2018 End of Legislative Session Recap

NOTE: The links we have provided to the bills listed below are the most current versions available through the Legislative website – they may change. 

H.663 – AGRICULTURAL ENTERPRISE BILL

What this bill will do: Provide statewide consistency in how accessory on-farm businesses are regulated by municipalities giving farmers more opportunities to develop additional income for their farms.

What is the status of this bill: This bill has been passed by both chambers and, on May 21st, the Governor signed the bill into law. This law will take effect on July 1, 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 this bill will do: Provide the opportunity for any farmer who registers with the Agency of Agriculture by July 1, 2018 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.

What is the status of this bill: 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 VERY IMPORTANT for small-scale farmers to actively contribute to shaping the implementation of this law.

S.101 – RIGHT TO FORESTRY BILL

What this bill will do: Provide some basic protection from nuisance lawsuits for small-scale, non-permanent, legal forestry operations.

What is the status of this bill: 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. It is expected that the bill will be sent to the Governor for his signature. This bill will take effect upon passage.

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

H.904 – MISC. AGRICULTURAL SUBJECTS BILL

What this bill will do: 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.

What is the status of this bill:  This bill was passed by both chambers in its much-diminished form and has been sent to the Governor for signature. 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 implementation.

S.276 – RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BILL

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.

NEXT STEPS: TBA

S.260 – CLEAN WATER FUNDING BILL

What this bill will do: 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.

What is the status of this bill: The Governor signed this bill 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.

H.915 – POLLINATOR PROTECTION BILL - DEAD

This bill failed to emerge from its conference committee as the House and Senate members were unable to reach a compromise.

H.903 – REGENERATIVE FARMING BILL - DEAD

After this bill became a target for unfriendly amendments, and its source of funding (the Clean Water Fund) was called into question, Sen. Starr successfully pulled the bill 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 & funding allows.

Coco Moseley