Legislative Update for the week ending in March 12, 2021

Legislative Update for the week ending in March 12, 2021

Legislative Update for the week ending in March 12, 2021


Friday, March 12, is the deadline for bills containing no budget issues (that is, no tax,
fees or charges that would affect the budget) to be voted on the floor and moved to the
other body. Here is a review of what has gotten out of the Agriculture Committees:
Voted out of House Agriculture and Forestry Committee and to the floor:
H.420 Miscellaneous Housekeeping Bill (3rd reading 3/12)
H.421 Humane Officer Bill (3rd reading 3/12)
H.89 Limited liability for agritourism sites
H.88 Certification program for Use Value Appraisal
Still in possession of House Agriculture and Forestry and may not move this year:
H.186 Voluntary labeling of eggs (not supported by Committee)
H.218 Expansion of raw milk sales (still in discussion, may yet move)
H.241 Ecosystem Services Tax Credit
H.300 Exemption from 3 Acre Rule for Wood Processing Plants
H.58 Right to Repair
H.67 Crop Damage by Black Bears (not supported by Committee)
Voted out of Senate Agriculture Committee, to other Committees of Jurisdiction:
S.100 Universal School Meals (remanded to Senate Education Committee)

S.102 Agricultural Inputs (composting and soil amendments) (remanded to
Senate Natural Resources)
Still in possession of Senate Agriculture and may not move this year:
S.61 Use Value Appraisal for solar arrays
S.67 Right to repair
S.83 Dairy Stabilization Bill ($0.05 fee on dairy products)
Both Committees have been working on fine-tuning current legislation and these will be
reported later.


This bill contains the combined language for the composting issue as well as the
additional language for the soil amendments (as requested by VAAFM). Senators
Pearson and Pollina (as well as Legislative Counsel Michael O’Grady) testified in Senate
Natural Resources about the need for the bill, which would provide return of oversight
for small sized on farm composting to the Agency of Agriculture and offer another
venue for removal of food residuals from solid waste. It was met with immediate
questions as to how the composting piece would affect water quality, why jurisdiction
was being removed from ANR and why agriculture needed special consideration. Mr.
O’Grady noted that farmers can run into challenges with current use enrollment and
that the language regarding composting could be an economic boon for farms. All
questions focused on the composting piece and there was no discussion on the soil
amendments. Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation Peter
Walke and Cary Giguere from VAAFM will be in the committee on Friday for further


The Senate Agriculture Committee has begun taking testimony on this language, which
mirrors H.58 sitting in House Agriculture and Forestry. Members heard from the
National Public Interest Research Group on the importance of passing this legislation.
Senator Parent wants to hear from farmers who have had problems accessing software
or technical manuals to repair their own equipment. Senator Starr was asked to offer
Brian Carpenter, Champlain Valley Equipment, time to testify, and Brian will be in
committee on Friday, March 12. It doesn’t appear this will make it to the floor until
after crossover. (The House Agriculture and Forestry Committee did take testimony on
H.58 but did not move the bill to the floor). If you have any interest in speaking to the

Senate committee on your experience with equipment repair, please let Jackie know at


House Natural Resources continues to hear witnesses about their committee proposal to
add another category to the Use Value Appraisal Program. The category has yet to be
named but goes variously by Open Space, Forever Wilds or Old Forest. Michael Snyder,
Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation, noted four specific concerns:
• He would like a findings section added to better define exactly what this
language proposes to do – is this about old forests or easements?
• He would like a clarification of the definition of the proposed category
• He would like a better understanding of how to interpret easements and wants a
discussion of capacity issues and reasonable administration by the FP&R
• He would like a definition of “allowed activities” on the Open Space
Committee Chair Sheldon asked Mark Perrault, Joint Fiscal Office, to determine the
impact to the state budget by adding this new category but there is a challenge in
trying to identify parcels and values within the system. Mr. Perrault will work with Jill
Remick in the Tax Department to try and come up with some figures.
Jamey Fidel, VT Natural Resources Council, testified in his opinion this option already
exists in the current program and changes are not needed. He noted the enrollment of
forestland in the Use Value Appraisal Program is at two million acres and he does not
believe there are many parcels specific to the proposed new category.
Many witnesses were heard this past week and there was not significant support for the
draft proposal. Legislative Counsel Michael O’Grady began to walk through the
language today with Committee members. Because it is a bill coming directly from a
committee, it does not come under the rules governing crossover and may go to the
floor anytime it is voted out of the Natural Resources. However, because it would cause
an impact to the state budget, it would have to get through House Ways and Means
before going to the floor.


Rep. Kari Dolan, sponsor of H.108, testified to members of the House Agriculture and
Forestry Committee about the impact of this bill on agriculture. This language would
clarify that the Vermont Water Quality Standards apply to wetlands and discharges to

wetlands. She noted there were no changes made to exemptions or regulations for
permits or wetlands rules in current statute, and the Federal Permit Section 404 focuses
on dredging or filling wetlands; in Federal law, agriculture is exempted. Chair Partridge
noted that rulemaking will be done this summer, with a report to the Legislature on
January 22, 2022 on the results. If there is need to fix the statute, it can be amended
then. Ryan Patch, Deputy Director of Water Quality, also testified that in his opinion the
language in H.108 would not adversely affect agriculture. The Committee was satisfied
and did not plan to challenge the second reading of the bill on the House floor.

This law was passed last year after several years of introduction. Members of the
grazing community felt it did not address healthy grazing practices; some farmers were
worried it could be misinterpreted and allow an increase in animal abuse reports by
concerned citizens. There was much discussion and testimony from several
organizations and farmers. Barry Londeree, former HSUS lobbyist, worked with
Humane Officers and others last year to help craft this law and testified this week that it
did NOT change or create a shelter requirement and the exemptions in current law were
not removed. Legislative Counsel Brynn Hare cautioned against moving sections within
the current law but did offer a possible amendment for consideration. She noted the
draft offered clarity but did not change the protection already inherent in the law.
In the end, Committee members decided to hit the “pause” button on changing this law
and requested that NOFA/VT, Rural VT and Farm Bureau educate their members on the
importance of grazing and the protection provided by Act 116.

Cary Giguere, VAAFM, has proposed language to discontinue the VT Pesticide Advisory
Council (VTPAC) and replace it with a new board with a new focus. Currently, VTPAC
consists of secretaries or their designees of several state agencies and focuses entirely
on registering pesticides as well as permit spraying for weed or lampricide control. The
Agriculture Innovation Board will focus on a more holistic look at the use of pesticides
as well as propose legislation regarding this issue. It will also become a 15 member
board and the makeup will be more diverse and less government based.
Julie Moore, Secretary of Agency of Natural Resources, testified with her concerns of
the loss of seats on the board; on the VTPAC, there are 3 seats (Fish & Wildlife, ANR
and Forest, Parks & Recreation) due to different issues on pesticide use. The new
Board only offers one seat to ANR or designee.

Jared Carpenter, Lobbyist for Lake Champlain Committee, raised the issue of waiting to
initiate the new Board until several current committees (Climate Council, Dairy Task
Force, Governor’s Council on the Future of Agriculture, etc.) present reports anticipated
for early 2022 and then coordinate the focus of the new board with the
recommendations from the other groups.
It was noted by VAAFM Attorney Collier that the new Board would be complimentary to
the other groups and would have the ability to consider any recommendations they may
There was much discussion about the name; many committee members and admittedly
staff from VAAFM were challenged with the name. Several suggestions were made and
all suggestions will be welcome.
This is a draft of a committee bill and so is not under the rules of crossover; the
Committee will continue work on the language and it may yet be introduced for a vote
on the House floor before the end of this session.


The discussion in House Agriculture and Forestry continues about allowing the sale of
raw milk in CSA’s and farm stands not on the raw milk producers farm. Several
concerns include selling raw milk at an unattended farm stand, chain of custody and
subsequent liability issues, mitigation of risks for health concerns and how to regulate
the temperature of the product. Rep. Bock would like to propose a sunset on the
Roy Folsom from Nationwide Insurance testified about the costs of liability insurance
and how farmers need to communicate with their agents when making changes to their
current businesses. He also noted any farms selling products as retail are required by
distributors to carry liability insurance. He stated that any CSA or off-farm farm stand
should be notified of the risk in selling raw milk and the liability they incur when doing
The Committee will continue discussion on this bill and would like to hear from a CSA
and a farm stand selling products from other farms and how CSAs are developed. It
appears this language will remain in the Committee beyond crossover. However, there
is always the possibility of adding the language to a bill that comes over from the

President Biden will sign the $1.9 trillion COVID funding package passed by Congress
this week, sending $27 billion to Vermont for distribution. The money will come in two
rounds, one within 60 days and the balance in 2022.
Vermont has until December, 2024, to spend all of the dollars, which gives the
Administration and the Legislature more time to determine allocations. (In the last
round, states only had six to eight months to distribute funds and any dollars remaining
at the end of the year defaulted into the Unemployment Compensation Fund).
Several legislators have made comments about extending the session until the first
round is received and distributed; others have suggested adjourning in early May and
returning for another summer session. Leadership has not announced any decisions.
Of the total, child care providers are allocated $47 million, rental assistance will receive
$152 million, K-12 schools are slated for $293 million, and $65 million will go to
colleges. There is also discussion on spending up to $1.3 billion on infrastructure,
broadband expansion and affordable housing.


Many thanks to Senator Bobby Starr and Representatives Vicki Strong, Mark Higley and
Woodman Page for attending the Orleans County Farm Bureau Legislative Meeting last
Monday. Over a dozen county members listened to presentations by the four
Legislators and kept the conversation going with comments, questions and suggestions
about current issues under the golden dome. The biggest lament was not feasting on
the annual offering of pancakes and real maple syrup!


This week, the impetus has been on voting bills out of committee and onto the floor of
each body that do not contain any funding mechanisms. Next week, the “big” bills –
capital, budget, education and transportation – will work their way onto the floors and
the committees will not meet very often. Bills that are still in committee after next
week will either have to be amended to something else for consideration or will remain
“on the wall” and may or may not ever be discussed again. Bills that make crossover
will travel to the other body and begin the process all over again. SO if there was
something you wanted to testify on, there is still time. Please get in touch with Jackie
at 802-426-3579 or crkdbrks@aol.com; Committee members are always willing to hear
from farmers!
From your advocacy team – Bridget, Joe, Gerry, Michael and Jackie