“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.
Water and Tourism dominated the work of the Statehouse Committees this week!
The House Agriculture and Forest Committee will be taking testimony from farmers involved in an accessory on-farm business at the same location as the farm based on introduction of H.663. If you are a farmer who has been challenged with local zoning restrictions for your on-farm business (such as storage or preparation or sale of products OR educational, recreational or social events featuring agricultural practices or products OR private events such as weddings or conferences) or if you have a success story to share, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 802-426-3579 so that I can send your name to the committee clerk.
VERMONT FARM BUREAU PRESIDENT’S VISIT:
Joe Tisbert spent a half hour on Wednesday speaking with the House Agriculture Committee, distributing our Legislative Priorities and updating them on the AFBF Annual Meeting in Nashville. They had questions for him on water quality issues (including funding) as well as the minimum wage challenges for farmers and agricultural businesses. Joe will be scheduled for a visit to the Senate Agriculture Committee next week.
TOURISM ISSUES RELATED TO AGRICULTURE:
H.663 was introduced by Representatives Smith, Partridge, Beck, Buckholz, Graham, Hooper, Lawrence and Norris and a walk-through of the bill was held on Thursday. It proposes to direct that no municipal land use bylaw may have the effect of prohibiting an accessory on-farm business at the same location as a farm regulated under the rules of RAPs adopted by the Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets. Testimony provided by members of the committee who worked on language included Jake Claro (VT Sustainable Jobs Fund), Maddy Monty Kempner (NOFA) and Graham Unangst-Rufehact (Rural Vermont), as well as Farm Bureau. These folks were supportive of the bill. Alex Weinhagen (VT Planners Assoc) and Seth Jensen (Lamoille County Planning Commission) requested deletion of the section that included private events (conferences or weddings), which was not generally well received by the House Committee. More testimony from all sides will be taken in the next few weeks.
Wendy Knight, Commissioner of the Department of Tourism and Marketing, visited with House Committee members on Tuesday and gave an overview of how her department interacts with agriculture, including participation in Farm to Plate activities, attending agritourism conferences and their website.
Representative Lawrence led a discussion on amusement ride safety; Tim Shea, Executive Director of Champlain Valley Exposition, was on the phone with information about CVE’s ride inspection protocol and there will be follow-up with companies who handle ride inspections. Legislative Council has done research on the Pennsylvania rides inspection program, which is run through their Department of Agriculture.
Agriculture heard testimony last week on S.101, and it is working its way through the Senate floor on its way to House Agriculture. This bill proposes to provide that certain forestry operations would not be subject to liability as a public or private nuisance. There were some amendments to the original bill during debate, and including the addition of: “Conventional forestry practices means: (I) the transport or trucking of forest products or of equipment on, to or from the site of a forestry operation” and “Forestry operation means . . . lumber processing with portable sawmills . . .” Also, it appears that there was some wordsmithing in the last section, entitled Forest Operations: Protection from Muisance Lawsuits. Commissioner of Forest, Parks and Recreation Mike Snyder has already submitted suggestions to House Ag Chair Partridge and will be testifying on this bill in two weeks.
Laura DiPietro and Ryan Patch from the Water Quality Department of the Agency of Agriculture were both present on Tuesday morning in Senate Agriculture to walk members through the history of recent Water Quality Regulations as well as distribute all required reports. Laura also commented on S.254 and noted the Committee would be hearing from Eric Young from Miner Institute, who is doing research on tile drainage and phosphorous (and nitrate) runoff on fields. The Agency would like no legislation regulating tile drainage until after sufficient research is completed (at least 3 years) to determine results of use for water quality issues.
Julie Moore, Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, continues to visit Committees to discuss the Act 73 Water Quality Funding Report. She stopped by House Natural Resources on Tuesday.
Senate Committee on Natural Resources heard from Legislative Council on Tuesday regarding S.188 (a bill relating to increased fees for commercial feed and agricultural fertilizer); the additional funds will be directed to the Clean Water Fund. Art Whitman, Bennington County Farm Bureau member and President of Vermont Feed Dealers, has been working to educate Senator Camption, sponsor of several bills that are a challenge for agriculture.
Senate Agriculture Committee continues to take testimony on S.276, Senator Starr’s bill relating to rural economic development. The bill had a walk through from Legislative Council and has taken testimony from Michael Snyder and Sam Lincoln from the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.
The marijuana bill is sitting on the Governor’s desk; he has until Monday to sign it before it becomes law without his signature. He has indicated that he will sign the bill.
A notice went out today about the Vermont Farm Bureau Day at the Statehouse scheduled for Tuesday, January 23, 2018. We will start in the Cafeteria from 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. Following that, we will schedule to meet (if possible) with the Senate and House Agriculture Committees. You are more than welcome to pop into the House or Senate Chambers during their scheduled floor times of 10:00 a.m. (House) and 9:30 a.m. (Senate). The Governor’s Budget Address will begin at 1:00 p.m. If you’ve never seen the pomp of a combined gathering of senators and representatives, you may want to stay!
There will be heightened security at all entryways, so please plan on getting there early. Parking is free behind the Department of Labor on Memorial Drive and the free shuttle runs every 20 minutes. RSVP to me at email@example.com or call 426-3579.
Don’t forget the Vermont Farm Show next week January 30 to February 1, you can visit Vermont Farm Show for more information about meetings and vendors. The Vermont Farm Bureau will be there and if you are interested in donating some time to stay in the booth, please contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 434-5646!
Thanks to Addison County for sending along the calendar listings of the scheduled Legislative breakfasts; I understand Orange County is working on hosting an event on a local farm. Please get involved!! Call me if I can help in any way!
See you on Tuesday!!
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How to submit written information to committees and how to get around the Vermont State House:
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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.
Linda Leehman, Committee Assistant (802) 828-2233
Sen. Robert Starr, Chair, email@example.com
Sen. Anthony Pollina, Vice Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Brian Collamore, email@example.com
Sen. Carolyn Whitney Branagan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Francis K. Brooks, email@example.com
Contact me at 802-426-3579 or firstname.lastname@example.org.