ATFS/AFF National

Legislative Update for Week Ending February 19, 2021

 Bills of Interest

S.52 An act relating to increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. This bill is in the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs. 

S.67 An act relating to repair of agricultural equipment -This bill is the Senate version of the Ag Right to Repair language in H.58. The bill was sent to the Commerce and Economic Development Committee. The Senate Agriculture Committee is asking the bill to be remanded to them. 

S.83 An act relating to the Dairy Stabilization Program – This bill proposes to impose a $0.05 tax on every retail package of dairy products sold by a distributor to a retailer. The bill would also establish the Dairy Industry Stabilization Program to provide financial assistance to dairy farmers in the State. The financial assistance would be provided in the form of a premium over the federal order price that the State shall pay each registered dairy farmer in the State per hundredweight of milk sold in the State. This bill is in the Senate Agriculture Committee. 

H.241 An act relating to establishing an ecosystems services tax – This bill proposes to establish an ecosystems services tax credit for activities on working agricultural land and managed forestlands that sequester carbon or improve water quality. This bill is in the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee. 

H.258 An act relating to increasing the minimum wage to $15 -This bill proposes to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by 2025. This language is in the General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee. 

H.292 An act relating to a regenerative economy – This bill proposes to require the 13 State to develop a plan for a regenerative economy by 2024. This bill proposes to require the State to develop a plan for a regenerative economy by 202 and includes language pertinent to agriculture. It is not yet assigned to a committee.


Vermont Farm Bureau leaders met with Lt. Governor Molly Gray on Tuesday. VTFB President Joe Tisbert led a discussion on our guiding principles, advocacy for all Vermont farmers and legislative priorities. He was joined in the meeting by Executive Director Steve Reviczky, 1st Vice President Mary White and Legislative Director Jackie Folsom. Lt. Governor Gray shared her views on a number of agriculture’s challenges and opportunities and welcomed future meetings with Farm Bureau. She was delighted to speak with Mary about cows (“Jerseys or Holsteins?”) and learn more about Farm Bureau our programs. We were invited to contact her office with any concerns or suggestions and participate in her zoom discussions pertaining to farming and forestry. We are appreciative of Bridget Morris of the Morris Group for setting up the meeting and thank Lt. Governor Gray sharing her time with us.


Last Thursday, members of both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees attended a three-hour presentation from Jake Claro, Farm to Plate Project Manager and others on the 10-year Vermont Agriculture & Food System Strategic Plan. The report and plan lay out a vision, 15 goals, 34 priority strategies and 276 recommendations to advance Vermont agriculture and food systems. The report provides insights through fifty-four product, market and issue briefs that examined bottlenecks, gaps and opportunities specific as well as recommended strategies to advance each. Priorities identified in the report include 1) providing at least $1.5 million in annual funding to the Working Lands Enterprise Fund to accelerate innovation and sustainability in Vermont food system businesses, 2) establishing funding mechanisms to address specific food system investment gaps for women and Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) owned businesses, 3) improve funding opportunities and create equitable access for BIPOC organizations and BIPOC-owned businesses, 4) rebuild Vermont’s restaurant industry to provide local purchasing incentives to support the expansion of farm-to-table relationships, 5) support stabilization and revitalization of the dairy industry (through marketing programs focused on quality, expanding opportunities to differentiate the milk supply through production of higher attribute milk and increased capital investment for dairy processing, storage and co-packing of value added products) 6) increase availability of local meat and improve capacity of slaughter and processing facilities; and twenty-eight other identified wide-ranging priorities. To view the full plan and priorities, please visit


Counsel Kelly McGill’s research discovered that Fish & Wildlife has rulemaking authority to decide the value of the damage and this can be appealed to court. Currently, rules state that damage must be reported within 72 hours of same, which may not be easily discoverable as bears generally prefer the interior of corn fields. Ms. McGill noted that when a proper claim is filed with F&W, a voucher is sent to the State Treasurer’s office and payment is made at that time. It is unclear whether the funds come out of the F&W budget or from the General Fund.The Treasurer’s office will be asked to clarify the source of funds used for this purpose as the Committee continues consideration of the issue.


Committee members worked through the budget proposed by VAAFM and further requests from VAAFM and the VT Sustainable Jobs Fund on behalf of WLEB and VHCB. There is a request for an additional one-time funding of $3 million for Working Lands and a request to support the Governor’s proposal of $20 million in funding for VHCB. In addition, there is a request for an increase in one-time funding of $20 million for VHCB to be used primarily for affordable housing initiatives of which up to $5 million may be used for conservation projects and Farm and Forest Viability Program activities that support the rural economy.VTFB has been working with the Farm Labor Housing Coalition and has asked Chair Partridge to include language that part of the affordable housing funds be directed towards grants and/or loans for farmers to update/upgrade employee housing, especially since COVID-19 restrictions require additional space for physical separation. So far, there has been no traction on this request. We also asked to change the may to shall with regard to the $5 million proposed for conservation and viability programs.


Adam Necrason from the Trial Lawyers Association attended a House Agriculture and noted that the language in H.89 was very balanced and his organization had no objections to the bill. He said it provided clarity and reassurance for farm owners engaged in agritourism.Mr. Necrason had already spoken to Rep. Grad, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, in support of H.89 and Chair Partridge noted the bill would probably not need to stop in that committee for review.One amendment to remove the word “agricultural fairs” from the bill was passed and the bill was voted out of committee on an 8-0 vote. Members will try and get it on the notice calendar and ready for second reading by Friday. 


Jill Remick from Property Valuation and Review testified on H.88, which would require filing certifications for agricultural land enrolled in current use every three years instead of annually. She testified this was too long and would not solve the problem of landowners neglecting to file. Out of 8,000 certifications mailed out, only about 100 are consistently not returned and the department does make several attempts to notify those individuals. She also noted that there is a current use online portal available to landowners.Final discussion of this bill removed Section 2 which requested a study and report of an online portal and also removed the language referencing the 3-year filing. The following language remained: “The Commissioner may waive the eligibility requirement under the subsection provided the Commissioner obtains through other means satisfactory information that the enrolled agricultural land continues or enrolled agricultural buildings continue to meet the requirements for enrollment.” Ms. Remick testified this would give them some flexibility to review late certifications by other means (maps, GIS photos, etc.) and not have to simply remove land from the program. There seemed to be agreement within the committee members to this arrangement and the bill will be drafted reflecting the new language.Ms. Remick also commented on the testimony two weeks ago, that a farmer was fined by the Tax Department for allowing their animals to pasture in woodlands. She stated she had no knowledge of this incident and would inquire with the department. She noted that FP&R does not encourage or allow pasturing animals in woodlands and if farmers continue this practice their woodlands should be enrolled as agricultural land and not as forest land.  


Rep. Surprenant, the bill’s lead sponsor, discussed her proposal stating it provides accessibility for raw milk to other consumers, supports “food equity” and encourages more farmers to register as Tier 2 producers. There were some questions about chain of custody and how to ensure raw milk stays cold during transport and why the location of the CSA or farmstand had to be within 30 miles of the producing farm. The explanation was that this was suggested by Rural VT to coincide with the previous definition of what “local” meant (that definition was changed last year). It was noted that there is currently no definition for either CSA or farmstand in statute. The Committee’s counsel opined on the matter of Act 250 permits in the event that the sale of raw milk of others tips the scale on a CSA or farmstand in terms of selling less than 50% of product principally produced on the farm. No testimony has been taken on this bill. If you are interested in testifying, please let us know by calling Jackie at 802-426-3579 or emailing her at


Senators Starr and Brock were appointed by the Committee on Committees to be the Senate representatives on the Dairy Task Force. No other appointments have been made public to date. The Agriculture Subcommittee for the Climate Council, chaired by Abbie Corse, was meeting on Wednesday to vet the nominations for seats on the group. No appointments have been announced as yet. There were over two hundred nominations for the four different subcommittees. 


Kanika Ghandi and Cary Giguere from VAAFM were before the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee to discuss the Agency’s proposal to change the current Vermont Pesticide Council into a board more aligned with their current focus. The Council is now comprised of representatives from many governmental agencies as well as one from UVM and one person from the general public. Originally established under Governor Kunin, this Council was to develop a more comprehensive view of pesticide use across state government and determine what was best for the environment. In 1999, the Legislature asked that this group change focus and begin to benchmark pesticide use in Vermont and to weigh in on policy. The VAAFM proposal envisions the new Board being more policy oriented, viewing pesticide use holistically. The make-up of the new board would be the Secretary of VAAFM, an organic farmer, a member of the UVM Center for Sustainability, the Director of Water Quality, the Commissioner of the Health Department, the Secretary of ANR, a soil biologist, a dairy farmer, a fruit and vegetable farmer, a grass based non-dairy farmer, a member of the general public, a member of a land conservation group and a member of an environmental advocacy group.There is still no language drafted for this proposal and the House Ag Committee was reluctant to discuss this further without something specific to view. VAAFM indicated they were working on a draft and would try to have it ready for next week’s agenda. 


“Crossover” this year is supposedly March 12 for non-money bills and March 19 for money bills. In plain language, this means for all bills to pass this year they must be voted out of all relevant committees and on the floor by March 12, other than the budget, the Education Fund bill, the capital bill and the transportation bill. The last four noted require money and are given more time for vetting in their respective committees. Keep in mind, bills do not “die” if they are not voted on in 2021. Because this is the first year of the biennium, any language that does not get out of committee before adjournment in May will still be in play come January.

ORLEANS COUNTY FARM BUREAU ZOOM MEETING ON MARCH 1st Scott Birch, President of Orleans County Farm Bureau, invites members and legislators from Orleans County to meet via zoom on March 1 from noon until 1:30 pm. This virtual gathering is in place of the County Farm Bureau’s annual legislative pancake breakfast. Sadly, the breakfast cannot be held this year due to COVID-19.  Orleans County members should look Zoom invitation sent by email. If you are interested in participating in the virtual gathering and need the Zoom invitation, please email Peggy at the Vermont Farm Bureau office ( or call her at 802-434-5646.

From your Advocacy Team -Bridget, Gerry, Joe, Michael, and Jackie    

Vermont Farm Bureau continues to update our Covid-19 Resource page. Take a look. Share.

ATFS/AFF National

Legislative Update Week Ending February 05, 2021

This publication is for the benefit and education of Vermont Farm Bureau members. Please do not forward or copy this for any purpose other than to promote the farm bureau. Thank you.  
Week Ending February 05, 2021
Click for More on House Bills Click for More on Senate Bills

Bills of Interest
IntroducedS.44   An act relating to a Vermont Green New Deal – Five million dollars for weatherization, renewable energy, regenerative agriculture, and the electric vehicle project funded through an income tax increase of 1.6% for those earning between $200,00 and $500,00 and .15% for those earning more than $500,00. 
S.61 An act relating to the definition of agricultural land for the purposes of use value appraisals – The bill would allow a solar array on 1/10 acre or less on land enrolled in Current Use. 
H.120 An act relating to updates to Act 250 – The 45-page bill is similar to last year’s proposal with numerous and complex provisions including, but not limited to, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, ecosystem protection, purpose, permitting powers, exemptions, and authority. 
H.167 An act relating to establishment of the Environmental Stewardship Board – Creates oversite of ANR, to provide input on pollution and solid waste reduction and advise ANR on laws and regulations. The Governor would appoint board members and provide a budget. Membership includes those Fish & Wildlife, VHCB, and other groups concerned with climate, water protection, toxic and pollution reduction. Agriculture was not provided a specified seat on the proposed board. 
H.172 An act relating to trapping and hunting – Dogs would not be allowed to hunt for black bears. Only a licensed nuisance wildlife control officer would be permitted to trap an animal. 
H.186 An act relating to the sale of shell eggs – VAAFM would develop a voluntary label for eggs sold in Vermont produced by domesticated egg-producing chickens in compliance with Vermont’s animal cruelty laws.

Senate Resolution on Executive Order Concerning the NRB  
The Senate passed a resolution, 22-8, disapproving the Governor’s Executive Order 02-21 that reorganizes the Natural Resources Board and the Act 250 district commissions. The Senate voted despite concern voiced in the Senate Democratic Caucus about the possibility that a court case may find in favor of the Administration. The administration believes that both House and Senate are required to vote against an executive order to “kill” it. The Legislature believes only one chamber is required to disapprove.

House Ag Hears Comments on Shelter Bill 
Farmers and advocates offered language to the Committee update the Adequate Shelter bill passed last year. There was some misunderstanding between the intent of the bill and the perception of witnesses. Participants expressed the view that the law impinges upon the rights of farmers who graze livestock by requiring them to offer a building as shelter in each paddock or pasture. Despite assurances from Chair Partridge, farmers visiting with members (beef, diversified farm, and sheep) demanded changes to the law.  Some testifying expressed the belief that there should be no exemption for dairy animals, even though the National FARM program was brought up by the Chair. Several farmers noted they were part of the Animal Welfare Approved certification program but were not going to continue in it, since they did not like the regulations related to buying young stock. Concern was expressed that farmers were getting “turned in” anonymously to law enforcement on complaints from neighbors and folks driving by fields who felt the animals were being abused or neglected. It was noted there is a great need for education, particularly about animal body conditioning and an animal’s ability to withstand weather better than humans. That led to a great discussion with the Livestock Cares Advisory Council the next day.

Livestock Council Members Weigh-In  
Dr. Kristin Haas and VAAFM Senior Advisor Diane Bothfeld met with a joint House and Senate Ag Committee hearing. The Council is developing a pamphlet on animal well-being concerns to be used by Animal Control Officers for handling complaints from non-farm citizens. This pamphlet would focus on body conditioning, used by Humane Society staff, and ACOs. Senator Pollina questioned Dr. Haas and the dairy exemption in Adequate Livestock Shelter language. Dr. Kent Henderson provided excellent background on the required FARM certification on dairies. Diane Bothfeld noted the FARM program (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) has teeth, is enforceable and is required of anyone shipping into the milk market. She said that one farmer in Vermont lost their milk market when they did not adhere to FARM requirements and the farm ultimately went out of business. Senator Starr also questioned the committee on a comment made by a grazing expert during the House hearing, who said farms are losing their Current Use status and getting fines from the Tax Department because they were allowing their animals to pasture in woodlands. (It was unclear whether the land in question was enrolled in the Ag or the Forestry program). Someone from the Tax Department will be in to testify and clarify this situation. .  If you have had any issues with the animal shelter law or complaints concerning animal welfare complaints, please let Jackie know by emailing her at

Senate Ag Continues Dairy Pricing Discussion   
Legislative Counsel Michael O’Grady was back in the Ag Committees to list to comments about what the next steps may be for dairy pricing action. Senator Starr wanted to check with US Senator Leahy’s office on the possibility of working out a Vermont-centric FMMO. Senator Pollina wondered if the farmers were ready to try again to form a union and control their own milk supply. Senator Parent wanted to investigate further why farmers were complaining about lack of technical assistance for risk management and bookkeeping. Senator Pearson wanted language as requested from VAAFM about updating RAPs. Former Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee will be asked to comment on the dairy pricing report next week, along with Dan Smith, an attorney with extensive knowledge of milk marketing orders and the Northeast Dairy Compact.

Housekeeping Bill Shows Up as Draft in House Ag   VAAFM offered language seeking various fixes and modification to existing statute. This proposal would: 
*     Repeal the sunset provision for personal and itinerant on-farm slaughter 
*     Clarify the definition of livestock dealer 
*     Amend the eligibility requirements for the Veterinarians Educational Loan Repayment Program
*     Extend the Payment for Ecosystem Services and Soil Health Working Groups for one more year 
*     Change the wording in Certification of Custom Applicators of Manure or Nutrients to Manure or Agricultural Waste
*     Clarify the type of person or business agricultural records that are exempt from public inspection and 
*     Amend the hemp program to align it with evolving federal law. 

Senate Ag Discusses Priorities for Session  
The Senate Ag Committee is awaiting language from VAAFM’s Cary Giguere regarding the registration of soil amendments, which Cary would like added to the composting bill. The Committee did not come to consensus about whether the language should be added or leave it to stand alone. There was also discussion about dealing with recycling agricultural plastics. There is an ask of $20 million for folks running the Universal School Meals Program and another $1for promoting local purchasing.   Mr. O’Grady noted he was researching a Pennsylvania program that gives farmers tax credits for projects they have done to mitigate water issues into Chesapeake Bay. He was asked to get more information (readily available on called the REAP program and quite interesting) and noted Representative Harvey Smith was working on a bill involving this concept. There was much interest in this proposal since payment for ecosystems services is another priority for the Committee. Senator Parent again noted his concern that farmers needed more risk management and technical assistance programs, and it was suggested some language could be added to the Housekeeping bill when it crosses over.  Senator Pollina noted he has been contacted by several farmers who would like a further discussion on language in the Adequate Livestock Shelter bill passed last year.

H.58 Right to Repair Heard in House Ag  
Nathan Proctor from the National PIRG group visited with members for about an hour and mentioned AFBF at least 3 times as a strong supporter of this language. Jackie spoke with Senator Pearson who plans to introduce a similar version on the Senate side but have not seen it yet. President Tisbert sent to Jackie the AFBF policy and she will testify next week. VTFB supports the language though there is no mention of agriculture. H.58 is ag-specific. There was no support for this by the manufacturing lobby when it was focused on them last biennium. 

H.67 Bears and Agricultural Crops  
Bob and Beth Kennett, Liberty Hill Farm and Jennie Amerikiaee and Rick Shurtliff, Maple Valley Farm and VTFB testified in front of House Ag regarding bear damage to corn. The Kennetts noted bear sightings have increased incredibly in the last 25 years. They lost 10 out of 130 acres of corn last year to bear damage. Beth noted farmers spend a lot of money feeding the wildlife (bears, deer, beaver, coyotes, and turkeys) while losing crops needed for cows. Jennie and Rick shared that in 2018 they had 65% of their corn crop damaged and in 2020 they lost 48%; the replacement cost for last year’s feed was $21,000. They had photos of their corn crop from last year. Bears go inside the fields and lay waste by eating or rolling in the corn and destroying the crop. VTFB supports policies to protect agriculture from predators that cause economic harm, threaten crops and domestic animals. The Committee concluded it will ask Louis Porter, Commissioner of Fish and Wildlife to testify. H.67 requires 50% repayment of lost feed caused by bears. Currently there is a fund within F&W, that covers deer damage. If you have had any damage by bears or deer and have calculated your loss or have photos, please let Jackie know by emailing her at

Hearing on Dairy Pricing Study By DFR 
Beth Kennett and VTFB will be testifying on Friday, February 5, on the language limiting agritourism liability which never made it through the legislative process last year due to the challenges of COVID-19 challenges. Beth and Mary White have been working on this for several years. Last year’s agricultural fairs were in the defining language of agritourism. The Fairs Association is not generally supportive of being included as an agritourism site believing fairs do not fit the definition. 

From your Advocacy Team -Bridget, Gerry, Joe, Michael, and Jackie   


AFF Applauds Sonny Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 19, 2017) – The following statement may be attributed to Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation (AFF).

“The American Forest Foundation welcomes President-elect Trump’s nomination of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to be the country’s next Secretary of Agriculture. As a landowner and avid sportsman, he knows the importance of America’s forests, both public and privately owned, and understands the rural landowners and communities that work so hard to manage and protect these lands. As governor, he had an incredible track record of supporting policies at the state level, that helped landowners large and small to be responsible stewards of the land.”


Boozman-Leahy Resolution Recogizes 75th Anniversary of the American Tree Farm System

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a resolution recognizing the 75th anniversary of the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), a program founded in 1941 to help family and individual woodland owners sustain forests and promote the benefits that forests provide.

The ATFS celebrated its 75th anniversary on June 12, 2016. The resolution highlights its important role in providing Americans with clean air, jobs, wildlife habitats and sustainable resources.  

“Tree farms are important to the economy of Arkansas and the entire country.  Over 340,000 family forest owners own 9.3 million acres of forestland in Arkansas.  The forest industry contributes more than $2 billion dollars to to our state’s economy in addition to providing numerous benefits to the environment,” Boozman said.  “Arkansas tree farmers and woodland owners have made vital contributions to our state, both economically and in terms of conservation, and have much to be proud of. I’m proud to recognize ATFS on this milestone.”

Read full article

American Tree Farm System Celebrates 75 Years, Commits to Future

American Forest Foundation celebrates milestone for its signature program with a pledge to increase its impact on clean water, wildlife habitat and wood supply

SEATTLE, WA – The American Forest Foundation (AFF) today kicked off its celebration of the 75th anniversary of the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), the largest and oldest sustainable forestry program for family forest owners. In celebration, AFF’s governance, Tree Farmers, volunteers and partners have pledged to measurably increase their impact on the clean water, wildlife habitat and wood supply that comes from family-owned forests. Read full press release.


American Tree Farm System Honors Paul Harwood as 2015 National Outstanding Inspector of the Year

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Tree Farm System® (ATFS) is pleased to recognize Paul Harwood of Tunbridge, Vermont as the 2015 National Outstanding Inspector of the Year. Harwood was selected from among four regional winners for his exceptional on-the-ground work with family forest owners in Vermont and continued commitment the American Tree Farm System. Read full press release.


Update October 25, 2013 from AFF on Markets for Wood Products

Markets for Wood Products

Wood products, including products from American Tree Farm System® (ATFS)-certified lands (a program of AFF), will now be given a fair shot by the General Services Administration (GSA). The GSA is one of the largest builders in the federal government.