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S.243

Introduced by   Senator Kittell of Franklin District

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Agriculture; water quality

Statement of purpose:  This bill would increase the state share of state financial assistance awards for activities related to the reduction of nonpoint source agricultural waste discharge.  The bill also would expand eligibility for state financial assistance awards for activities related to the reduction of nonpoint source agricultural waste discharge.  The bill amends the priority for state agricultural water quality financial assistance awards to give first priority to certain waters listed as impaired due to agricultural runoff, pathogens, phosphorus, or sediment.  In addition, the bill would establish the Vermont small farm agronomic practices program to provide the small farms of Vermont with state financial assistance for the implementation of field-level best management practices that improve soil quality, increase crop production, and reduce erosion.  The bill would also provide funding to the University of Vermont extension service for the hiring of a full-time agronomist.

AN ACT RELATING TO AGRICULTURAL WATER QUALITY FINANCING

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  6 V.S.A. § 4820(6) and (7) are added to read:

(6)  “Impaired water” means a water listed by the agency of natural resources on the EPA-approved state of Vermont 303(d) list of waters as impaired for agricultural runoff, pathogens, phosphorus, or sediment.

(7)  “Person” means any individual, partnership, organized group, firm, joint stock company, corporation, association, trust, estate, or other legal entity.

Sec. 2.  6 V.S.A. § 4821 is amended to read:

§ 4821.  ASSISTANCE PROGRAM CREATED; ADMINISTRATION

(a)  Program created.  A program is created to provide state financial assistance to Vermont farmers and nonfarmers in support of their:

(1)  voluntary construction of on-farm improvements and maintenance of acceptable operating standards designed, consistent with goals of the federal Water Pollution Control Act and with state water quality standards.  The program  Such activities shall be conducted in a manner which makes maximum use of federal financial aid for the same purpose, as provided by this subchapter, and which seeks to use the least costly methods available to accomplish the abatement required;

(2)  the design, development, and implementation of technology to abate nonpoint source agricultural waste discharges into the waters of the state of Vermont;

(3)  nonstructural field-based best management practices; and

(4)  educational and instructional activities to inform the farmers and citizens of Vermont of:

(A)  the harm caused to Vermont waters by nonpoint source agricultural waste discharges;

(B)  the federal and state requirements for controlling nonpoint source agricultural waste discharges; and

(C)  alternative methods for the control or reduction of nonpoint source agricultural waste discharges, including nutrient management planning, soil management, and best management practices.

(b)  Program administration.  The secretary shall:

(1)  shall administer the state assistance program, for which purpose the secretary shall coordinate with officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or other federal agencies, and shall adopt rules pursuant to chapter 25 of Title 3 concerning farmer application and eligibility requirements, financial assistance award priorities, and other administrative and enforcement conditions; and

(2)  may provide technical assistance to individual farmers with the preparation of on-farm agricultural waste management plans, applications for state and federal financial assistance awards, installation of on-farm improvements, and maintenance of acceptable operating standards during the life of a state assistance award contract.  For this purpose, state employees of the agency shall cooperate with federal employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or other federal agencies.

Sec. 3.  6 V.S.A. § 4822 is amended to read:

§ 4822.  ELIGIBILITY FOR STATE ASSISTANCE

(a)  Vermont farmers shall be eligible to receive available state financial assistance with the installation of on-farm improvements or the implementation of nonstructural field-based best management practices designed to control agricultural nonpoint source waste discharges, provided that:

(1)  for farmers who also seek federal financial assistance for this purpose, the improvements:

(A)  are eligible for federal assistance through programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and

(B)  are consistent with a "nutrient management plan" prepared by the Vermont field office of the NRCS, or with an animal waste management plan based on standards equivalent to those of the NRCS; or

(2)  for farmers who decline to seek or accept federal financial assistance for this purpose, the improvements:

(A)  are determined by the secretary to be equivalent to those eligible for federal assistance through programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and

(B)  are consistent with an animal waste management plan based on standards determined by the secretary to be equivalent to those of the NRCS.

(b)  A person that is not a farmer shall be eligible to receive available state financial assistance for the development and implementation of technology designed to control agricultural nonpoint source waste discharges or for education and outreach activities related to reducing agricultural nonpoint source waste discharges, provided that the person:

(1)  is located in Vermont;

(2)  is working in consultation with a Vermont farm as set forth in a contract, memorandum of understanding, or other like legal agreement;

(3)  meets all applicable state and federal permitting requirements; and

(4)  meets any financial and technical criteria established by the secretary by rule.

Sec. 4.  6 V.S.A. § 4823 is amended to read:

§ 4823.  PRIORITIES; STATE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE AWARDS

(a)  Priorities.  State financial assistance available under this subchapter shall in each fiscal year be allocated according to the following priorities, except as provided by subsection (b) of this section, and as further defined by rule by the secretary:

(1)  First priority shall be given to proposed improvements on individual farms which do not meet AAPs because of physical constraints of a farm site, which are located, in descending order:  in the watershed of an impaired water within the boundaries of the Lake Champlain Basin, the Lake Memphremagog Basin, the Connecticut River Basin, or the Hudson River Basin, as these boundaries are defined by the state water quality plan prepared by the agency of natural resources.

(2)  Second priority shall be given to proposed improvements on individual farms which do not meet AAPs because of physical constraints of a farm site, which are located, in descending order:  in the watershed of a nonimpaired water within the boundaries of the Lake Champlain Basin, the Lake Memphremagog Basin, the Connecticut River Basin, or the Hudson River Basin, as these boundaries are defined by the state water quality plan prepared by the agency of natural resources.

(2)(3)  Next priority shall be given to proposed improvements on all other individual farms which are located, in descending order, within the boundaries of the Lake Champlain Basin, the Lake Memphremagog Basin, the Connecticut River Basin, or the Hudson River Basin.

* * *

Sec. 5.  6 V.S.A. § 4824(a) is amended to read:

§ 4824.  STATE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE AWARDS

(a)  State grant.  State financial assistance awarded under this subchapter shall be in the form of a grant.  When a state grant is intended to match federal financial assistance for the same on-farm improvement project, the state grant shall be awarded only when the federal financial assistance has also been approved for awarded.  An applicant for a state grant shall pay at least 15 percent of the total eligible project cost.  The dollar amount of a state grant shall be equal to the total eligible project cost, less 15 percent of the total as paid by the applicant, and less the amount of any federal assistance awarded, except that a state grant shall not exceed 50 90 percent of the total eligible project cost.

Sec. 6.  6 V.S.A. § 4828 is added to read:

§ 4828.  SMALL FARM AGRONOMIC PRACTICES PROGRAM

(a)  The Vermont small farm agronomic practices program is created in the agency of agriculture, food and markets to provide the small farms of Vermont with state financial assistance for the implementation of field-level best management practices that improve soil quality, increase crop production, and reduce erosion.  To receive assistance under this section, a farm shall meet the definition of “small farm” set forth in subdivision 4857(3) of this title.  The following practices shall be eligible for assistance under the grant program:

(1)  conservation crop rotation;

(2)  cover cropping;

(3)  strip cropping;

(4)  cross-slope tillage; and

(5)  other field-based best management practices deemed appropriate by the secretary.

(b)  The secretary of agriculture, food and markets shall establish by rule grant criteria; performance, goals, and evaluative measures; and other criteria necessary to implement the program.

(c)  The small farm agronomic practices program special fund is established in the state treasury and shall be administered by the secretary of agriculture, food and markets in accordance with the provisions of subchapter 5 of chapter 7 of Title 32, except that interest earned on the fund shall be retained in the fund.  The fund shall be used only for the purposes of implementing the small farm agronomic practices program established by this section.  There shall be deposited in such fund any monies appropriated by the general assembly to or received by the secretary of agriculture, food and markets for use by the fund from any other source, public or private.


Sec. 7.  AGENCY OF AGRICULTURE WATER QUALITY FUNDING

             MEDIA CAMPAIGN

Prior to July 1, 2007, the agency of agriculture, food and markets shall conduct a public information campaign to inform farmers in Vermont of the funding assistance available to farmers for the control of agricultural nonpoint source water discharges.  The campaign shall include radio and television advertising and print advertising in state and regional newspapers.  In implementing the campaign, the agency may also conduct group meetings, on‑farm demonstrations, and one-on-one farm visits.

Sec. 8.  APPROPRIATIONS

(a)  In addition to any other funds appropriated to the University of Vermont extension service in fiscal year 2007, there is appropriated from the general fund to the extension service $75,000.00 in fiscal year 2007 for the purpose of hiring a full-time agronomist or soil scientist to work with farmers of the state in developing nonstructural field‑based best management practices to control agricultural nonpoint source runoff.

(b)  The amount of $300,000.00 is appropriated to the agency of agriculture, food and markets for the purpose of implementing the small farm agronomic practices program under Sec. 6 of this act.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us