RURAL VERMONT’S REPORT “From the State House”
The Big Picture
This last legislative session was among the busiest and most productive in Rural Vermont’s recent history! With help and support from our grassroots network and organizational allies, we’ve made meaningful progress on some of Rural Vermont’s core issues and fueled conversations that will enable us to return to the State House next year with bigger and better asks.
2019 Legislative Session Progress
Pollinator Protection – Banned consumer use of neonicitinoids, a pesticide known to have tragic consequences for our pollinators
On-Farm Slaughter Preservation – Protected from elimination the allowance we gained in the past allowing this traditional practice and economy, and created a new opportunity for multiple people to purchase one animal
Raw Milk Advances – Removed multiple barriers to marketing and sales, including simplified signage and legal farmers’ market sales for Tier 2 producers (effective July 1, 2019)
Healthy Soil Wins – Advocated for the Soil Conservation & Payment for Ecosystem Services Working Group to include representatives from the VT Healthy Soils Coalition (of which Rural Vermont was a founding member) and the small diversified farming community
Informing Rural Vermont’s constituents of changes to the law and their impact
Following up with regulators and our allies to ensure that the new laws are effectively implemented
Keeping tabs on a variety of legislatively mandated reports, working groups, and study committees; most notably Poultry Farmers for Chicken Foraging, the Soil Conservation and Payment for Ecosystem Services Working Group, and a strategic planning process and report on revitalizing and stabilizing VT’s agricultural economy
Checking in with our constituents through an extensive field campaign to help us prioritize and prep for next year’s session where we may advocate for compensating farmers for growing soil health and other positive environmental outcomes, further reducing pesticide use in the state, and additional changes to the raw milk law
Engaging hemp growers around the upcoming rulemaking process to ensure the implementation of the new law is fair and economically viable for small-scale producers and supports diversified uses of hemp
Celebrating our collective progress by throwing a party! Join us for general merrymaking, t-shirt screen printing, policy updates, and jovial appreciation of our grassroots community. Details coming soon.
RURAL VERMONT’S REPORT “From the FIELD”
The Big Picture
Even as Vermont’s community-scale, diversified farm economy continues to grow, we are grappling with the multiple crises: a consolidated commodity agricultural industry and economy which is failing farmers and the environment, rural community disinvestment and decline, poor public agricultural literacy, inclement turnover of substantial portions of Vermont’s agricultural land as farms struggle financially and farmers age out, along with accelerating climate change and water quality challenges – all of which many groups, including Rural Vermont, have been explicitly calling attention to for a long time.
As farms of all scales and types continue to deal with issues of economic viability, many incorporate practices that generate ecological outcomes that have great benefit to us all. These “ecosystem services” include generating water quality, sequestering carbon, providing wildlife and pollinator habitat, protecting infrastructure, and so much more. Advocating for recognition of – and compensation for – beneficial outcomes and practices has been a part of Rural Vermont’s work and focus for a long time.
Year to Date Progress & Ongoing Work
Coalitions and Collaboration – RV convened and continues to participate in a coalition of groups working towards reducing pesticide use and exposure; continues to Chair the Farm to Plate Farmland Access and Stewardship Working Group and be a member of the Farm to Plate Steering Committee; member of the new Agroforestry Working group; member of the Human Rights Council; member of the Farm and Water Coalition, among others.
Dairy – RV convened the “Faces of Dairy” in Enosburg; participated in the Northern Tier Dairy Summit; is beginning to participate in national Dairy Together calls and other efforts of national allies like the National Family Farm Coalition; stood in solidarity with migrant farmworkers opposing checkpoints in VT, helped to distribute “know your rights” information to farmers, and inviting those representing migrant workers into groups and onto panels; and working internally and with our constituents and other farmers and organizations to determine how to strategically approach the inequities in the dairy industry.
Healthcare – began establishing relationships with the Main Street Alliance and other advocates for improved healthcare options in order to determine how to incorporate the voices and needs of the farming community
Farm Viability and Environmental Outcomes – within the last year, the concept of “Payment for Ecosystem Services” (PES) has been picking up speed, and Rural Vermont has participated in, and helped to direct, these conversations in various ways. While we are hopeful that a thoughtfully designed PES system could bring great benefits to Vermont’s agricultural sector and ecosystem health, we know that for this to be the outcome, it will need adequate vetting and stakeholder participation. Rural Vermont’s goal is to ensure that any adoption of a PES program in Vermont not only justly compensates farmers for a diversity of ecological services and outcomes, but is also inclusive of the voices and needs of farmers across the spectrum of scale and type and adequate in its standards for ecological efficacy and integrity.