Vermont’s Field Organizer Graham Unangst-Rufenacht or our Policy Consultant Andrea Stander .

1.27.19

The pace around the State House has picked up noticeably with new bills being introduced in both the House (97) and Senate (61 – including three constitutional amendments) The bills introduced so far that relate in some way to agriculture are:

S.58 , introduced by Sen John Rodgers will update VT’s 2018 Hemp Law to conform with the new Farm Bill regarding the classification of Hemp as no longer a scheduled drug. It is possible that if the Hemp rule-making process reveals other needed legislative fixes, this bill will be the vehicle. In speaking with Sen Rodgers, he said that there will be a companion bill in the House.

S.54 introduced by the Senate Judiciary Committee and others is the cannabis tax & regulate bill and will no doubt get a lot of attention.

H.81 introduced by the House Ag Committee seeks to define “milk” as the “pure lacteal secretions of hooved animals” and make any other substance offered for sale as “milk” to be adulterated and subject to penalty by the VAAFM.

H.79 is another House Ag Committee bill which seeks to expand eligibility for Farm-to-School grants.

ISSUE UPDATES:

Hemp – Hemp has been in the spotlight at the State House. The House Ag Committee is taking a lot of testimony, including from Rural Vermont’s volunteer hemp advisor Netaka White. Andrea and Netaka also participated in a stakeholders’ meeting with VAAFM to review the first draft of the new Hemp Rules. We still don’t have a definite timetable for the public rule-making process but the VAAFM heard loud and clear that the burgeoning hemp industry community wants clarity for this year’s growing season.

On Friday 1/25/19 there was a joint hearing with the House Ag and House Commerce & Economic Development committees. It was organized by a group of growers/processors who have formed the “Vermont Hemp Collaborative.” Both committees received a LOT of education and heard a clear message that the industry wants to be regulated but reasonably and fairly. They made it clear they want the Hemp industry to be treated as a separate industry from the recreational cannabis industry. As you probably know most of the energy around Hemp is being driven by the perceived high economic potential of CBD products. It will be important for Rural Vermont to continue to advocate for the development of policies and infrastructure to support development of the diverse uses of hemp and not put all of VT’s “eggs” in the CBD “basket.”

On-Farm Slaughter – We continue to talk to legislators about sponsoring a bill to maintain and improve the current on-farm slaughter law. We will be talking about this issue at the Small Farm Action Day this Thursday 1/31 as a good example of how Rural Vermont conducts its policy and advocacy work

Poultry Foraging & Compost – The “Poultry Farmers for Chicken Foraging” group (PFCF) that Rural Vermont has been working with for the past year, an advisory capacity, will be meeting this week to consider feedback from VAAFM on the proposed legislation that has been drafted by the group. NOTE: If you are or know a farmer who may be interested in this issue, please contact Andrea. Rural Vermont will need to build a strong base of grassroots support for this legislation including farmers, consumers and especially small rural municipalities for whom having farms play a role in receiving food residuals will be an advantage as they work to meet the community-level composting requirements of the Universal Recycling Law (Act 148).

Pesticides – The Pesticide Caucus/Coalition that Rural Vermont is helping to develop will meet again this week. The agenda for this meeting will have a dual focus of establishing a structure for the coalition and initial campaign planning. We have also learned that Rep. Chip Troiano of Stannard will be introducing a bill soon that will likely seek to ban consumer use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Water Quality Funding – Legislation is beginning to emerge and the Governor’s Budget Address last Thursday announced a plan to use the Estate Tax as a source of long-term funding. At the same time the Governor announced that the threshold for the Estate Tax would be significantly raised in an effort to keep wealthy people from leaving Vermont. There is a lot of skepticism about this proposal among legislators. It is also becoming clear that there will be two foci for water quality legislation this biennium: surface/ground water quality and drinking water quality and safety.

Food Justice – There was a hearing this week on the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy in VT. Rural Vermont is monitoring this policy, and stands in solidarity with Migrant Justice , the ACLU of Vermont , and the NAACP of Vermont in calling for its full implementation, for further protections for undocumented people living in Vermont, and further improvements to the policy and its administration.

WHAT’S NEXT? – Coming up this week (1/29-2/1), the House Natural Resources Committee will begin its work on their draft bill that will make changes to Act 250.

Please contact Andrea or Graham at least the day before if you do plan to visit!

1.14.19

Legislature Opens with Calls for Collaboration and Many Committee Changes

The new legislative biennium (2019-2020) opened on Wed. Jan. 9 with lots of ceremony, tradition, a “freshman” class of new legislators larger than any in decades, and repeated calls for cooperation and collaboration in addressing the State’s pressing needs. In addition to Gov. Phil Scott’s inaugural address , many other legislative leaders took the opportunity to express their hopes for the new session of law-making.

The real legislative work begins this week (1/15/19) as all the committees start to meet. It is in the committees of the House and Senate where the bulk of legislative work is done and this session brings many changes with new chairs of key committees and many changes in the make-up of the committees. Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson was quoted as saying that the task of populating all the committees with a balance of geography, gender, party and expertise was more complicated than setting up the guest seating for a wedding.

The key committees that address Rural Vermont’s top issues – Agriculture and Natural Resources – look quite different. In the House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry there have been major changes. The committee has shrunk from 11 to 9 members and moved to a new committee room (#32). It’s just down the hall, a bit smaller (where will they put all the food?), but it also has a really nice view out over the State House lawn. Rep. Carolyn Partridge remains the chair and Rep. Rodney Graham, who is an organic dairy farmer in Williamstown, becomes Vice-Chair. The Committee also welcomes three new members: Rep. Vicki Strong is a veteran legislator from Albany but new to Ag; newly elected representatives John O’Brien of Tunbridge and Charen Fegard from Enosburg Falls also are joining the committee which is rounded out by the return of past members Tom Bock of Chester, Terry Norris of Shoreham and Ranking Member John Bartholomew of Hartland. All these changes will present many opportunities for Rural Vermont members to help educate and inform the Committee.

The House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee will now be chaired by Rep. Amy Sheldon of Middlebury who was also the Chair of the Act 250 Commission. It is expected that this committee will be working on legislation to make changes to Act 250 based on the Commission’s Report . Former House Ag Cmte member Rep. Harvey Smith of New Haven has migrated to this committee which also picked up three of the newly elected legislators: Christopher Bates from Bennington, Kari Dolan from Waitsfield and Leland Morgan from Grand Isle. These new legislators bring expertise and represent areas of the state facing water quality challenges. Water quality and how to fund it will also be a major focus of this committee.

Over in the Senate Agriculture Committee there are new and somewhat surprising faces. Sen. Bobby Starr continues as Chair and long-time Progressive legislator Chris Pearson of Burlington has come over from the Senate Natural Resources Cmte to the position of Vice-Chair. Sens. Pollina and Collamore continue and are joined by the newly elected Senator from Addison County Ruth Hardy who will serve as Clerk. We can expect some interesting debates with this new cast of characters.

Down the hall at the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee, Sen. Chris Bray of New Haven continues as Chair and Sen. Campion of Bennington has moved up to Vice-Chair. The other new face in this committee is newly elected Senator Corey Parent of St. Albans. Parent previously served two terms in the House, so he just has the challenge of learning the Senate’s “rules.” Sens. MacDonald of Williamstown and Rodgers of Glover continue to serve on this committee, which is also expected to grapple with funding and regulation of water quality as well as changes to Act 250 among many other issues.

A few other important names to know are Rep. Jill Krowinski of Burlington who is the House Majority Leader and Rep. Patricia McCoy of Rutland who is the House Minority Leader. In the Senate, Tim Ashe of Burlington was re-elected as the President Pro Tem and Becca Balint of Brattleboro is the Senate Majority Leader with Joe Benning of Lyndonville continuing to serve as the Senate Minority Leader. This team of legislative leaders work, largely behind the scenes, to direct much of what happens day-to-day under the Golden Dome.

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Marijuana Growing Guide: Cannabis in Vermont

The United States of America is a country where the use and cultivation of cannabis are often disputed between its citizens. While it is evident that cannabis and other marijuana products are slowly entering the mainstream lifestyle of society, there are still some places where both medical and recreational use of the said substance is still prohibited and criminalized. Of course, this does not hold true to all places, as some states such as California and Colorado are considered as premium destinations for a stoner’s vacation plan. Is it legal to buy marijuana seeds in Vermont?

One other US state that permits both the recreational and medical use of marijuana in Vermont . While it isn’t talked about as much as other high profile places out there, Vermont still has a lot to offer in terms of its cannabis scene. Typical stoners and weed enthusiasts will definitely find this a safe haven for all their marijuana escapades.

History of Cannabis in Vermont:

As you may already know, there was a point in time when the majority of the world first discovered the adverse effects of cannabis smoking. This took place during the early 1900s when cannabis and hemp production was starting to rise through the ranks of the economy. As such, Vermont followed suit and ultimately banned the consumption and growth of both medical and recreational cannabis for whatever purpose.

However, as the new century came closer and closer, Vermont found certain ways to regulate the use of marijuana. On the 24th of May in the year 2004, Senate Bill 76 was passed and deemed effective. What this did is allow the use of medical marijuana , albeit under strict conditions and limited sources in selected clinics and dispensaries. A few years later, during 2013, marijuana and cannabis-related products were decriminalized for both medical and recreational purposes so long as they measured at 1 ounce or less .

Buy marijuana seeds in Vermont is it Legal? Rules and Regulations of Cannabis:

Put simply, marijuana and cannabis-related products have been made legal and decriminalized in Vermont since July 1, 2018. As early as 2014, the State’s hierarchy had expressed their desire to implement a taxing system for cannabis. This meant that the state had plans of allowing the use and cultivation of marijuana under certain conditions. During the years leading up to its legalization, a number of Senate and House Bills were drafted in order to push for the legalization of weed.

Finally, in May 2017, the House had approved to pass a bill allowing the possession, use, and cultivation of cannabis for personal reasons only. However, during January 2018, this bill was amended to allow the commercial production of cannabis. Vermont became the ninth US state to fully allow the recreational use of cannabis.

Who regulates cannabis in Vermont?

The cannabis scene is highly regulated in Vermont, with the Vermont Marijuana Registry taking charge of issuing medical cards and certificates to medical patients who opt to purchase marijuana. They have the job of making sure that each patient complies with the requirements before being able to purchase medical marijuana from certain clinics and weed dispensaries.

Cannabis Rules and Regulations:

As for the recreational use of cannabis, there are a number of policies that citizens must comply with when undergoing any marijuana-related activity. Here are the main things to remember about cannabis in Vermont:

  • You must be of legal age in order to partake in any cannabis-related activity in Vermont. In their case, the minimum age requirement is 21 years old .
  • Stricter rules regarding cannabis apply to users under the age of 25 .
  • There are a 20% excise tax and a corresponding 6% sale tax to Buy Marijuana Seeds in Vermont . There are currently 5 weed dispensaries located in Vermont and each medical patient is assigned to purchase from only one of those. The designation, however, may be changed once every 90 days.
  • The sale and distribution of recreational cannabis, cannabis seeds, and marijuana products are still strictly prohibited and is punishable by fines and penalties. This is where the law gets quite confusing as recreational use is allowed but the presence of legal commercial sellers is not.
  • In a working environment, the employer’s rules and policies regarding the use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana are still imposed. Employees who are caught disobeying the marijuana policies of a company are subject to dismissal and expulsion.
POSSESSION OF CANNABIS:

The possession of recreational cannabis for adults 21 years or older is allowed up to 1 ounce of dry plant or 5 grams of hashish extract . One of the few ways to circumvent the issue of purchasing weed is through “gifting” marijuana. This is not covered by any law and thus, is perfectly legal as long as recreational cannabis is given to an adult who is 21 years or older.

As for medical marijuana, they are allowed to possess up to 2 ounces of dried plants in their person when out in public. Keep in mind that marijuana, regardless of its purpose, must be kept in a locked container and out of sight when brought in public.

CONSUMPTION OF CANNABIS:

The consumption of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes must strictly be done in private . Smoking tobacco and cannabis out in the open or in public view is prohibited by the Vermont State in compliance with keeping a smoke-free environment. As such, places such as schools, public parks, markets, churches, and anywhere else with people gathered should be kept marijuana-free.

Furthermore, consuming cannabis inside a vehicle and driving under the influence of such will merit severe penalties. Offenses for cannabis consumption may cause fines that start at around $750.00 and, depending on the severity, may even cause the imprisonment of up to 2 years.

CULTIVATION OF CANNABIS:

Recreational users are allowed to keep two mature plants as well as four immature plants in their own private properties. They must make sure that this is an enclosed space that is kept out of the public’s sight.

Medical patients, on the other hand, are allowed to cultivate two mature plants and seven immature plants in their respective growing areas.

Keep in mind that these plants are not counted in determining the amount of marijuana possession of a citizen.

Vermont is one of the few places in the world that has done a tremendous job in regulating marijuana and keeping it safe all the while accessible to its citizens. People who use marijuana for either medical or recreational purposes will truly find joy in knowing that Vermont is one of the key destinations to be in for their cannabis scene.