Under the Golden Dome

“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.



August 10, 2018 


August 15, 2018 - Vermont Farm Bureau Annual Summer Picnic and Board Meeting

Please plan on attending our summer gathering on Wednesday, August 15th, at David and Peggy Ainsworth's Farm located at 86 Vt Rte 14, Royalton, VT 05068, for lunch at noon.
(There will be a board meeting beginning at 10:00 am that will include a nominating committee discussion – if you are a Farm Bureau member and would like to run for a state office, please contact your contact president – you can find their information at vtfb.org).  Lunch of barbecued chicken with all the fixings will be served buffet style at noon, followed by a Q&A period with invited candidates for local and state offices.  This is a great opportunity to relax, meet other FB members and have a great free meal!
Please RSVP by August 10 to josephtisbert@gmail.com or call Joe at 802-644-6598.  See you there!

August 20, 2018 - Windham County Farm Bureau Annual Member Appreciation BBQ
 You Are Invited – to the Windham County Farm Bureau Annual Membership Appreciation BBQ on August 20, 2018.  The meeting will begin at 6:00 pm at Fowl Mountain Farm, 42 Hemlock Rd, West Dummerston, VT.  Please contact Kate Bowen at 802-387-2391 or kategraves2@yahoo.com to RSVP or for more information.  Local candidates have been asked to attend – bring your appetite and your questions!!
  Rural Vermont has created a survey about hemp farming, to help guide the Agency of Agriculture during rulemaking which will occur later this year.  Please visit www.ruralvermont.org and click on the hemp survey button to participate.  This information will be kept entirely confidential and will be used to help represent the farmer viewpoint during the process.  Deadline for completing the survey is Friday, August 31st, 2018.
 The Agency of Agriculture has been made aware of the fact that, due to recent changes in the rendering industry, there are currently NO rendering services available to Vermont farmers and livestock dealers/transporters through which to dispose of on-farm mortalities.  Additionally, If you have historically shipped your weak/unthrifty calves and cull cows through livestock dealers and those animals are diverted into rendering channels because they do not make it to slaughter, that practice will likely be impacted by the current issue.  We want you to be aware of this information as it will certainly impact the decisions that you make on your farms regarding cull animals and/or unthrifty or bob calves.  It is unclear at this time whether this will be a temporary or permanent disruption of these important services.  Please work closely with your veterinarian and farm management team to seek alternate options, and the Agency will keep you posted if the matter is able to be resolved in the future.  Kirstin M. Haas, DVM, State Veterinarian; Director of Food Safety & Consumer Protection

  Last week, the U.S. Senate voted by voice to go to conference with the U.S. House on the Farm Bill.  The Senate formally announced conferees, including:
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas, Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa.  The four Democrats announced include Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and SEN. PATRICK LEAHY OF VERMONT.
  AFBF holds weekly conference calls regarding the Farm Bill and has been quite active in sharing information, including a side-by-side listing of proposals from the House and Senate and whether AFBF supports them.  If anyone is interested in learning more, please let me know at crkdbrks@aol.com (Jackie).

  A storm is brewing in farm country in the form of a dragging agricultural economy, a shaky outlook for our export markets and a dire labor shortage.  Farmers and ranchers are used to dealing with tough and unpredictable weather, but that doesn't mean they don't hope and pray for a break in the clouds.  Finally, the sun came through earlier this summer with the House and Senate passage of their respective farm bills.
  Of course, Congress can't legislate agriculture out of a fifth straight year of lower net farm income, put more much-needed workers in the fields or knock down every-expanding trade barriers.  But, through the Farm Bill, lawmakers can provide the certainty of farm programs that offer price and revenue protection and opportunities for conservation and federal crop insurance, which has become farmers' most important risk management tool.
  The farm bill also addresses key issues for rural communities, like access to health care, educational and business opportunities and high-speed internet.  The measure paves the way for public-private partnerships to support cutting-edge research and gives a hand to beginning farmers and ranchers through funding for training and assistance.
  It's not only farmers, ranchers and rural communities who rely on the farm bill.   The measure ensures critical food assistance for families and healthy foods for children and seniors in need.  Failure to pass a new farm bill would put our nutritious and affordable food supply in jeopardy – a risk no one wants to take.
  We can't forget what a strong farming and ranching economy means to the entire U.S.  The food and agriculture sector supports more than 21 million jobs in this country, contributing $992 billion to U.S. gross domestic product in 2015.  We need people to grow the food, yes, but we need even more workers to get it from the farm and ranch to their table.  Agriculture and its related industries are categorized as the single largest U. S. manufacturing sector, representing 11% of all U.S. Jobs.
  A lot of hard work and give-and-take have gone into moving the farm bill process forward; we are eager to get a final measure to the president's desk before the Sept. 30 expiration of the current farm bill, and, this time at least, it seems the forecast is favorable.  (Andrew Walmsley, AFBF)

 In a recent interview, Secretary Perdue noted farmers could receive cash payments from a planned $12 billion aid package as soon as late September, but warned that the program will not make tariff-hit farmers whole.  The plan includes payments to growers of between $7 billion and $8 billion in direct cash relief.  (Growers are expected to take an $11 billion hit due to retaliatory tariffs after Washington placed duties on Chinese goods.
  The program includes cash for farmers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs.  It offers government purchases of fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and nutrition programs as well as a trade promotion program to develop new markets.
  The plan is for the 2018 crop only.  There is no expectation to do this over a period of time, said the Secretary.  China imposed retaliatory tariffs on United States soybeans, dairy, meat, produce and liquor after Washington slapped duties on Chinese goods.  
  Starting on Sept. 4, farmers can apply for help.  They will be asked to provide data on their current crops.  “We expect checks to go out in late September or October,” said Perdue.  “The payment will be based on actual production, not historical averages.  We want people to plant according to market signals rather than government programs.  There's no farmer in the United States that would rather have a government check than a good crop at a fair price.”  
  This program will probably be run through the state FSA offices; as soon as we have more information, we'll pass it along!

 In case you hadn't heard, the Conservation Law Foundation has appealed the permits for sewage treatment plants in the Lake Champlain watershed, with Environmental Court Judge Thomas Durkin hearing the arguments.  
  Sewage treatment plants account for almost 5% of phosphorous in the lake.
Several have made news lately during heavy rains, as cities and towns have permits to allow specific amounts of untreated sewage into the Lake to prevent water from back flowing into their system.  Beaches – particularly around Burlington – have been closed off and on during the summer due to these “water” events.  Rutland and Vergennes have also dumped into the water.  Burlington officials have offered several excuses, including (unbelievably) that the current growth in breweries in the city have contributed to the problem, since the microbes in the mash going into the city sewage system apparently cause a problem with the treatment of sewage.  (Breweries in Burlington have been assessed a higher fee for water and sewer because of this).  
  The State through ANR is arguing that phosphorus reductions required will ultimately make the lake cleaner and if the measures don't work as planned, the state will revisit what's allowed under the sewage plant permits and has asked the judge to dismiss the appeals.  His response was that he would need more time to weigh the arguments but in the meantime he requested CLF and ANR sit down and talk about a possible resolution outside the courtroom.


   Many thanks to Diane Bothfeld who is trying to fill the void left by the passing of Bob Parsons; as many of you know, Bob did dairy updates for the state.
  USDA Milk Margin Protection Program:  For those that signed up by 6/22/18, payments are being made.  The State of Vermont will reimburse a portion of the premiums paid due to a $450,000 addition to the budget that will reimburse dairy producers a single payment of approximately $600 not to exceed the premium paid for calendar year 2018, by separate check from the State of Vermont.  The State expects these checks to go to farmers in October of 2018.
Milk prices have continued to be volatile in the past few months.  June actual price was $15.21 and September is predicted to be $15.62.  Milk production for June in Vermont at 227 million pounds is down 0.4% from 6/2017.  Cow numbers are also down 1.26% from last year, but milk per cow is up 20 pounds over 2017.


  Please make plans to attend the Vermont Farm Bureau Annual Summer Picnic on Wednesday, August 15, at the David and Peggy Ainsworth Farm in Royalton, beginning at noon.  They've ordered great weather and yummy chicken, as well as catching up with old friends and updates by Farm Bureau President Joe Tisbert and others.  See you there!

  As always, if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions, please contact Jackie at 802-426-3579 or crkdbrks@aol.com and let's chat!!

  And don't forget to visit one of your local fairs!!  Addison (8/7-11), Rutland (8/14-18), Orleans (8/15-19), Deerfield Valley (8/9-12), Caledonia (8/22-26), Bondville (8/24-26), Champlain Valley Expo (8/24-9/2), Guilford (9/2-3) and Tunbridge (9/13-16) are all fun events!

  And finally congratulations to some newsworthy Farm Bureau members who were recently announced as the 2018 inductees to the Vermont Agriculture Hall of Fame.  Beth Kennett of Rochester, Robert Foster of Weybridge and Clara Ayer of Montpelier (as well as Enid Wonnacot from NOFA/VT)  will be inducted on Wednesday, August 29, during CVE.  For tickets or more information, please contact Tim Shea at tshea@cvexpo.org.  

From the team – Joe and Jackie

 Jackie Folsom, Legislative Director

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How to submit written information to committees and how to get around the Vermont State House:

Vermont State House
Budget Speech (audio)
Budget Speech Read copy:

Newshounds: for those of you who want a daily dose please subscribe to Morning Ag Clips: Newshounds

 Any one of many AFBF publications: AFBF,  Vermont Digger, Morning Ag Clips, VT Farm to Plate, NRCS USDA Gov

Handouts Agricultural Committee




Contacting representatives Email or In Person

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.

 Please do not use their private home phone numbers, unless you have their permission.

House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products

Senate Committee on Agriculture

Sen. Robert Starr, Chair, rstarr@leg.state.vt.us

Sen. Anthony Pollina, Vice Chair, apollina@leg.state.vt.us

Sen. Brian Collamore, bcollamore@leg.state.vt.us

Sen. Carolyn Whitney Branagan, cbranagan@leg.state.vt.us

Sen. Francis K. Brooks, fbrooks@leg.state.vt.us

Contact me at 802-426-3579 or crkdbrks@aol.com.

Helpful Reports for the 2017 session are:

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. 


The Miner Institute 2016 Annual Report on Tile Drainage.