Mandatory BMPs on Missisquoi Farms

Agricultural operations in the Missisquoi Basin will need to take extra measures. Photo by Mike Winslow.

On February 3, 2016, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross, decided that best management practices (BMPs) are necessary in the Missisquoi Basin to achieve compliance with Vermont’s water quality goals. The decision came in response to a petition from the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) to require mandatory BMPs. LCC has actively supported the CLF petition. The Secretary's recent decision is a reversal from a previous decision.

“Since my initial decision, Vermont has adopted landmark water quality legislation, Act 64, the Vermont Clean Water Act” said Ross.  “The Agency . . . has responded to this directive from our lawmakers, and my Revised Decision contains a framework under which the Agency of Agriculture and Vermont farmers will continue to work together to improve agricultural water quality in the Missisquoi Bay Basin.”

In his revised decision, the Secretary determined that BMPs are generally necessary on farms in the Missisquoi Bay Basin watershed to achieve compliance with state water quality goals. BMPs are site specific conservation practices beyond those required by the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) regulations.  Missisquoi Bay, with less than 1% of the lake’s water receives 22.6% of the total phosphorus load for Lake Champlain; only the Main Lake receives more.

The Revised Decision provides a framework for farm-specific development and implementation of a plan to address water quality issues where needed.  Farm assessments may conclude that practices required by the RAPs are sufficient to protect water quality and that BMPs may not be required due to a specific characteristic or management.

“Secretary Ross has made the right decision on this petition,” said Lori Fisher, LCC Executive Director. “Years of waiting for clean water have shown that voluntary implementation of BMPs is insufficient. We hope to see mandatory application of BMPs applied to other watersheds around the Basin.”