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Legislative Update for Week Ending January 15, 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.  
Welcome to the New Year and the New Session Week Ending January 15, 2021
What is Your Feed Situation?  Vermont Farm Bureau and Rural Vermont legislative directors met with the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday to discuss the availability of feed for livestock. Send an email to Jackie Folsom at crkdbrks@aol.com regarding whether you have feed to sell (specifically hay or silage) or you need to purchase hay or silage to get through until spring.
A dialogue has begun on the Vermont Dairy Discussion Board. Heidi Krantz, from the Vermont Horse Council has been working with the Agency of Agriculture on behalf of their members to determine where feed could be purchased. 
VAAFM Newly elected legislative committee members spend the first month of the biennium introducing Agencies and Advocates during committee meetings. VAAFM and Agriculture Committees shared the following: In order to assist traceability for food safety, Dr. Haas has 4,000 RFID tags for livestock FREE FOR THE ASKING – call 828-2421 The Dairy Innovation Center will be sending out press releases every other week about grant availability and other programs as they come online. CARE funds of $18 million (out of $28 million) were distributed to dairy farmers. The remaining balance was combined into Working Lands funds. VAAFM has been awarded a $7 million grant for a direct payment program to farmers who have reduced phosphorous on their land. 10-12 farms will be audited in 2021 with up to 50 more in 2022. It is a 5-year grant. $4.9 million will be paid to farmers. The balance will cover administrative, research, and other necessary costs. The Agency will focus on Act 250 (changes for accessory buildings), Act 248 (changes for siting of energy generation), changes to the makeup and mission of the Vermont Pesticide Advisory Council, residual management of chickens and compost, and continuing education on herbicides and pesticides. VAAFM will unveil its updated strategic plan via a press conference February 8. Representative Tristan Toleno (who served on House Ag for one session) is the active on the House Appropriations committee. He is tasked with working on the Ag budget. The Agency’s budget will be unveiled after the governor’s budget speech on January 24.  
Leadership to Focus on COVID Bills being introduced on both sides of the building do not yet reflect this. Senate offerings, sent to Judiciary, focused on trials and guns. Education is focusing on school funding for the upcoming year. Senate Economic Development focused on extending COVID issues surrounding Workers Compensation and Unemployment Insurance. Some bills that may be of interest: H.26      Restricting PFOAs in consumer productsH.27      Health and safety warning on consumer products containing PFOAsH.58      Right to repair in agricultural equipmentH.67      Authorizes Dept of Fish and Wildlife to reimburse for black bear damage to cropsS.20      Restricting PFOAs in packaging You can read more about them at: https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/all-house/2022 https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/all-senate/2022 The Right to Repair language did not specifically focus on ag and was not passed in the last biennium. Rep. Kornheise introduced an ag-specific one. Senator Pearson will be introducing a right to repair bill focused on agriculture. Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this issue. Currently, the bill requires manufacturers of electronics-enabled equipment used in agriculture, animal husbandry, and ranching to make available to farmers, ranchers, and independent repair providers on fair and reasonable terms the documentation, parts and tools used to diagnose, maintain, and repair such equipment. Contact Jackie Folsom at 802-426-3579 or crkdbrks@aol.com with any issues you have experienced with repairs on your equipment.  Please let Jackie Folsom know if you use PFOAs in packaging your value-added products. Last year’s focus on PFOAs was more on firefighting equipment but the net is widening.
Senate Natural Resources Members reviewed their individual priorities, which included: all-fuels efficiency programs, solid waste issues, broadband, climate change, ACT250, energy, updating Renewable Portfolio Standards, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions within the transportation sector, and regenerative agriculture.   
Many Thanks to DFA for Food Distribution Stephanie Walsh, Dairy Farmers of America, reported the cooperative distributed $225,000 since March 2020 (serving 15,000,000 meals). Rural food banks were the focus and were nominated by farmer/members for receiving the funds. 
Champlain Valley Farmers Coalition Met with Members Dairy Farmer Marie Audet, President Brian Kemp and Executive Director John Roberts stopped by the House Ag Committee to provide an update. The Connecticut and Franklin County Watershed programs participated in their annual meeting. Marie and John are featured on the next broadside, by Laura Hardie from Milk Promotion, talking about dairy farms and climate change. (This information is provided to all legislators and is a result of a conversation with Farm Bureau and Milk Promotion). 
Lake Champlain Citizens Advisory Council In a Zoom meeting Monday night, Cary Giguere, VAAFM, provided members with an update on pesticide and herbicide uses in Vermont, but particularly by the Lake Champlain watershed. He answered many questions and explained that with the increase in cover cropping by farmers (over 1/3 of all crop acreage in Vermont is currently cover-cropped) to prevent soil erosion and chemical flow into waters of the state, glyphosate is necessary to kill that cover crop and allow corn to grow.   Nat Shambaugh, a retired VAAFM pesticide chemist, refuted and rebutted almost all the information shared by Cary. Nat was unable to share his screen and had a large amount of data that he had to describe. The LCAC members were anxious to see Nat’s information and seemed to give more weight to Nat’s comments.   Typically, this group visits the Statehouse after the Town Meeting break to share their concerns about the lake and their legislative priorities. This year, a small group of their members will provide a long-term focus vs session focus, at the next meeting Senator Ginny Lyons and Representative Carol Ode sit on this committee. If either one is in your district, please contact them and talk about how your farm handles cropping, pesticide/herbicide use and water issues on your land. 
Rural Vermont Representatives from Rural VT and Jackie Folsom visited the House Agriculture committee on Wednesday. Rural VT is working with VAAFM to compile information about registration and reporting for on-farm slaughter. Chair Partridge is reluctant to loosen regulations regarding on-farm slaughter until she knows what the challenge is from farmers. The backup in scheduling animal processing at available slaughterhouses remains an issue, due to consumers growing their own animals in response to the COVID crisis.  Raw milk is a recurring issue with Rural Vermont. They will continue to ask for less restrictions on where it can be sold. The jurisdiction of chickens feeding on compost was not resolved last year. It will come up again, as it has already been mentioned by VAAFM. Some criteria within the Adequate Shelter for Livestock bill that was passed last year is making it difficult for farmers who graze to move their animals from pasture to pasture. Jackie Folsom hopes to have an update in the next issue. The proposed amendment of language in the statute is a concern regarding the exemption for dairy animals which is current law. 
Updates from Vermont Housing & Conservation Board Staff from VHCB visited with both Ag Committees on Thursday. One of the issues that continues to be discussed is the challenge of some in the farming community to complete grant applications during the last CARES funding round. There are concerns with the high number of farmers with inadequate record keeping systems or little (or no) access to broadband with which to work. Senate Ag will work with VHCB and other providers to get the word out on opportunities for farmers to update their records.
After more than 14 years of leadership in Farm and Forest Viability issues at VHCB, Ela Chapin, is stepping down. Good luck, Ela. Thank you for all you have done for our industries.
Vermont Climate Council Meetings Much time was spent discussing how the public would be able to interact and have access to the subcommittees. No resolution was reached. The Council is required to adopt a Vermont Climate Action Plan by December 1, 2021 which must include strategies and programs to: achieve greenhouse gas emissions requirements, to build resilience and prepare Vermont to adapt to current and anticipated effects of climate change, means to measure the State’s progress towards meeting the GHG emissions requirements, and guidance to the Legislature and Secretary of ANR on changes needed to implement the plan. If you are interested in the specific steps and initiative the Council needs to meet, contact Jackie Folsom at crkdbrks@aol.com.
American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention and Meeting VTFB President, Joseph Tisbert, attended the AFBF Annual Convention and Meeting as VTFB’s voting delegate where he was elected to the AFBF board of directors for the Northeast Region.  Originally scheduled for San Diego, the national organization successfully implemented a virtual gathering free to all. Voting delegates approved AFBF policies for 2021. Congratulations Joe! From the team – Joe, Gerry, Bridget, Michael, and Jackie
Enjoy the beautiful winter weather! Thanks for supporting Vermont Farm Bureau. 
Vermont Farm Bureau continues to update our Covid-19 Resource pageTake a look. Share.https://www.vtfb.org/covid-19.php

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