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Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs)

The Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) are practices and management strategies to which all types of farms must be managed to reduce the impact of agricultural activities to water quality.

These standards are intended to improve the quality of Vermont’s waters by reducing and eliminating cropland erosion, sediment losses, and nutrient losses through improved farm management techniques, technical and compliance assistance, and where appropriate, enforcement. The RAPs establish nutrient, manure, and waste storage standards, make recommendations for soil health and establish requirements for vegetated buffer zones and livestock exclusion from surface water. The RAPs also establish standards for nutrient management planning and soil conservation.

In addition to the various standards included in the RAPs, small farms that meet the criteria to be considered a Certified Small Farm Operation (CSFO) will need to annually certify compliance with the RAPs as well as develop and implement nutrient management plans. Resources are available in the form of both technical and financial assistance for farmers to help them comply with the RAPs. Learn more about Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs).

Vermont Environmental Stewardship Program

Conceptualized in 2016 in response to statewide water-quality and environmental challenges, the Vermont Environmental Stewardship Program (VESP) is a voluntary program that encourages and supports local agricultural producers to achieve environmental and agricultural excellence. VESP’s goal is to accelerate water-quality improvements through additional voluntary implementation efforts, and to honor farmers who have already embraced a high level of land stewardship. Learn more about the Vermont Environmental Stewardship Program.

Best Management Practices (BMPs)

The Best Management Practice (BMP) program is a voluntary program to assist farmers with on-farm improvements designed to abate non-point source agricultural waste discharges into the waters of the state of Vermont. The program was created to provide state technical and financial assistance to Vermont farmers. Free Technical assistance which includes a combination of Agricultural, Civil, and Environmental Engineering and design through the BMP program is available to help farms meet their regulatory requirements and/or to solve a resource concern. Financial Assistance is available to help assist the farmer with the construction costs of the designed practice(s).

Non-production area conservation practices are eligible to receive 50% to 75% cost share in high priority areas. Production area and livestock exclusion practices are eligible to receive 85% to 90% cost share in high priority areas. The State’s BMP program maximum cost share in a calendar year is $75,000 per farm, not to exceed $150,000 in a 3 year timeframe. Learn more about BMPs and eligibility for cost share.

Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)

Vermont’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a voluntary program designed to reduce sediment runoff and improve water quality by removing land from agricultural production and establishing vegetative buffers. State and federal funds are used to compensate landowners for the loss of productive agricultural land through upfront incentive payments and annual rental payments based on the total acreage dedicated to vegetated filter strips, forested buffers, or grassed waterways.

Federal cost-share and incentive payments are available to cover 90% of the implementation costs associated with fencing, alternative water systems, stream crossings, and vegetative buffer establishment. In most instances the costs may be 100% covered with help from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Learn more about CREP and cost share eligibility.

Farm Agronomic Practices Program (FAP)

The Farm Agronomic Practices (FAP) Program utilizes state funding to help Vermont farms implement soil-based agronomic practices that improve soil quality, increase crop production, and reduce erosion and agricultural waste discharges. The FAP program also provides education and instructional activity grants to support nutrient management planning and general outreach regarding the impacts of agricultural practices on water quality and current state agricultural water quality regulations. Learn more about the Farm Agronomic Practices Program (FAP)

Large Farm Operations Program (LFO)

Created in 1995, the Large Farm Operations (LFO) Program is designed to ensure that Vermont LFOs have land management practices implemented and structures in place in production areas in order to prevent a direct discharge. The LFO program requires large sized farms to operate under an individual LFO permit. The program’s requirements exceed those of the Federal Clean Water Act and aims to reduce the amount of phosphorus and other nutrients that would find their way into Vermont waterways. The LFO Individual Permit establishes regulatory requirements for Large Farm Operations in the state of Vermont pertaining to the management of agricultural wastes and prohibits the direct discharge of waste into state waters. All large farm operations in the state of Vermont are required to operate under the coverage of an Individual Permit unless otherwise given notice by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. Large Farm Operation Individual Permits are valid until amended or terminated. Learn more about Large Farm Operations (LFOs).

Medium Farm Operations (MFOs)

Created in 2006  in response to changes in federal regulations for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), the Medium Farm Operation (MFO) program provides a Vermont-specific alternative to the federal permitting program that allows medium sized farms to seek coverage under a single General Permit issued by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM). The program’s requirements exceed those of the Federal Clean Water Act and aim to reduce the amount of phosphorus and other nutrients entering Vermont waterways. Learn more about Medium Farm Operations (MFOs).

Pesticide and Groundwater Monitoring Program (PMP)

Collects water samples from drinking water sources near agricultural lands to evaluate whether or not agricultural chemicals are reaching Vermont groundwater. The types of water supplies sampled by the PMP include: drilled, driven point or dug wells and springs, ponds or lakes used as drinking water supplies for human or livestock consumption and irrigation. The PMP tests wells in agricultural areas to help farmers learn about practices that prevent pesticide leaching and conserve the nutrients in fertilizers and manure in the soil. The water quality information provided by this program also helps farmers decide if tillage practices and crop rotations are working to reduce the amounts of nutrients and pesticides lost to groundwater or surface run-off. Sharing this information with farmers, agricultural dealers, landowners, conservation organizations and other departments of state government helps to improve agricultural practices, protect groundwater, raise public awareness and provide for clean drinking water and a healthy environment in Vermont. Learn more about the Pesticide and Groundwater Monitoring Program.

Additional Funding Opportunities through the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

See what other opportunities are currently available through the Agency.