In this update:
Dear Members & Friends:
Did you celebrate the Vernal Equinox last Thursday by dancing around in the new snow? Any sign of daffodils where you live? Superstition holds that on the Vernal Equinox (when the sun is aligned with the earth’s equator) you can balance a raw egg on its end. I suspect that is an easier task than getting meaningful legislation through the State House.
We’re more than halfway through the session and last week marked the “crossover” deadline for most bills that hold any hope of getting passed this year. The good news is that the bills that Rural Vermont is working on are still “in the game.” Read on for more details and also how you can get involved.
The pace in the State House will only accelerate from now through early May and we will do our best to keep you up to date on issues you care about. Please don’t hesitate to be in touch with any questions you may have.
There’s a quote attributed to Otto Von Bismark, German Chancellor and Prime Minister in the 1800s: “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.” Here’s an entertaining New York Times article from WAY back in 2005 about why at least one sausage maker is insulted by the comparison. Enjoy!
GMO Labeling – H.112
The Senate Judiciary Committee took substantial testimony on the bill last week. This included a panel of “experts” addressing the constitutional issues in the bill. Thanks to everyone who came to the State House last week to attend the committee sessions. This coming week looks like it could be pivotal.
Recognizing that things are constantly in flux at the State House – the Senate Judiciary Committee’s schedule indicates that they will take more testimony on Wed. morning, then “mark up” the bill (which means make whatever changes they are contemplating) and then POSSIBLY vote on the bill. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this indeed occurs. Time is not on our side in this campaign and the sooner the bill moves to the next step in the process the more likely it will make it all the way through the gauntlet. If you have questions about the bill or the legislative process please contact us.
> To TAKE ACTION, please write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Speak from the heart and tell your community why you support GMO Labeling.
Raw Milk – S.70
Due to the pressure of crossover deadlines, the House Ag Committee has not yet scheduled testimony on Rural Vermont’s proposed improvements to the raw milk law. We are hopeful we will get a commitment on a schedule of testimony this week.
Please keep any eye on your local paper for any anti-raw milk letters or articles. Dr. Robert Luby, a long-time raw milk advocate, who participated in Rural Vermont’s Raw Milk Summit last October, has written a terrific letter which you can read here. Please contact Robb Kidd if you see the issue of raw milk in your local paper.
> To TAKE ACTION in support of raw milk, please consider writing your own Letter to the Editor to express your support for greater access to raw milk. Contact Robb if you need assistance.
Compost – H.542
This bill passed the House in time for crossover and is now in the Sen. Ag. Cmte. It is expected to be approved there and will then go to Sen. Finance where Chair Tim Ashe has said he supports it. The bill corrects the inequity in taxation of soil amendments. Compost sold in bulk (at least 1 cubic yard and not prepackaged) will be exempt from sales tax.
To TAKE ACTION on this bill, please contact the members of the Senate Ag Committee and urge them to pass the bill.
Current Use – H.329
This bill, which was passed by the House last year, has gone through a “strike all” amendment process and is being worked on in the Sen. Agriculture Cmte. They have heard a lot of different people testify to how vital the program is to VT’s working lands but beyond that opinions vary greatly on whether and what changes should or need to be made to the program. The version of the bill as passed by the House last year is available on the legislative website. If you are interested in seeing the current version of the bill, please contact Andrea Stander. It is not clear yet what changes the Senate Ag Cmte will make to the bill.
Water Quality – H.586
This complex and multifaceted bill was passed out of the Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee (which wrote the bill) two weeks ago. Late last week – in order to meet the requirements of a crossover extension – the House Ag Committee considered the bill and made some significant changes based in part on testimony they took earlier in the session.
In exchange for moving the bill quickly to meet the deadline, House Ag secured a promise from FWW Chair Rep. David Deen that they can continue working on it while it goes to Ways & Means to address the funding package it contains. The House Ag Cmte only worked on the portions of the bill that directly impact agriculture and you can see their version here. You can see the complete bill as it was passed out of the Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Cmte here.
One of the key components of the bill is to ensure that all small farms are in compliance with the Accepted Agriculture Practices (AAPs). The bill directs the Agency of Ag to define “small farms” and also update the AAPs through a rule making process.
If you would like more information about this bill or would be interested in providing testimony about how you address protecting water quality on your farm, please contact Andrea Stander.
Here are some recent articles and Letters to the Editor you may not have seen. Have an issue you’re passionate about? Consider starting a conversation with your neighbors by writing your own Letter to the Editor. Contact Robb Kidd if you need assistance.
Seven Days – Letter to the Editor: Freedom to slaughter
FYI: Upcoming Educational Opportunities:
April 9: Farm to Consumer Foundation Raw Milk University
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