Under the Golden Dome July 13th 2022
The following is an update related to bills and conversations that have an impact on our Agricultural Landscape.
ACT 155 (S.161)
An act relating to extending the baseload renewable power portfolio requirement
Although VTFB was not tracking this bill, it does contain information for our forestry sector: the Act will require three reports back to the General Assembly to include an assessment of the Ryegate power plant decommissioning fund, an analysis by the Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation to calculate a minimum fair market price for wood fuel to be paid by Ryegate and also a report on whether the harvesting practices required in the Ryegate certificate of public good need to be updated by ANR.
ACT 11- (H.411)
An act relating to the retrieval and use of covered wild animals
This law sets requirements for the retrieval and use of certain covered wild animals (defined as a big game animal, game quadruped, game bird, fur-bearing animal, or crow) when intentionally or knowingly killed and provides that a reasonable effort to retrieve and use the covered wild animal is required. A person lawfully taking a covered wild animal shall retain it until processed as food, for its fur, hide or feathers, or processed for taxidermy. Inedible or unusable parts shall be disposed of and the person shall not place, leave, dump, or abandon the carcass along or upon a public right-of-way or highway, upon a private posted property without permission or where prohibited by State or municipal law.
The requirements to use the animal do not apply when it is unfit for consumption or use or to coyote taken by a lawful means other than trapping. If a person is not able to retrieve or retain the animal (due to theft, loss in field, lack of legal access to property or other circumstances), this law does not apply; also if the animal is taken to defend a person or property, if the animal is sick or diseased, or a law enforcement officer acting within the course of the officer’s employment takes the animal, this requirement does not apply.
VTFB had no policy on this and did not participate in the discussion.
ACT 165 (S.281)
An act relating to hunting coyote with dogs
A moratorium is in effect using dogs to hunt coyote until the Fish and Wildlife Board adopts rules regulating such a hunt. During this time, a person may only pursue coyote with dogs in defense of a person or property if the person is the landowner or has obtained a permission card from the landowner.
The intent is to reduce conflicts between landowners and persons hunting with dogs. The rules shall:
· Limit the number of dogs used to pursue coyote;
· Prohibit substituting a new dog for another dog during pursuit;
· Develop a legal method of taking coyote pursued with the aid of dogs;
· Define what it means to control and minimize the risk that dogs pursuing coyote enter onto posted land, enter land where pursuit of coyote is not allowed, or harass or harm people or domestic animals;
· Provide encouragement to persons pursuing coyote with dogs to seek landowner permission prior to entering non-posted land;
· Require reporting of every coyote killed during pursuit by dogs.
After the moratorium is lifted, no one may hunt coyote using dogs without permission by the Commissioner of Fish and Wildlife; no more than 100 permits will be issued annually. Residents will pay $50.00; non-residents can apply for $10.00 and then will have to pay $200.00 if they successfully obtain a permit.
Additionally, a courtesy permission card must be obtained from the landowner allowing pursuit of coyote with dogs on their property.
VTFB does not currently have policy on this or any of the other hunting and trapping issues that developed within the Natural Resources Committees this session.
Members who hunt or trap should consider developing ideas for policy for the 2023-2024 biennium and be prepared to testify in support of any policy added to our book.
ACT 146 (H.697)
An act relating to eligibility of reserve forestland for enrollment in the Use Value Appraisal Program (Current Use)
This statute will amend the Use Value Appraisal (UVA) Program to include enrollment of reserve forestland and to clarify existing authority for enrollment ecologically significant treatment areas (ESTAs). ESTAs are defined as lands within a parcel of managed forestland that will be managed using protective or conservation management strategies and are not required to be managed for timber, including old forests, State-significant natural communities, rare, threatened, and endangered species, riparian areas, forested wetlands and vernal pools. Reserve forestland is considered as land that is managed for the purpose of attaining old forest values and functions in line with minimum acceptable standards for forest management.
Parcels up to 100 acres will require 50% or more of the enrolled parcel acres be composed of significant and sensitive conditions; on parcels of 100 acres or more, 30% shall be composed of those conditions. Beginning on July 1,2023, managed forestland shall be eligible for enrollment in the UVA Program as reserve forestland.
The Commissioner of Forests, Park and Recreation shall set standards for the management of reserve forestland and shall report to the General Assembly by January 15, 2026, the amount of land enrolled under this new category. The report will also include how enrollment of managed forestlands in UVA has changed since reserve forestland became eligible for enrollment.
Although VTFB has significant policy on the UVA Program, including support of an “easy out” when there is a significant change to the program, we have no specific policy on reserve forestland (often referenced as “forever wild forest” during the discussion). This new category engendered much discussion in the House Natural Resources Committee. Commissioner Snyder was not supportive of the idea of forestland being in UVA without being managed.
There are many reports to the General Assembly over the next 3 years, requiring setting standards, determining how to move between categories and how enrollment will effect the cost of the program.
Members may want to review our current policies for UVA and make some recommendations for policy going forward.
Questions for candidates/incumbents:
1. Are you supportive of the addition of reserve forests as a category for UVA?
2. Have you thought of any other categories of land use that should be added?
3. Would you support all qualified equine facilities being exempt as agricultural structures in UVA?
4. Would you support Vermont Farm Bureau’s efforts by sponsoring a bill to require the UVA Program to become tax policy on all land, not just a program?
ACT 158 (S.188)
An act relating to regulating licensed small cannabis cultivation as farming
This law makes changes to the regulatory system for the adult-use cannabis market:
· Licensed small cultivators who grow cannabis outdoors on land already subject to RAPs will be afforded farming exemptions regarding land use requirements and permitting under Act 250 and local zoning and will be able to keep the parcel enrolled in UVA, provided the land was already enrolled prior to cultivation of cannabis;
· Requires the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) to submit to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, House Ways and Means and Senate Finance written regulations on how to regulate hemp products, hemp processors and hemp product manufacturers by the Cannabis Control Board;
· The standard for “home grow” and commercial use of cannabis will be the same: written consent of the person in lawful possession of the property, screened from public view and persons must be 21 years or older to cultivate;
· Requires the CCB to report to the General Assembly with a summary of regulated market share for concentrates above 60% THC and the status of the illicit market for those products in other states;
· And there are other highlights regarding employees, licenses and fees.
VTFB has no policy on this issue; the agriculture pieces were strongly promoted by other agricultural lobbying groups in Vermont regarding the UVA piece, so that a farmer with land in UVA would not be penalized and have to lose the benefit of the program for growing cannabis. It should be noted that neither House or Senate Agriculture Committees were interested in changing the definition of farming to include growing cannabis; the compromise was to allow farmers the exemptions as noted above.
On another note, many of you will remember numerous mentions in past UTGD reports of Cary Giguere from VAAFM, who most recently promoted disbanding the Pesticide Council and rolling much of that work as well as a huge agenda of other issues into the Agriculture Innovation Board. The AIB was written into law in 2021 and has met at least twice in 2022. Cary has left VAAFM and is now working for the Cannabis Control Board. He might be a good resource for any farmer interested in possibly growing cannabis and how to get through the process.
This is the last report on bills we were following in this session. Any bill that has not been mentioned did not make it through the process and either died in committee or on the floor.
If there is something you were interested in that wasn’t covered in these six reports, please let me know at 802-426-3579 or email@example.com and I’ll get back to you with answers!
Please get involved in your county meetings this year, and with any candidate events you are able to attend. Agriculture touches EVERYTHING under the golden dome!! We need to make sure our voices and concerns are heard, and this election year is an excellent opportunity to connect with your representatives.
On behalf of your legislative team – Jackie Folsom (with many thanks to Bridget, Jill and Michael from the Morris Government Group for covering issues for us!)
Vermont Farm Bureau wishes to extend our gratitude to the Legislative Team that worked so hard during the 2022 Legislative Session. Jackie and the Morris Group were instrumental in not only providing us information, but being the voices of our members in Montpelier. We sincerely thank them for all the hard work and dedication to our valued members.