“Under the Golden Dome”, is emailed weekly to subscribing members to keep them apprised of legislative developments at the Vermont Statehouse that affect agriculture. Legislative priorities are set annually by the organization following the elected delegate session determining policy in November.
Vermont Subsurface Agricultural TILE DRAINAGE REPORT. Submitted by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources January 31, 2017. Prepared for the Vermont General Assembly in Accordance with 2015 Act 64, Section 5.
March 15, 2017 VAAFM Listening Tour continues with a meeting at 109 State Street, Montpelier 6-8 pm
March 15, 2017 Dairy Appreciation Day at the State House, all day
March 29, 2017 Agritourism: its joys, challenges and potential liability. 9 a.m. to 2 pm at the The Eagles Club in Burlington
March 30, 2017 20th year celebration of the 2 + 2Program, Dairy Reception 4-6 pm Cedar Creek Room, The Governor, Secretary Tebbetts, Mitzi Johnson, Tim Ashe, UVM and VTC will be in attendance.
Notifications: There will be no Under The Golden Dome next week as the Legislators are on break this week.
On Farm Businesses
On Wednesday March 15th, 2017, from 9 am to 10:15 am morning, we have been asked to testify on committee bill 17- which is a rural development bill to encourage accessory on farm businesses. We have two farmers testifying so far. This is important to any of you who have or anticipate having burger nights, pizza nights, weddings etc. Please contact me if you can testify.
Independent Contractor bills
We have been invited by the House Committee on Commerce and Economic development to testify on the three proposed bills H.119, H. 223 and H. 323. These bills attempt to determine who is an employee and who is an independent contractor. H. 119 is a bright line test that tries to alleviate guesswork on the part of the employer. The other two bills give more power to the Department of labor to determine who is an employee and who is an independent contractor. We have policy on this issue. The committee wants to hear from farmers who use independent contractors. On Wednesday March 15th, 2017 we have been invited to testify in the morning or afternoon sessions. We have only one person who wants to testify so far. Please contact me as the committee has a 15 minute restriction, guidelines on how to frame testimony, and a side by side comparison of the bills.
DISCUSSIONS IN COMMITTEES
House Ways and Means:
David Deen’s draft bill on how to fund The Clean Water Fund was introduced this week into House ways and Means as a memorandum not a draft bill, and the committee took limited testimony on it. In addition that committee attended a 90 minute session with Agency of Natural resources that took a very clinical look at projects and how the fund would be used and where it would have its greatest impact in reducing phosphorus run off into our lakes and streams. Only 15 legislators attended, most of them from House Ways and Means.
House Natural Resources:
In addition to other work this committee took up more testimony on the Clean Water fund and had Native Energy in to discuss phosphorus extraction from manure. This same company walked Senate agriculture through it last week.
House Agriculture and Forestry:
There was an information meeting on Tile Drainage, which was very well attended by our members and by both Agriculture committees in the House and Senate. Eric Young supported by Laura Klaiber from the Miner Institute presented before both the House and Senate Agriculture committees. Their report is on the House Committee’s website. Eric spent a lot of time going over the scientific method, assumptions and limitations of the study. The results so far from these two fields studied are that phosphorus is ten times higher in surface runoff than through the tiles. Bill Rowell reminded the committee that if farmers are to adopt no till seeding methods they must have tile drainage as a tool. Later in the week David Deen introduced H.242, which he said took the recommendations from the VAAFM and ANR joint report and he introduced the bill as required legislative action items from the report, mainly identifying where tile drainage is and whether is it being properly installed. He said he understood that there is an exponential growth in Vermont in the use of tile drainage and he believes it is cheaper and easier to install them properly than to fix them later. He also said that he wants tile drainage looked at sooner than 2022.
Other Bills Discussed:
This week saw the introduction by the sponsors and preliminary discussion of many more bills. In addition to ongoing work this committee is doing on the adequate shelter of cats and dogs, and spaying and neutering programs, this committee heard and discussed:
H. 229 The Treated Articles Bill. This bill seeks to put in place recommendations made by the Pollinator Protection committee that had broad support. Cary Giguere of the VAAFM will be in for more testimony on the unintended consequences of enacting rules on some of these recommendations.
H. 299 Shell Eggs and H. 440, Humanely Raised and Slaughtered ( introduced by Rep. Rachelson) essentially both are labelling bills for consumer protection. They would both be voluntary programs, certifying that chickens really are free range for example or that animals really are humanely raised and slaughtered.
H.310 Rep. David Ainsworth sponsored a bill on livestock shelter to include outdoor shelter.
H.328 Rep Christiansen introduced this on behalf of a constituent who fears that an active ingredient in Round up causes cancer and is used too much by everyone in Vermont.
H. 337 Rep. Harvey Smith has asked that methane digesters be relieved from paying air emission fees which have been recently assessed to farms with the digesters.
Rep Jay Hooper introduced three bills H. 465 which seeks to get the VAAFM to identify and make recommendations on invasive species management, H. 463, concerning animals roaming at large, which would attempt to prohibit criminal prosecution of the owner of said animal, and H. 464 allowing farm stands to be included in the definition of farming.
The committee voted unanimously to pass out committee draft bill 17- 0457, health requirements for animals used in agriculture, and it passed through the House this week.
In addition to the Tile Drainage hearing, Senate Agriculture committee is working very hard on S. 34. This bill’s language doesn’t reflect the committee’s work yet. The committee is looking at ways to promote the viability of Vermont’s working landscape, allowing the farm and forest economies to evolve, diversify and expand value added sales and uses accessory to farming and forestry uses. What this committee is doing is very beneficial to farmers. They are identifying ways to incentivize these businesses as other businesses in other sectors have been. Please take time to speak with these five senators over break.
Email or In Person
I have been asked by several representatives that our members contact their representative by email or speak to them in person as preferred methods. Please do not use their private home phone numbers, unless you have their permission.
New Legislation Introduced
We have finished week 9. We are now up to 499 bills introduced and assigned to committees in the House and 116 in the Senate. H.495 which is the miscellaneous housekeeping bill passed through the House this week and will now go to Senate Agriculture. H. 497, an act relating to health requirements for animals use in agriculture passed through the house this week. It will end up in Senate Agriculture.. H. 38, an act amending membership on the Clean Water Board, passed through the House this week as well. These bills all made crossover and we will be looking more closely at them in the Senate.
BILLS WE ARE FOLLOWING THIS SESSION
S.9 The Poultry Bill, was passed unanimously out of committee to the Senate floor next week
S.10 PFOA bill passed through the Senate and is now in the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife
S.33 The Rozo McLaughlin Farm to School is now in the House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry
S.43. Regenerative Agriculture, Rep Sheldon introduced this bill to her committee, House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. Senate Natural Resources is amending its bill S.34 based on testimony from Champlain Valley Farmers Coalition.
S.40, H93 and H 64 All propose to increase Vermont’s Minimum wage to $15/ hour. These bills are still up in the air at the moment.
S.82 Proposes a Family Leave/ Medical Leave insurance program. The gossip in the State House is that some form of this bill is going forward.
H.76 miscellaneous agricultural subjects, the fines were left at their original level and not increased. This was passed unanimously out of committee this week. This bill also repealed the language added last year by the Senate about giving preference to farms and forests over not for profits. This language had clauses with modifiers which were confusing to the Working Lands Enterprise Board.
H. 137 Workers compensationpremiums, there is tremendous pressure from constituents to get this resolved which requires resolution of the independent contractor bill.
H.119 Independent contractor Heidi Schumann’s bill from last session has been reintroduced. The House committee on Commerce and Economic development spent a lot of time on it las t t year. This past week the house committee on commerce and economic development decided to look at this bill with H. 223 and H. 323 and H. 119.
H. 141 current use and appurtenant dwelling units.
H. 218 Adequate shelter of cats and dogs see also H. 310 adequate shelter for livestock
H. 229 Treated Articles Pesticides/ I.e., Treated Corn Seed). Last year’s law gave the VAAFM the power to regulate treated articles. This bill asks them to write rules creating BMP s (Best Management Practices” Including the recommendations of the Pollinator Protection Committee on neonicotinoids. This bill was introduced into House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry this week.
H. 223 & H. 323 Bills attempting to define independent contractors and employees.
H. 233 protecting working forest and habitats. This proposes to amend act 250 to protect forest resources. The bill is vague and hasn't been looked at yet in committee.
H. 242 This bill seeks to require ANR and the AAFM to create a state wide inventory of tile drainage installations and push forward recommendations from the Tile Drainage report. Rep. David Deen introduced it into House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry this week.
H.287, the chain bill is back which requires all landowners in Vermont who want to use a chain cable, rope, wire etc., across a “way” that they know or should know would be used by vehicular travel, must adequately flag it or the landowner or tenant will lose liability protection currently in Vermont law. This is not a good law for farmers. This bill was introduced into House Committee on Transportation this week. I have asked for it to go to the Agriculture committees if it goes anywhere.
H. 317, proposes to change current use valuation from its current formula to a flat rate of 25% of fair market value.
H.310 Suitable shelter for livestock was introduced this week by Rep. David Ainsworth.
H.328 Banning glyphosate was introduced this week by a representative on behalf of a constituent.
H.325 The bill to ban bestiality is in House Judiciary.
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At the beginning of each term we publish the member names on each committee of agriculture. The members are easy to contact. It's their first initial; last name @leg.state.vt.us with no spaces.
Linda Leehman, Committee Assistant (802) 828-2233
Sen. Robert Starr, Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Anthony Pollina, Vice Chair, email@example.com
Sen. Brian Collamore, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Carolyn Whitney Branagan, email@example.com
Sen. Francis K. Brooks, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact me at (802) 345-2958 or at email@example.com anytime.