The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (AAFM) has the primary responsibility for facilitating, supporting and encouraging the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources/Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)coordinates closely with AAFM to ensure the protection of our natural resources and water quality, and a consistent approach to agricultural enforcement and compliance. This involves not only enforcement, but a joint and shared effort towards agricultural education, program and policy development. For detailed information about the agricultural programs and ANR’s coordination with AAFM, contact Marli Rupe with the Clean Water Initiative Program (firstname.lastname@example.org; 802-490-6171).
A memorandum of understanding, first created in 1998 and updated in 2017, sets out the process for coordination of agricultural enforcement between the two agencies (AAFM and ANR). ANR, as the delegated authority for management and enforcement of the State’s water pollution control statutes, has further delegated enforcement of agricultural nonpoint source pollution to AAFM. The MOU describes the authorities of both agencies and clarifies the division of responsibilities and process for coordination. AAFM maintains and regulates the State’s Large, Medium and Small farm operations programs, including the permits for the Large and Medium farms. ANR maintains and regulates the State’s CAFO Program, which is a federal NPDES permit for farms which discharge to waters of the state. Currently there are no farms under the CAFO program. Details about the CAFO permit and requirements are located under the DEC Stormwater Program.
In addition to enforcement, ANR and AAFM have closely coordinated on the Lake Champlain TMDL, the Lake Champlain draft Ph. 1 plan for water quality improvement, and AAFM has a key role in development of local tactical basin plans which are the responsibility of DEC. Both agencies worked together with the Agricultural Work Group to develop the recommendations that were eventually part of Act 64, the State’s Clean Water Bill, and regularly talk to farmers and the general public about the importance of both agriculture and a clean, healthy environment. AAFM and DEC staff meet weekly and coordinate programmatic and policy efforts.
ANR Agricultural Programs
While AAFM is the primary agency for agricultural efforts, ANR, in coordination with AAFM, has taken the lead on the 5 year, Regional Conservation Partnership Program Grant. This $16 million grant was awarded to the State in May, 2015, and provides funds for conservation planning, water quality practice improvement installation, agricultural and wetland easements, and forestry practices.
AAFM Agricultural Programs
As the agricultural agency, AAFM is responsible for many programs that directly affect and improve water quality in the state of Vermont. Links for further information about each program are listed below, or visit the Agency’s website.
Vermont’s Required Agricultural Practices – these regulations have recently been revised.
Farm permit programs
AAFM oversees and regulates the Permit Program for Large Farm Operations and Medium Farm Operations.
In addition to AAFM’s permit program inspections, the Agency recently began the North Lake Farm Survey, which focuses on assessing the water quality improvement needs of smaller farms in the northern part of Lake Champlain. The Agency is also in discussions with environmental partners on a process for increasing its oversight and assistance to farms throughout the watershed, and the state.
- Required Agricultural Practices Online Quiz – an online educational course for livestock farmers and service providers to spread awareness about the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) and water quality management options. The quiz takes about an hour to complete and farmers can get two water quality education credits from AAFM.
- Farmer Assistance Programs – AAFM receives funding from the Vermont Legislature to help farmers through various funding programs
- State Best Management Practice program – funding for the installation of practices that will help improve and protect water quality on farms (primarily infrastructure)
- Farm Agronomic Practice program - this provides funding for practices on farm fields, such as crop rotation, reduced tillage, and manure injection.
- Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)/Grassed Waterways program –the CREP program provides enhanced funding to farmers to install and maintain forested buffers on streams. This program also provides funds for the stabilization of agricultural field gullies through the installation of grassed waterways.
- Nutrient Management Planning and Land Treatment Planning – AAFM provides assistance to farmers in the development and implementation of nutrient management plans that are documents that help farmers scientifically manage the manure and other nutrients on their farms.
AAFM coordinates or is a partner in multiple research efforts around the state, to help best inform programmatic and policy decisions. The current research involves remediation of tile drains and evaluation of the nutrient reduction potential of various practices.
The coordination of agricultural activities within the State requires the valuable efforts of many partners. The key federal partner is the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service which provides federal funding for conservation planning and practice implementation.