Voice Your Support for Agricultural Best Management Practices on 11/12/15

Your voice is needed to support stiff new farm regulations. Photo by Lori Fisher.

On Thursday November 12 the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets will hold a public hearing on a new plan to require Best Management Practices (BMPs) on farms in the Missisquoi Bay basin as well as St. Albans, Otter Creek and South Lake watersheds. The hearing will run from 1:00 to 3:00 PM at the American Legion in St. Albans City. LCC sees this program as an important step towards achieving federally mandated phosphorus reductions by requiring site-specific conservation practices beyond current requirements. The agreement isn't finalized and the Agency could pull the plug if they receive a lot of negative comments so it's important for them to hear a strong chorus of support for this initiative.

In the summer of 2014, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture opted not to require best management plans on fields in the Missisquoi River Basin designated as critical source areas based on a modelling assessment. The decision led to a lawsuit by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF). Recently, the state and CLF have come to an agreement that will settle the litigation and ensure that the state moves forward with aggressive implementation on improved farm practices. The agreement is not set in stone so it’s important for citizens who care about water quality to weigh in on the measure. While the hearing is tied specifically to CLF’s pending appeal for the Misissquoi Bay Watershed, the proposed blueprint for requiring BMPs on farms may be extended to other watersheds, including South Lake, St. Albans, and Otter Creek, in order to address Federal EPA and TMDL requirements. The draft settlement has other terms that would become commitments of both the Agency and CLF if enacted.

The Agency is also updating Required Agricultural Practices Regulations, preparing a report with the USDA for the Legislature on sub-surface tile drainage, and developing a small farm certification program along with water quality training classes for farm operators, and a certification process for custom applicators of manure.