What:  Public Hearing by Vermont Agency of Agriculture

About:  Petition to require "Best Management Practices" for select farms in Lake Champlain's Missisquoi Bay Basin

When:  Friday, July 18 from 9:30 AM - Noon

Where:  St. Albans Historical Society, 9 Church Street, St. Albans, VT

This Friday, July 18 the Vermont Department of Agriculture will hold an important public hearing regarding a petition to require "Best Management Practices" for select farms in the Missisquoi Bay Basin. Missisquoi Bay is a beautiful and ecologically rich region of the lake that includes Lake Champlain's largest river delta and the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge (designated as a wetland of international importance). On many summer days it's a great place to paddle, catch fish, or cool off with a swim. But the bay is also plagued by blue-green algae blooms that inhibit use, threaten public health and have reverberating economic effects. These blooms are fed in part by nutrient loading. Agriculture contributes significantly to the region's cultural heritage and economy but it is also the major source of nutrient loading to the bay.

The petition seeks to better protect the bay from pollution from poorly managed agricultural operations by requiring "Best Management Practices" from select farms. It is based on a scientific study that identified "critical source areas" of phosphorus discharge. These are areas that send a disproportionately large amount of phosphorus to the lake because of the soils, slopes or types of farming done. Practices that would be required of farms with critical source areas include:

Cover crops that are planted in the field after the primary crop is harvested. They help retain soil, improve soil health, suppress weeds, and hold nutrients in place to feed future crops rather than flowing into ground or surface water. 

Grassed waterways to direct runoff from terraces, diversions and other concentrated flow areas. They help control erosion and protect water quality by filtering sediments and nutrients.

Vegetative filter strips of close growing plants such as grasses that are planted around fields, drainage areas and waterways. They reduce the amount of sediment, organic material, chemicals and nutrients in runoff by slowing the waterflow and allowing contaminants to settle out. 

While many farmers have implemented practices to reduce pollution and soil erosion we can't depend on voluntary actions, especially in areas like Missisquoi Bay where water quality is already compromised.  Attend the hearing and add your voice to the call for greater regulatory controls to prevent pollution, protect lake health and the economy that relies on clean, accessible water. If you can't participate in the hearing you can file written comments up until 4:30 PM on August 18. Written comments should be directed to:

Laura DiPietro, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620 or AGR.MissisquoiBMP@ state.vt.us.

Thanks for caring,

Lori Fisher, LCC Executive Director