In October of 2018 Rural Vermont conducted a policy priorities survey of our membership and Vermont’s greater agricultural community. Our goal was to share information about some issues that we expect to be considered during the upcoming legislative biennium. We had an additional goal of seeking guidance from our community on how Rural Vermont should prioritize these issues. Here are some highlights:

-        The almost 250 respondents represent all areas of the state

-        40% of the respondents self-identified as farmers

-        Overwhelmingly you want Rural Vermont to work on ALL the identified issues

-        There was strong agreement on priorities with work on reducing pesticides ranking first; water quality and health care reform tied for second; and reforming the on-farm slaughter law was third

What you told us is incredibly valuable as we work to develop our advocacy strategy and allocate staff time and financial resources. Early in the New Year we will be reporting on Rural Vermont’s specific plans and sharing a wide range of opportunities for you to participate in advancing the issues you care about the most. Please read our Summary Report on the results of the survey and contact us with any questions, ideas, or comments you want to share.


In the November election 45 brand new legislators were chosen. Chances are one of them may be representing you. Even if your legislators are returning incumbents, NOW is a great time to reach out to them, introduce yourself, and share with them your concerns and views on the issues you care about and that they will be working on soon.

Visit the VT Secretary of State’s 2018 Election Results to look up your new or returning legislator. If you need assistance please contact Rural Vermont’s Policy Consultant Andrea Stander.


What Happened and What's Next (updated as of 5/30/2018)


Agricultural Enterprise Bill


What it does: Provide statewide consistency in how accessory on-farm businesses are regulated by municipalities giving farmers more opportunities to diversify their income.

Status: This bill has been passed by both chambers and was signed into law by the Governor on May 21st. This law will take effect on July 1st, 2018.

NEXT STEPS: Please contact your Senators and Representatives to thank them for supporting this bill which will provide significant economic opportunities for farmers. ALSO – watch for notification from Rural Vermont seeking your input on implementation of this new law.

H. 663

Hemp Pilot Program

What it does: Provide the opportunity for any farmer who registers with the Agency of Agriculture to grow Hemp and participate in a federally compliant research program in 2019. This bill also mandates a formal rule-making process for the implementation of the new law and provides regulations for the testing and quality control of hemp and hemp-derived products.

Status: See H.663 status, above

NEXT STEPS: Please contact your Senators and Representatives to thank them for supporting this bill which will help Vermont re-establish Hemp as a significant agricultural crop. ALSO – watch for notification from Rural Vermont about opportunities to participate in the upcoming rule-making process. It will be CRITICAL for small-scale farmers to actively contribute to shaping the implementation of this law. If you are, or want to, grow hemp in 2018, register with the Agency of Ag. For registration information, click here.

For details about the hemp pilot program and hemp's history in Vermont, see Rural Vermont's most recent factsheet, here.


Right to Forestry Bill

What it does: Provide some basic protection from nuisance lawsuits for small-scale, non-permanent, legal forestry operations.

Status: This bill was passed by both chambers, and then the House concurred with a final amendment made by the Senate, which gave a little more protection to citizens pursuing a complaint against a forestry operation. This bill was signed by the Governor on May 30th and took effect immediately.

NEXT STEPS: Please contact your Senators and Representatives to thank them for supporting this bill which provides important recognition of forestry’s role in Vermont’s working lands economy.

S. 276

RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BILL – Including new Hemp Pilot Program


What this bill will do: This is another bill that went through many iterations and then ended up as a mere shadow of its original scope. Although it originally contained the Hemp Pilot Program, that was removed in the final days of the session because it had been attached to H.633.

What is the status of this bill: This bill was passed by both chambers, and we believe it has been sent to the Governor, but its fate is currently unknown.


H. 915

Pollinator Protection Bill


This bill went through several iterations, but ultimately failed to emerge from its conference committee as the House and Senate members were unable to reach a compromise.

H. 904

Miscellaneous Agricultural Subjects Bill


What it does: This bill went through many changes in the final days of the session and was the subject of much conflict as it became a veritable “Christmas tree” containing portions of many other bills. In the end, it was reduced to just a few provisions that primarily deal with the Agency of Ag’s authority to implement and enforce FSMA (the federal Food Safety and Modernization Act). It also has a provision that makes a minor change to regulations regarding the transport of livestock and poultry to slaughter facilities.

Status:  This bill was passed by both chambers in its much-diminished form and was sent to the Governor on May 22nd. This bill will take effect upon passage.

NEXT STEPS: Rural Vermont plans to request a meeting with the Agency of Agriculture to review all the new legislation and better understand how the Agency will be proceeding with its

H. 903

Regenerative Farming Bill

Due to several snags, this bill was pulled back into the Senate Ag Cmte and no further action was taken. This bill would have codified into law the VT Environmental Stewardship Program (VESP) that the Agency of Agriculture has already been developing. It is expected the Agency of Ag will continue to develop the VESP program as staffing and funding allows.

H. 260

Clean Water Funding Bill

What it does: The original intent of this bill was to create a long-term funding mechanism for the multi-million-dollar annual cost of addressing Vermont’s significant water quality problems. It has gone through many revisions and, like other bills this session, ended up essentially as a relatively toothless bill that simply mandates more studies and reports.

Status: The Governor signed this bill into law on May 21st.

NEXT STEPS: Rural Vermont supports the creation of a long-term funding mechanism to address water quality. We will continue to work to ensure that such a funding mechanism will be just and enable all farmers to be fully engaged in the solutions to water quality problems and have fair access to all funding sources for water quality improvement projects.