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S.280

Introduced by   Senator Kittell of Franklin District

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Agriculture; economic development; food in schools; food and fuel processing; state nonpoint source financial assistance awards

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to establish a grant program in the department of education to encourage school districts to purchase and use local foods.  This bill also proposes to establish an agricultural resource production grant program in the agency of agriculture, food and markets for farmers seeking to develop and implement food processing or biofuel production activities or facilities.  The 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.  In addition, the bill would require the agency of agriculture, food and markets to establish a renewable energy information clearinghouse to provide Vermont farmers with information necessary to invest in, develop, and implement renewable energy programs on the farm.

AN ACT RELATING TO THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF VERMONT AGRICULTURE

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

Sec. 1.  6 V.S.A. chapter 207 is amended to read:

CHAPTER 207.  STATE AGENCIES AND STATE-FUNDED INSTITUTIONS TO PURCHASE VERMONT PRODUCTS

Subchapter 1.  General Provisions

§ 4601.  VERMONT PRODUCTS

When purchasing agricultural products, the secretary of administration, the secretary of buildings and general services and any state-funded institutions shall, other considerations being equal, purchase products grown or produced in Vermont when available and when they meet quality standards established by the secretary of agriculture, food and markets.

Subchapter 2.  Vermont Products in Schools

§ 4650.  LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS

(a)  The general assembly finds that it is in the best interests of Vermont children and farmers to empower schools to increase the use of local farm products in school meals programs because:

(1)  Children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables when they are fresh and attractive looking.  Research shows that children who exercise moderately and eat a healthy diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables are less likely to be overweight and have less risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure as adults.  Further, inadequate nutrition can prevent children from learning effectively.  Research shows an improvement in student behavior and academic performance and improved health scores due to dietary improvements at school.

(2)  Farmers gain an increased market for their produce.  In school year 2002-2003, Vermont schools spent $13 million on food for their food service programs yet less than five percent of the $13 million went for direct purchase of produce from local farms and other local producers.

(3)  When Vermont farms are supported, the community gains because the working landscape crucial to Vermont tourism is maintained, and the environment gains through less dependence on a large transportation system and commercially produced pesticides and fertilizers essential to large farm operations.

(4)  Since children can receive 55 percent of daily nutritional requirements from the breakfast and lunch program, it is important to encourage them to eat fresh fruits and vegetables at school.  This is particularly important for the 21,000 Vermont children who live in households unable to provide enough safe and nutritious food in order for the children to lead an active and healthy life.

(b)  Therefore it is the intent of this subchapter to provide aid and incentives to local school districts to:

(1)  Serve food that is as fresh and as nutritious as possible to Vermont students;

(2)  Maximize use of locally grown fresh and processed Vermont food;

(3)  Educate students about healthy eating habits through nutrition education, including connections between farming and the foods that they consume; and

(4)  Increase school meal participation by increasing the selection of foods available to students.

§ 4651.  LOCAL FOODS MINI-GRANT PROGRAM

(a)  There is created in the department of education a local foods mini-grant program for the purpose of helping Vermont schools to obtain equipment, resources, and materials that will help them toward increased purchase and use of local foods in their school food service programs or toward educating children about nutrition and farming.  Eligible items for purchase may include:

(1)  Equipment such as a freezer or food processor for storing or processing of locally purchased foods;

(2)  Professional development and technical assistance services for teachers about nutrition and farm-to-school education, or for food service personnel in use of local foods; and

(3)  Materials that will help teachers to educate children about nutrition and farm-to-school connections.

(b)  The commissioner of education may award small grants to a school district, a supervisory union, or a consortium of school districts or supervisory unions.

(c)  The state board of education may adopt rules as necessary to implement the grant program created under this section.

(d)  On or before January 30 of each year starting in 2008, the commissioner shall report to the senate and house committees on agriculture and education on the number and amounts of grants awarded, how the funds were used by each grantee, and to the extent possible, any increase in use of local foods as a result of the awards.

Sec. 2.  6 V.S.A. § 4711 is added to read:

§ 4711.  AGRICULTURAL RESOURCE PRODUCTION GRANT

              PROGRAM

(a)  The Vermont agricultural resource production grant program is created in the agency of agriculture, food and markets to provide assistance to Vermont farmers to obtain the capital, equipment, expertise, and materials that will help them develop and implement successful on-farm or regional agricultural food processing or fuel production activities and facilities.  The following shall be eligible for assistance under the grant program:

(1)  equipment to harvest agricultural biomass;

(2)  equipment or technology for the conversion of agricultural biomass into energy;

(3)  equipment or technology for the processing of crops or other food products; and

(4)  professional development and technical assistance services concerning agricultural fuel production or local food processing.

(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 agricultural resource production 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 effectuating and implementing the agricultural resource production 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 from any other source, public or private.

Sec. 3.  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. 4.  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)  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. 5.  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)  Meets all applicable state and federal permitting requirements; and

(3)  Meets any financial and technical criteria established by the secretary by rule.

Sec. 6.  6 V.S.A. § 4823(a) 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. 7.  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. 8.  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. 9.  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. 10.  LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE ON EXPANDING MARKETS FOR

             VERMONT FARMERS

(a)  There is created a committee on expanding markets for Vermont farmers to consist of three senators appointed by the committee on committees and three representatives appointed by the speaker of the house.  The committee may meet up to eight times, shall receive a per diem and expenses pursuant to section 406 of Title 32, and shall receive staff services from the legislative council.  The personnel of the agency of agriculture, food and markets; the department of education; the department of buildings and general services; and the agency of human services shall provide information to the committee as needed.

(b)  The committee shall study and make recommendations on the following:

(1)  Could and should Vermont establish a food service institute at one of our public colleges or at UVM for the purpose of training school and state agency food service personnel in nutrition, obesity prevention, coping with severe food allergies, and strategies for purchasing, processing, and serving locally grown foods?

(2)  How can the legislature facilitate production and use of lightly processed and value-added Vermont foods in Vermont schools and state agencies?  The committee shall study which Vermont products have the potential to be processed for use in schools and state agencies and examine how to have them processed, including consideration of whether there is potential to use existing capacity in school cafeterias or technical centers.

(3)  Are there other strategies the general assembly could adopt or encourage to increase use of locally grown foods in Vermont schools and state agencies? 

(4)  Would moving administration of the USDA food distribution program (the food commodities program) from the agency of human services to another department or agency such as the department of education or the agency of agriculture, food and markets improve integration of the program with efforts to include more fresh foods in general and Vermont‑grown foods in particular?

(d)  On or before January 15, 2007, the committee shall report its findings and recommendations to the senate committees on health and welfare, agriculture, and education and the house committees on human services, agriculture, institutions, and education.

Sec. 11.  AGRICULTURAL RESOURCE PRODUCTION GRANT

             PROGRAM REPORT

The secretary of agriculture, food and markets shall report in writing to the senate and house committees on agriculture on or before January 31 of each year starting in 2008 on the number and amounts of grants awarded under the agricultural resource production grant program authorized by 6 V.S.A. § 4711, how funds from the program were used by each grantee, the amount of monies appropriated to the fund, and, to the extent possible, any increase in fuel production or local food processing as a result of the awards.

Sec. 12.  FARM ASSISTANCE; SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, FOOD

             AND MARKETS

(a)  The secretary of agriculture, food and markets shall develop and implement educational opportunities for farmers to help them to increase their markets through selling their products to schools and state government agencies and participating in the federal food commodities program, including the federal Department of Defense Fresh program.  

(b)  The secretary of agriculture, food and markets shall award one-time funds to the Food Venture Center currently located in Fairfax, Vermont to support an expansion and relocation of its facility.  The relocation shall be to an area in central Vermont so that more Vermont farmers may access the facilities.  Expansion shall increase the ability of the center to:

(1)  process Vermont farm products, thereby helping farmers to increase the size and stability of their markets; and

(2)  rent equipment to Vermont farmers so that they can process their products for sale.

Sec. 13.  PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR FOOD SERVICE

               PERSONNEL

(a)  The commissioner of education shall expand and increase training sessions for public school food service personnel during 2007.  Training shall include information about strategies for purchasing, processing, and serving locally grown foods, as well as information about nutrition, obesity prevention, coping with severe food allergies, and food service operations.  The commissioner may use a portion of the funds appropriated for this training session to pay a portion of or all expenses for attendees and to develop manuals or other materials to help in the training.

(b)  In 2007, the commissioner of education shall train people to provide technical assistance to school food service personnel and use a portion of the funds appropriated for this purpose to enable the trained people to provide technical assistance at the school and supervisory union level.

(c)  On or before January 30, 2008, the commissioner shall report to the senate committees on health and welfare, agriculture, and education and the house committees on human services, agriculture, and education about the training sessions and shall make a recommendation concerning further training in 2008.

Sec. 14.  RENEWABLE ENERGY INFORMATION CLEARINGHOUSE

The agency of agriculture, food and markets shall establish a renewable energy information clearinghouse within the agency to provide Vermont farmers with information necessary to invest in, develop, and implement renewable energy programs on the farm.  The clearinghouse shall provide the following information: 

(1)  Current renewable energy production opportunities, including a specific emphasis on crops or biomass commonly harvested or found in Vermont;

(2)  Market potential for renewable energy in Vermont and nationally;

(3)  The cost to a farmer of the technology, materials, and resources necessary to initiate renewable energy production;

(4)  The federal and state financing programs, grant programs, and tax incentives available for renewable energy production;

(5)  An index of corporations, businesses, organizations, and governmental agencies that provide renewable energy production consulting services or expertise;

(6)  A catalogue of corporations and businesses manufacturing the equipment necessary for renewable energy production; and

(7)  Other explanatory material and data which will aid farmers in obtaining renewable energy production expertise, preparing renewable energy production plans and budgets, and purchasing capital equipment necessary for renewable energy production. 

Sec. 15.  APPROPRIATIONS

(a)  The amount of $225,000.00 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of education for the purpose of awarding local foods mini-grants under Sec. 1 of this act.

(b)  The amount of $300,000.00 is appropriated to the agency of agriculture, food and markets for the purpose of awarding agricultural resource production grants under Sec. 2 of this act.

(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. 8 of this act.

(c)  The amount of $100,000.00 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of education for training of food service personnel pursuant to Sec. 13 of this act.

(d)  The amount of $25,000.00 is appropriated from the general fund to the secretary of agriculture, food and markets for carrying out education activities for farmers pursuant to Sec. 12(a) of this act.

(e)  The amount of $75,000.00 is appropriated from the general fund to the secretary of agriculture, food and markets to be used to support an expansion and relocation of the Food Venture Center pursuant to Sec. 12(b) of this act.

(f)  The amount of $30,000.00 is appropriated to the agency of agriculture, food and markets for the establishment of the renewable energy information clearinghouse required by Sec. 14 of this act.

(g)  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.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us