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The Outlook of Vermont's Forest Landowners
Monday, 13 June 2016 12:56

Seventy eight percent of Vermont is covered in woods, and eighty percent of those forests are privately owned. Conservation districts and their partners know that decisions forest owners make today will affect the face of our wild landscapes, the quality of the habitats they represent, and the ecological services they provide for our communities for generations to come.

What sorts of decisions face Vermont forest landowners? What kind of issues do forest owners talk about over the dinner table? An ecological discussion might address growing trees, or wildlife habitat, or recreation, or plant and animal pests. A more sociological discussion might turn to generating income, or paying taxes – or, a notorious elephant in the room – how to keep the forest in the family. There are few “right “answers to questions that arise during discussions like these; “good’ ones, however, are those that further landowner objectives. Such objectives are as varied as our forests and the people who own them.

All forest owners who are in it for the long run will want to promote regeneration, that is, grow the next cohort of trees. How this is to be accomplished is the purview of the science and art of silviculture, or applied forest ecology. Its tools are modeled on those used by nature. Just as wind or ice damage, insect predation, or fire, for example, can remove the canopy and create light-filled openings, or expose mineral soils needed by some tree species to germinate, forest owners use patch cuts, or shelterwood harvests, or single tree selection – or any of a number of other techniques to perpetuate their forests. These processes can work to grow an ecosystem that is sustainable and resilient, and, often, one that benefits animals as well as people.

Many forest owners rank wildlife habitat high on their list of management objectives. Managing for wildlife may be something as simple as leaving snag trees for nesting birds and other animals. Or it could be conducting a small clear cut, usually called a patch cut, to promote the growth of early successional forest species such as aspen on which many wildlife species depend. Conservation districts have helped landowners enhance forest habitats for decades, alone or with the help of partners. Vermont Coverts, Woodland for Wildlife, has been operating a training program for landowners interested in enhancing wildlife values on their properties since 1985. (See http://www.vtcoverts.org/). In 2008, Foresters for the Birds, a partnership between the Vermont Department of Forests Parks and Recreation and Audubon Vermont was created.  This program and curriculum help foresters introduce and maintain forest characteristics such as complex horizontal and vertical structures, woody debris, native species diversity, and canopy cover desired by a large number of neotropical songbirds. (See http://vt.audubon.org/conservation/foresters-birds.)

Getting into the woods to harvest trees usually requires some path or road building, even if the equipment to be used is as ordinary as a tractor and especially if it as enormous as a skidder or mechanical harvester. State law requires that forest roads be built according to the state’s Acceptable Management Practices for Maintaining Water Quality (the AMPs cover things like maximum pitch, stream crossings, drainage features, and restoration). Many conservation districts provide portable skidder bridges for rent to loggers to ensure that stream crossings are AMP-compliant. Well-built skid trails and logging roads can provide not only access for future harvests, but also recreational opportunities. Vermont’s private woodlands are laced with hiking and cross country skiing and mountain biking trails that were originally built to handle a logging operation

Non-native invasive plants are a real threat to the future of our forests in Vermont. Exotic shrubs such as Asian bush honeysuckles, barberries, burning bush, and buckthorn can overtake an understory and outcompete even shade tolerant species such as sugar maple. Garlic mustard, an exotic herbaceous plant, can alter soil microorganism populations in such a way as to reduce tree vigor. Oriental bittersweet, a climbing perennial vine, can bring trees down with the weight of its biomass, root in its new location, and continue its march onward.  Although control of invasive plants can be expensive ($500 or more per acre depending on the severity of the infestation), the alternative could be worse: a forest where native tree generation no longer occurs, and where wildlife populations are diminished.

Invasive forest insects are also a threat to the sustainability of vigorous forest ecosystems in Vermont. Hemlock wooly Adelgid is now present in Windham, Windsor, and Bennington counties. Syrex wood wasp, a nasty pest of pines, continues to be found in Chittenden County. Both Asian long-horned beetle and emerald ash borer have been found just beyond the state’s borders. While some of these pests may someday be controlled by other organisms, emerald ash borer is likely to change the composition of our forests – which are about ten percent ash - significantly. Many conservation districts sponsor educational programs on invasive species, and work with partners such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service to provide management assistance to forest landowners.

For some landowners, “woodlot” means “sugarbush,” and the majority of their management efforts will be dedicated to growing sugar maples and keeping them healthy. Key to a long healthy life is a conservative tapping regimen, such as that required by the State of Vermont on lands enrolled in the Use Value Appraisal program (see below for more on this initiative). Those standards include no taps for trees less than 10” in diameter, a maximum of 1 tap for those 10”-14”in diameter, a maximum of 2 taps for trees 16”-20” in diameter, and a maximum of three taps for all other trees. Holes should be placed as far apart as possible. The standards also encourage forest landowners to promote species diversity in the sugarbush, even while promoting sugar and red maple. The standards suggest maintaining a mix of species already present on the site (as many as eleven different species). For more information, see http://fpr.vermont.gov/sites/fpr/files/Forest_and_Forestry/Your_Woods/Library.

Many privately owned forests are enrolled in the state’s Use Value Appraisal Program, also called “current use.” UVA values and taxes forest as forest or farmland as farmland – that is, at a property’s current use, not at its so called “highest and best use” as developable land. Since its creation in 1980, UVA has been responsible for helping to protect hundreds of thousands of acres of working farm and forest.

The current use program is expensive, but it is widely applauded by Vermonters because it requires that enrolled programs be actively farmed or managed for timber. UVA lands aren’t private retreats for the wealthy. Instead they are productive income- and job-generating lands owned by our neighbors. The UVA program is the responsibility of the state’s county foresters, with whom conservation districts routinely cooperate.

By minimizing property tax liability, the UVA program makes it possible for families to keep forests as forests (and farms as farms). But the demographics of the state’s forest owners is changing, and this change poses a threat to the future of our forests.

More than 2.9 million acres, or about sixty-two percent of all privately held forest land, is owned by families or individuals. (These and other data here are from the 2015 Vermont Forest Fragmentation Report prepared by the Department of Forests Parks and Recreation.) Most forest owners in Vermont, about forty two-percent, are aged 55 to 64 years; a little more than twenty percent are older than 65; and almost thirty percent are ages 45 to 54. These data indicate that a vast transfer of forested property from one generation to the next is in the offing.

A forest isn’t like shares of stock or even a residence. It can’t be divided equally among the heirs and still remain a forest – an intact, functioning ecosystem. Yet many families are forced to subdivide the forest upon the death of the owner, if for no other reason than to settle estate taxes.

Many times, however, forests are subdivided because the former owner – the parent or other relative – was uncomfortable imposing his or her commitment to maintain the forest intact on the heirs, so uncomfortable that the issue of what to do was never broached. Advisors unanimously agree: the best first step is to talk with your potential heirs about your forest’s future. Solutions can be devised to satisfy all parties, and at the same time keep the forest intact.

Written by Shelly Stiles

Manager, Bennington County Conservation District

Required Agricultural Practices Proposed Rule and Public Hearings/Comment Period
Thursday, 19 May 2016 16:21

Agency of Agriculture Files Required Agricultural Practices Proposed Rule with Secretary of State

Announces Public Hearings with Public Comment Period to Run until July 7, 2016

On Friday, May 13, 2016, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) filed the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) Proposed Rule with the Vermont Secretary of State. This filing represents the start of the formal rulemaking process during which the public will continue to consider the strengthening of agricultural water quality standards for Vermont farms. A public comment period on the Proposed Rule will be open until July 7, 2016, with five public hearings on the Proposed Rule scheduled for the end of June. The Proposed Rule is available today on the Agency website: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap

“This Proposed RAP Rule, which will apply to all types of agriculture, represents a serious commitment on the part of the agricultural community to enhance water quality throughout Vermont,” said Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross.“The Vermont agricultural community is culturally and economically critical to the State of Vermont, and farmers have shown through this process to date—by showing up and providing input— how they truly desire to be part of the solution for clean water throughout Vermont.”

As a result of Act 64—the Vermont Clean Water Act—signed into law in June 2015, the Agency of Agriculture was tasked with updating the Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs) to further reduce the impact of agriculture on water quality across the state. The RAPs are an updated version of the AAPs, the rules in place since 1995 which regulate farms in order to protect water quality, re-written to a higher level of performance.

VAAFM released a first draft of the RAPs on October 20, 2015 and held a public comment and outreach period which ran until December 18, 2015. VAAFM then revised the RAPs based on comment received and released a second draft for public review on February 23, 2016. VAAFM considered comment received from February 23, 2016 up to April 15, 2016 and submitted a third draft of the RAP Rule, as part of a pre-filing process, to the Interagency Committee on Administrative Rules (ICAR) on April 20, 2016. The ICAR committee met on May 9, 2016 and provided comments the following day, which have since been incorporated into the RAP Proposed Rule. The ICAR draft is being released today by VAAFM in conjunction with the RAP Proposed Rule, which was filed with the Secretary of State on Friday, May 13, 2016.

The filing of the Proposed Rule initiates the public comment period of the formal rulemaking process. The public comment period for the Proposed Rule will run from May 16, 2016 to July 7, 2016. To date, VAAFM has held more than 80 small stakeholder and large public meetings on the RAPs to solicit feedback from farmers, stakeholders and the public.

“VAAFM would like to thank the more than 1800 individuals who attended the over 80 meetings held by VAAFM and our Water Quality Partners since October last year who took the time to provide comments or otherwise participate in this public process,” said VAAFM Agricultural Resource Management Division Director, Jim Leland. “The public engagement and participation in the process thus far has been instrumental in developing an effective and workable rule for all farms in Vermont.”

“One of the largest takeaways from the Proposed RAP Rule,” said Leland, “is that while the Rule sets strong baseline performance standards, there is the opportunity for farm operators and planners to develop and submit to the Agency for approval, specialized alternative management plans to address site-specific conditions.” Leland continues, “This ensures that the Proposed RAP Rule meets the standards for flexibility and water quality required by Act 64 of 2015, as well as the diverse management needs of farm operations throughout the state.”

Public comment can be submitted to the Agency’s RAP e-mail inbox at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by mailing written comment to the Agency of Agriculture at 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620.

Five public hearings will be held in June for farmers, stakeholders and the public to provide testimony and comment on the Proposed RAP Rule. The Agency will hold two webinars in advance of the formal hearings to present the rules in detail. These webinars will be recorded and available as videos on the VAAFM website following the presentations.

The Agency has also made available additional summary materials on its website, including two summary factsheets which highlight the most significant changes from the AAPs to the RAPs. Also posted on the website is a Highlighted Changes Summary which outlines response to comments received on the second draft of the RAPs as well as changes made between the second draft and the proposed rule. The Agency website also has an updated timeline which has been posted to outline the process moving forward towards a promulgated rule.

For more information about the RAPs, and the Agency’s efforts to implement Act 64 of 2015, please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap or contact the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets at (802) 272-0323.

The RAP Proposed Rule can be downloaded here: http://go.usa.gov/cuSHF

A highlight changes summary can be found here: http://go.usa.gov/cuhbx

A farm size summary factsheet can be found here: http://go.usa.gov/cJqtp

A rule summary factsheet can be found here: http://go.usa.gov/cJqt6

A document discussing effective dates of the RAPs can be found here: http://go.usa.gov/cJqJA

The five public hearings will be held:

June 21, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the St. Albans Historical Museum, 9 Church Street, St. Albans VT 05478

June 22, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the Brandon American Legion, 590 Franklin St, Brandon, VT 05733

June 23, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the Vermont Law School, Chase Center, 164 Chelsea St, South Royalton, VT 05068

June 28, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the Newport American Legion, 160 Freeman Street, Newport, VT 05855

June 29, 2016: 12:30 – 3:30 at the Brattleboro American Legion, 32 Linden Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301

The Agency will hold two webinars in advance of the formal hearings to present the rules in detail. These webinars will be recorded and available as videos on the VAAFM website following the presentation.

May 26, 2016: 10 am – Noon. Register: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/5938291152303942401

June 7, 2016: 1 pm – 3 pm Register: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/5938291152303942401


About the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets: VAAFM facilitates, supports and encourages the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment. www.Agriculture.Vermont.Gov

Conservation Districts Receive Two Grants to Help Farmers Improve Water Quality
Friday, 06 May 2016 07:41

VACD recently received two grants totaling $446,680 from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation to help farmers improve water quality in Lake Champlain. 

The first grant, for $150,000, was awarded through the Ecosystem Restoration Program, recently renamed the Vermont Clean Water Initiative.  This grant will assist farmers in Rutland and Addison counties, particularly in the Poultney River, Mettowee River, and McKenzie Brook watersheds, as well as Lake Champlain direct.

The second grant, totaling $296,680, is part of the $16 million Lake Champlain Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) funded by the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  NRCS is the largest funder of agricultural water quality initiatives in the country, through what is known as the Farm Bill.  The RCCP program will support water quality initiatives on conserved farms, forest land, and wetlands throughout the Lake Champlain Basin.

“By coordinating the efforts of local, state and federal organizations, we can strengthen the benefits of our joint efforts,” said VACD Executive Director Jill Arace.  “There is a strong spirit of collaboration among implementing partners and the agricultural community.”

Both grants will help farmers reduce agricultural runoff that contributes to phosphorus loading into Lake Champlain, leading to algae blooms and other environmental concerns.  The grants will pay for conservation planners who will help farmers better understand their landscape – including soil quality, erosion potential, and nutrients for their crops – and identify specific water quality concerns on the farm and possible solutions.  The planners will then assist farmers in accessing financial assistance to help defray the costs of implementing conservation projects, also known as best management practices.  

The planners will work out of offices in Middlebury, St. Albans and Newport.  “Our technical staff are based at the local level and are able to form long-term working relationships with agricultural producers,” said Arace.  “Together they can address water quality concerns while also helping improve the farmer’s bottom line.”

The Vermont Association of Conservation Districts is the membership association of Vermont’s fourteen Natural Resources Conservation Districts.  For over 75 years Vermont’s Conservation Districts have been helping landowners protect soil and water quality through a wide range of programs in agriculture, watershed protection, forestry, stormwater and education.  Conservation Districts were originally created after the Dust Bowl in the late 1930’s to help farmers improve soil and water quality. There are nearly 3,000 Conservation Districts nation-wide.

Orleans County Received Large Grant to Improve Local Watersheds
Friday, 19 February 2016 11:21

Vermont’s Orleans County Natural Resources Conservation District receives $674,000 to protect and improve water quality in Lake Memphremagog through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Vermont is also part of a multi-state RCPP project to assist private forestland owners in increasing the quantity and quality of young forest habitats.

Funding for the program is provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The geographic focuses of this project are the Lake Memphremagog and Tomifobia River watersheds. OCNRCD will help farmers address the most critical areas of the watershed leading to the most cost-effective benefits for water quality.

The Vermont Department of Conservation (DEC) currently has determined the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to address excess phosphorous levels here. A 26% reduction in phosphorous loading will meet water quality standards. Successes from the RCPP program implemented will be evaluated using multiple performance measures along with continued monitoring. The positive results here will increase adoption of practices as farmers see measured benefits. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and partners across the nation together will direct up to $720 million towards 84 conservation projects that will help communities improve water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. These projects make up the second round of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) created by the 2014 Farm Bill.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Vicky Drew said that Vermont received $674,000 in funding for one state-level project targeting water quality in Lake Memphremagog. “The Orleans County Natural Resources Conservation District will lead this effort which aims to install conservation practices to address degraded water quality from agricultural runoff,” explained Drew. Vermont is also part of a multi-state RCPP project, led by New Hampshire, which received $5.2 million to assist private forestland owners in increasing the quantity and quality of young forest habitats.

New Conservation District Program Supports Small Farm Clean Water Efforts
Friday, 18 December 2015 13:14

While lawmakers and state agencies are ramping up efforts to develop policies and guidelines to clean up Lake Champlain, farmers and local organizations are also doing their part. Through a $800,000 grant awarded by the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts (VACD) based in Waitsfield,Vermont’s Natural Resources Conservation Districts are expanding a program that supports small farmers in their efforts to protect water quality while improving their bottom line.

The new program, called the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, will support 145 livestock farm operators state-wide to develop Nutrient Management Plans through participation in the “Digging In” course offered by University of Vermont Extension. A Nutrient Management Plan defines the exact quantity of manure and other nutrients to be spread on each field of the farm in order to grow the crops needed to feed livestock. The plan takes into consideration soil type and chemical composition, the steepness of the field and potential erosion, crops grown on the field, and the nutritional needs of the animals. By combining scientific data with the farmer’s knowledge of their land and production goals, the correct amount of nutrients will be used, thus saving the farmer money and avoiding excess runoff into Vermont’s waterways.

Excess phosphorus, a nutrient commonly needed in agricultural production, is the main cause of Lake Champlain’s toxic algae blooms. While significant phosphorus runoff also comes from roads, forests, streambanks and sewage treatment plants, Vermont’s agricultural community will play a large role in cleaning up the lake and protecting other rivers, streams and lakes around the state.

As a result of Vermont’s new Clean Water Act passed by the Legislature last year, all farms will be required to develop a Nutrient Management Plan in the future. In the past, only medium and large farms - a small proportion of the farms in Vermont - have been required to have this plan. The expanded Conservation District program will enable small farm operators to meet this requirement, as well as make simple, cost-effective changes to their operations to protect water quality and gain access to additional educational, technical and financial support to carry out further conservation projects on their farm.

“At first I didn’t want to take the time to take the Nutrient Management Planning course,” said a farmer who participated in the Digging In class last year, “but I’m so glad I did. I’m now able to use my plan to make the right decisions for my farm, making adjustments field by field as conditions change.” “The program is a win-win for all involved,” said VACD Executive Director Jill Arace. “By combining the specific expertise of several organizations, we’re able to increase the value and impact of our programs to help farmers address water quality concerns, comply with new state regulations, and improve their financial viability. We all want to see Vermont farms thrive and remain a vibrant part of our local communities and working landscape.”

Vermont’s Natural Resources Conservation Districts were created after the Dust Bowl era of the 1930’s to help farmers protect soil and water quality. There are 3,000 Districts throughout the US and 14 in Vermont. In recent decades Vermont’s Conservation Districts have expanded their programs beyond agriculture to forestry, watershed stewardship, stormwater mitigation and education. Districts protect and enhance soil, water, forest and wildlife habitat resources by working with landowners and communities to provide information and technical support, and carry out projects. VACD is the membership association of Vermont’s Conservation Districts. The association provides support to its members and manages state-wide technical programs.

Public Comment Deadline For Draft Water Quality Rules Approaches
Sunday, 13 December 2015 13:44

December 18, 2015 is the Deadline for Public Comment on Draft Required Agricultural Practices Rules

The deadline to submit public comment to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) regarding the draft Required Agricultural Practices (RAP) rules is December 18th, 2015. Public Comment can be submitted via e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or mailed directly to VAAFM at 116 State Street, Montpelier, Vermont 05620.

Draft RAP Rules Public Meeting Summary

VAAFM released a draft copy of the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) on October 20th 2015 for a period of public comment which will run through December 18, 2015. This is a pre-filing period which will afford the opportunity for all interested stakeholders to review the Draft RAPs and provide initial comment before VAAFM revises the draft this winter and then enters into the formal rulemaking process in the spring of 2016. Additional public comment periods will follow both the draft rewrite in January 2016 as well as the formal rulemaking period in Spring of 2016.

VAAFM has held ten public meetings across the state to help facilitate the comment and input process—over 530 farmers and members of the public have attended these events. These public meetings included a detailed presentation the Draft RAPs followed by a question and answer session. VAAFM has also participated in over 20 additional focus groups, at the request of interested organizations and stakeholders, to review the draft rules in detail.

VAAFM was directed by the Legislature to draft the RAPs pursuant to Act 64, signed into law on June 16, 2015. Act 64 amended and enacted multiple requirements related to water quality in the State. The “Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs)” were rewritten to a higher level of performance and renamed the “Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs).” VAAFM was charged with revising the RAPs by rule on or before July 1, 2016. Act 64 requires that the revised RAPs include requirements for: small farm certification, nutrient storage, soil health, buffer zones, livestock exclusion, and nutrient management.

New Outreach Material Available Summarizing Draft Rules

To help meet the scheduling challenges of farmers and the public, VAAFM has made available a recording of the St. Albans RAP Public Meeting. The recording includes an Introduction from Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross and a presentation from ARM Deputy Director Laura DiPietro. The forty-minute video provides an introduction to the water quality challenges of the State as well as a detailed overview of the top changes included in the Draft RAPs. VAAFM can prepare DVDs to share with individuals who do not have access to broadband internet; please call the Agency for a copy.

Downloadable Documents & Helpful Links

A link to the streaming video of the St. Albans RAP Public Meeting can be found here: https://youtu.be/aaSrM9vU4lU

A copy of the PowerPoint Presentation used in this video can be downloaded here: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/ag/files/pdf/water_quality/RAP/VAAFM-RAP-2015-Long-Presentation-11-17.pdf

VAAFMs informational RAP website, which contains copies of all the links included in the release, can be accessed here: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap

Please submit public comment to VAAFM (e-mail) here: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text38505 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

VAAFMs RAP Farm Size Definition Fact-Sheet (.pdf) can be found here: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/ag/files/pdf/water_quality/RAP/RAP-Farm-Size-Definitions-draftsheet.pdf

A Draft RAP Highlighted Regulations Fact Sheet (.pdf) can be found here: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/ag/files/pdf/water_quality/RAP/RAP-Highlighted-Rules-Draftsheet.pdf

A complete draft of the Required Agricultural Practices Document (.pdf) can be found here: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/ag/files/pdf/water_quality/VAAFM-Draft-RAP.pdf

For more information contact: Ryan Patch

Sr. Ag Development Coordinator
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
116 State St. Montpelier, VT 05620
Cell: (802)-272-0323
Fax: (802) 282-1410
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Draft of Revised Agricultural Practices (RAPs) Released for Public Comment
Monday, 02 November 2015 18:51

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets (AAFM) is released a draft copy of the Revised Agricultural Practices (RAPs) for a pre-filing period lasting until January 2016. This is time for all interested stakeholders to review the Draft RAPs and provide comment before AAFM enters the formal rulemaking process—a formal public comment period will occur during the formal rulemaking process. AAFM was directed by the Legislature to draft the RAPs pursuant to Act 64, signed into law on June 16, 2015. AAFM plans to maximize public input, review the rules for relevance and consistency with the law and legislative intent, and make sure these rules will be effective at protecting water quality while being cost effective to implement. Download copy of the Draft RAPs from AAFM’s website:


Please comment here if you are able to provide input related to the relevance, intent, and consistency of the draft RAPs with your organization’s mission and vision. The draft RAP and planned public meetings is an opportunity for AAFM to solicit comment from a wide stakeholder group prior to entering into formal rulemaking. This will ensure that when the rules are proposed and filed in the formal adoption process, significant public comment will have already been collected and taken into consideration. The Agency will seriously consider all comments received during this pre-filing period, though there may be no response to comments received. Comments can be emailed to:

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Act 64, The Clean Water Act, amended and enacted multiple requirements related to water quality in the State. The act amended several provisions regarding agricultural water quality. The “accepted agricultural practices” are renamed the “required agricultural practices (RAPs).” AAFM has been charged to revise the RAPs by rule on or before July 1, 2016. The revised RAPs include requirements for: small farm certification, nutrient storage, soil health, buffer zones, livestock exclusion, nutrient management, and tile drainage.

Specific Consideration

While AAFM is actively seeking input and comment on every section of the Draft RAPs, there are specific sections of the Draft RAPs which AAFM is seeking specific consideration. It is the Agency’s intent to develop rules and programs that will not only eliminate adverse impacts to water quality from agricultural operations, but will also be informed, enforceable and appropriate. Included below are reference for specific items in the draft RAPs which AAFM is seeking specific consideration for input and comment.


Estimated RAP Timeline:


Part of a staged implementation timeline, the Draft RAPs are one point in new comprehensive water quality rules and programming from AAFM. Developed within the context of increasing Technical and Financial Assistance for water quality conservation planning and implementation for farmers, funded by the Vermont Clean Water Fund, as well as by our Federal and local partners, one size does not fit all when it comes to the diversity of agricultural operations operating in the State, and recognizes there are many strategies available for farmers to meet the rigorous standards of the RAPs.

Specific language used in Act 64 emphasized the availability and effectiveness of alternative management and design techniques available for a farm to meet water quality standards (§4810a.11). This appreciation of water quality conservation planning and implementation is reflected in the Draft RAPs. AAFM is interested in comment from agricultural operations regarding areas where current management practices meet the RAP water quality standard but are in conflict with the proposed rules. A draft report on water quality considerations regarding tile draining will be reported to the legislature January 2016, with RAPs revised to included requirements for tile draining by January 15th, 2018. Successful implementation of the RAPs will assist in Vermont’s mission to meet the goals of Act 64 as well as the TMDL for Phosphorus for Lake Champlain.

For a complete list of public meetings where AAFM will present the Draft RAPs with a comment period to follow, please visit AAFM’s webpage at:


Upcoming VACD Annual Meeting
Tuesday, 20 October 2015 10:34

Greetings! As Fall reaches a peak in our colorful state, it’s also time for the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts (VACD) and Lamoille County Conservation District to host our Annual Meeting. This year, emphasis will be on the newly passed Vermont Clean Water Act and the importance of soil health. VACD will approach these topics with the mindset of improving and maintaining our state’s water quality through efforts at the local level. Soil and water have high impacts on one another, especially in a region where the watershed is so widely dispersed. During the Annual Meeting, we will discuss how Conservation District programs can address soil and water quality to safeguard our natural landscape. Participants will learn, share, and launch additional collaborative efforts.

Here are some of the notable speakers who will be presenting at the Annual Meeting:

Kari Dolan (The Vermont Clean Water Act and Opportunities for Conservation Districts): Kari is the current Manager of the Ecosystem Restoration Program at the Department of Environmental Conservation at the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

Vicky Drew (NRCS Programs & Collaboration with NRCDs): Vicky is the Vermont State Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Service.

Ray Archuleta (Healthy Soil and Clean Water): Ray is a Conservation Agronomist at the NRCS East National Technology Center based in North Carolina. He has 25 years of experience with the NRCS working with different states across America and holding various positions within the Conservation Service.

Laura DiPietro (Changes in VT Agricultural Policies and Programs): Laura is the Deputy Director of Agricultural Resource Management at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets.

Please send your registration form to Jill Arace, VACD Executive Director, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by Wednesday, October 21st. Payment can be sent to VACD, PO Box 566, Waitsfield, VT 05673-0566

We look forward to seeing you there!

Conservation Districts Expand Work with Small Farms to Address Water Quality Concerns
Thursday, 15 May 2014 07:16

While the State of Vermont and the US Environmental Protection Agency are working to agree on a plan to clean up Lake Champlain, they are also expanding efforts to help small farms address water quality concerns in cooperation with Vermont’s fourteen Natural Resources Conservation Districts.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, the Department of Environmental Conservation of the Agency of Natural Resources and USEPA provided a 21-month, $673,271 grant to the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts to help small farms install agricultural water quality best management practices that will protect the State’s waters and support the working landscape.

The grant enables conservation district staff throughout the state to reach out to small farmers regarding Vermont’s Accepted Agricultural Practices – the state’s agricultural water quality regulations – and help them identify and resolve water quality concerns on the farm.  These technical advisors provide information, assess water quality concerns, and help farmers secure funding to implement best management practices aimed at reducing runoff and contamination of the state’s waters.  The improvements not only protect water quality, but help farmers improve operations, protect animal health, and enhance farm viability.  These on-farm improvements include fencing to exclude animals from streams and rivers, construction of stream crossings and animal laneways, improved drainage systems to manage runoff from barns and manure stack pads, and alternative watering systems.  

For examples of best management practices, see the VACD-produced film entitled Small Farms Making a Difference: Water Quality Improvement Success Stories, in which small farm owners showcase the steps they are taking to lessen the impact of agricultural operations on water quality here.

For more information contact:
Jeff Farber, Technical Programs Manager
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