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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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H.522

Introduced by   Committee on Agriculture

Date:

Subject:  Agriculture; long-term goals, policies, and actions

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to assure the long-term viability of Vermont agriculture by establishing goals for the state, stating legislative findings outlining the problems and possibilities for the agricultural industry and the legislative intent behind the act.

The bill also authorizes the agency of agriculture, food and markets to establish systems for the state to purchase local food and dairy products, develop proposals for developing additional in-state dairy processing facilities, establish an alternative dairy pricing system that assures Vermont dairy farmers a stable and equitable price for their milk, suggest ways to lower farm workers’ compensation insurance, study establishing a state farm energy purchase program, and review state statutes with an eye to improving effectiveness in the development and delivery of farm programs.  In addition, the bill clarifies that a producer may process without inspection up to 999 birds (on the farm) to be sold from the farm, at a farmers’ market, or to a restaurant with required consumer labeling.  The bill enables the secretary to authorize mobile processing units, exempts the units from Act 250, and includes them in the accepted agricultural practices statute.  Wineries would be exempt from Act 250 before their grapes mature if the wineries will use grapes principally grown on the farm.  New farms on land with an Act 250 permit would be exempt from Act 250 and local zoning.

AN ACT RELATING TO THE VIABILITY OF VERMONT AGRICULTURE

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

Sec. 1.  GOALS

The goals of this act are for Vermont to:

(1)  Support programs and policies that foster the development of a diversified agricultural sector that:

(A)  offers farmers an opportunity to sell their products to a marketplace that pays them a reasonable rate of return for their labor and capital investments;

(B)  offers the public nutritious and safe foods;

(C)  produces, markets, and distributes agricultural products in a sustainable manner that conserves energy and the environment;

(D)  fosters on-farm renewable energy production and its infrastructure that maximizes energy conservation and efficiency and limits greenhouse gases;

(E)  provides economic stability to preserve the necessary infrastructure of the agricultural industry;

(F)  expands the market opportunities for farm-raised poultry and other meat products.

(2)  Maintain the state’s prominence as a major milk producer in the region, and;

(A)  assure a continued supply of high quality milk to processors and consumers in the region;

(B)  enable Vermont dairy farmers, processors, and retailers and their supporting infrastructure to achieve a positive return on their labor and investment;

(3)  Enable agricultural operations of diverse sizes producing a wide array of products to prosper in Vermont and contribute to the state and regional economy.

(4)  Support initiatives such as the development of a mobile slaughtering unit to serve Vermont poultry farmers and the building and modernization of approved slaughtering facilities.

(5)  Assure continued stewardship of the land with respect for the environment and efficient use of energy.

Sec. 2.  LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS

The general assembly finds:

(1)   A viable agricultural sector in Vermont represents part of a secure regional food supply, which in turn lends itself to energy and economic efficiencies.

(2)   The general public is increasingly interested in locally produced food.

(3)   The benefits of local food systems to local communities include open land, jobs, nutritious and safe foods, and youth education opportunities.

(4)   Farms are an integral part of Vermont’s overall economy.

(5)  Vermont agriculture is dependent upon a reliable and affordable supply of electrical energy, fuel, feed, and other supplies.

(6)  Vermont agriculture is dependent upon the availability of a competent work force; the shortage of willing and knowledgeable workers is detrimental to farm operations.

(7)   Current workers’ compensation insurance rates account for a significant portion of farmers’ payroll expenses.

(8)  Succession, or the transfer of farms from one generation to the next, is a critical part of a viable future for Vermont agriculture.

(9)  Vermont is the leading producer of fluid milk in New England, but only about five percent of its production is consumed in Vermont.

(10)  The current federal milk pricing system does not allow a reasonable return on labor and investment for most Vermont dairy farmers.

(11)  Regional marketing arrangements such as the Northeast Interstate Compact for Dairy Pricing have provided a positive operating margin without taxpayer subsidies or support.

(12)  The general assembly finds that dairy processing facilities in Vermont are crucial to both Vermont dairy farmers and the promotion of the Vermont name.

(13)  The “Vermont” name evokes a positive image for people and contributes to the marketing of Vermont products.

(14)  Value-added products offer profit potential and economic opportunity for Vermont producers and nonfarmer entrepreneurs alike.

(15)  Many factors affect the ability of businesses to process value-added food products, including shortage of capital, lack of design and engineering expertise, and issues relating to multi-layered state and federal regulation such as permitting, zoning, and inspection.

(16)  Institutional purchasers in Vermont have difficulty sourcing locally raised good quality products, including proteins such as meats and poultry.

(17)  There is a shortage of slaughter and meat processors as well as a lack of training opportunities for industry personnel.

(18)  Federal restrictions prevent interstate shipment of state-inspected meat from amenable species, although Vermont standards are equal to or exceed federal standards.

(19)  Relationship-based food systems such as farm-to-school programs, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, farmers’ markets, and

pick-your-own operations are increasingly popular and offer areas of opportunity for new farmers.

Sec. 3.  LEGISLATIVE INTENT

The general assembly intends:

(1)  To support and develop a more robust and self-sustaining agricultural sector.

(2)  That the policies and programs of the state will support and promote the Vermont agriculture industry as a vital component of the state’s economy and essential steward of our land.

(3)  That current policies and programs pertaining to the viability of Vermont’s agricultural industry be reviewed and confirmed or changed in order to assure the long-term economic prosperity of the industry.

(4)  That Vermont will cooperate and coordinate with other northeastern states to assure stable and fair prices for milk sold in the northeastern market.

(5)  That Vermont will promote processing and consumption of dairy products bearing the Vermont seal of quality.


* * * Local Food Procurement * * *

Sec. 4.  FOOD AND DAIRY PROCUREMENT

(a)  The agency of agriculture, food and markets in cooperation with the secretary of administration and the department of buildings and general services shall establish a system whereby the state will follow its own “buy local” campaign by purchasing local food and dairy products.  In so doing, the agency shall determine:

(1)  The amount of food and dairy products purchased annually by the state and state-funded entities, other than primary and secondary schools, and the associated costs.

(2)  The number and type of government and state-funded entities that purchase food and dairy products and the quantities and varieties purchased by each.

(3)  The person or persons with authority to make food and dairy purchasing decisions within each entity and the scope of that authority.

(4)   The implications of a program that directs “local” purchasing.

(b)  The agency of agriculture, food and markets, the agency of administration, and the department of buildings and general services shall:

(1)  Establish a system for local producers and processors to market their products to state purchasing entities.

(2)  Establish a system for state purchasing entities to advertise to and connect with local producers and processors.

(3)  Establish a program in the agency of agriculture, food and markets to provide strategic and technical assistance to local producers and processors for creating or enlarging the facilities necessary to produce or process food for sale to the state or other expanded markets.

(4)  Establish a system for the purchase of local food and dairy products at all levels of state government, other than primary and secondary schools, and at state-funded entities, other than primary and secondary schools.

(5)  Draft rules, policies and procedures for this section and report their findings with respect to feasibility, cost and progress to the joint agriculture committees on or before November 1, 2007.

(c)  All rules, policies, and procedures necessary to implement this section shall be adopted on or before October 1, 2008.

* * * Dairy Processing * * *

Sec. 5.  INSTATE PROCESSING FACILITIES

(a)  Legislative finding.  The general assembly finds that dairy processing facilities in Vermont are an integral part of the infrastructure of both Vermont agriculture and the entire Vermont economy. These facilities provide jobs and create income that is spent multiple times in Vermont.

(b)  The secretary of agriculture, food and markets shall:

(1)  Determine ways to attract and retain dairy processors to the state;

(2)  Determine ways to increase the numbers of producers processing their own milk;

(3)  Calculate the additional costs and benefits to dairy producers that may result from these additional processors;

(4)  Develop proposals for developing additional instate processing facilities.  These proposals and any recommendations for legislative action shall be presented to the house and senate committees on agriculture on or before November 1, 2007.

Sec. 6.  DAIRY PRICING INITIATIVE

The secretary of the agency of agriculture, food and markets shall endeavor to reestablish the Northeast Interstate Compact for Dairy Pricing or establish an alternative regional pricing system that assures Vermont dairy farmers of a fair, stable, and equitable price for their milk.  The secretary shall collaborate with Vermont’s Congressional delegation, the governor’s dairy task force, the coordinated milk pricing group, the region’s dairy cooperatives, and the Congressional delegations and state legislatures of the other states in the region to take such steps as necessary to assure the continued viability of dairy farming in the northeast and to assure consumers of an adequate, local supply of pure and wholesome milk.


* * * On-farm Poultry Processing and Labeling for Sale * * *

Sec. 7.  DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND AGENCY OF AGRICULTURE,

             FOOD AND MARKETS REGULATIONS

The department of health shall amend Regulation 5-204(1)(X) (requirement of agency of agriculture, food and markets or United States department of agriculture inspection of poultry) so that the regulation does not require inspection of poultry that is exempt from inspection under 6 V.S.A.

§ 3312(b).

Sec. 8.  6 V.S.A § 3312 is amended to read:

§ 3312.  INSPECTION; EXCEPTION EXCEPTIONS

(a)  Inspection shall not be provided under this chapter at any establishment for the slaughter of livestock or poultry or the preparation of any livestock products or poultry products which are not intended for use as human food, but these products shall, prior to their offer for sale or transportation in intrastate commerce, unless naturally inedible by humans, be denatured or otherwise identified as prescribed by rules of the secretary to deter their use for human food.  These licensed establishments shall be subject to periodic review.

(b)  Inspection shall not be required for the slaughter or preparation of poultry products of the producer’s own raising on the producer’s own farm, whether or not they are intended for use as human food if fewer than 1,000 birds are slaughtered annually and no birds are offered for sale or transportation in interstate commerce, and the poultry products are only sold from the farm, at a farmers’ market, or to a food restaurant licensed by the commissioner of health, or are for personal use.

(c)  All poultry sold pursuant to the exemption in subsection (b) of this section shall be labeled with the following information:

(1)  Name of farm and name of producer;

(2)  Address of farm;

(3)  Exempted per 6 V.S.A. § 3312(b): NOT INSPECTED.

(d)  The department of health shall establish labeling requirements for all poultry products exempt from inspection pursuant to subsection (b) of this section and sold at a food restaurant licensed by the department.  Labels shall include safe handling and cooking instructions and shall identify the poultry grower for purposes of traceability.  The requirements shall be effective November 1, 2007.

(e)  Poultry sold to food restaurants under the exemption in subsection (b) of this section shall also include the following on the label:

Any menu item that includes this poultry must clearly state the name of the farm and have the words “poultry processed on the farm and not inspected” on the menu in proximity to the menu item.

(f)  The poultry producer, upon first selling poultry to a food restaurant, must procure a signed statement from the food restaurant stating that the food restaurant is aware that the poultry is exempted from inspection under subsection (b) of this section, and that the menu of the food restaurant must have the information required by subsection (d) of this section.  The poultry producer must keep the signed statement on file as long as the producer is selling poultry to the food restaurant under this section.  The poultry producer must have a signed statement on file from each food restaurant to which poultry is sold under this section.

* * * Authorizing Mobile Processing Units * * *

Sec. 9.  6 V.S.A. § 3302 is amended to read:

§ 3302. DEFINITIONS

As used in this chapter, except as otherwise specified, the following terms shall have the meanings stated below:

* * *

(42)  “Mobile slaughter and processing establishment” means any transportable structure used for slaughtering or processing of meat or poultry products on farm or an agricultural fairground registered pursuant to section 3902 of Title 20. 

Sec. 10.  6 V.S.A. § 3305(17) is added to read:

(17)  authorize and recognize mobile slaughter and processing establishments as official establishments or exempt them under subdivision 3305(13) of this section.

* * * Definition of Farming for Act 250 * * *

Sec. 11.  10 V.S.A. § 6001(22)(E) is amended and (H) is added to read:

(E)  the on-site storage, preparation and sale of agricultural products principally produced on the farm or to be principally produced on the farm in the case of orchard lands planted to fruit-producing trees, bushes, or vines which are not yet of bearing age; or

(H)  the on-farm or agricultural fairground, registered pursuant to section 3902 of Title 20, inspection, slaughter, processing, and preparation of meat and poultry products produced on farms using a mobile slaughtering and processing establishment authorized by the secretary of agriculture, food and markets pursuant to 6 V.S.A. § 3305(17).

* * * Vermont Seal of Quality * * *

Sec. 12.  6 V.S.A. § 2964(e) is amended and (f) is added to read:

(e)  As used in this chapter, "agricultural products" means any product of a farming operation as defined in 10 V.S.A. § 6001(22)(A), (B), (C) and ,(D), and (H).

(f)  The secretary shall annually review the effectiveness of the identification program for increasing the value of Vermont agricultural products.


* * * Mobile Processing Units Comply with AAPs * * *

Sec. 13.  6 V.S.A. § 4810(a)(1) is amended to read:

(1)  "Accepted Agricultural Practices" (AAPs) shall be standards to be followed in conducting agricultural activities in this state. These standards shall address activities which have a potential for causing pollutants to enter the groundwater and waters of the state, including dairy and other livestock operations plus all forms of crop and nursery operations and on-farm or agricultural fairground, registered pursuant to section 3902 of Title 20, livestock and poultry slaughter and processing activities.  The AAPs shall include, as well as promote and encourage, practices for farmers in preventing pollutants from entering the groundwater and waters of the state when engaged in, but not limited to, animal waste management and disposal, soil amendment applications, plant fertilization, and pest and weed control. Persons engaged in farming, as defined in section 6001 of Title 10, who follow these practices shall be presumed to be in compliance with water quality standards. AAPs shall be practical and cost effective to implement. The AAPs for groundwater shall include a process under which the agency shall receive, investigate, and respond to a complaint that a farm has contaminated the drinking water or groundwater of a property owner.


* * * Farming by Land Covered by Act 250 Permit * * *

Sec. 14.  10 V.S.A. § 6081(s) is added to read: 

(s)  No permit or permit amendment is required for activities which constitute farming as defined in subdivision 6001(22) of this title.

Sec. 15.  FARM WORKERS’ COMPENSATION INSURANCE

The secretary of the agency of agriculture, food and markets shall consult with the department of labor; the department of banking, insurance, securities, and health care; and representatives of the farm community to determine what can be done to lower the cost of workers’ compensation for agricultural employers.  The secretary shall report with recommendations to the house and senate committees on agriculture on or before November 1, 2007.

Sec. 16.  FARM ENERGY PURCHASE REPORT

(a)  Legislative findings.  The general assembly finds that state-government buildings use 4.2 megawatt hours of electricity each year.

(b)  The agency of agriculture, food and markets shall study establishing a farm energy purchase program.  The program could purchase renewable energy attributes from farm-based renewable energy projects to support a portion of state-government electrical usage and ensure a market for farm produced energy.  The agency shall report to the house and senate committees on or before November 1, 2007 with any legislative proposals.


Sec. 17.  AGENCY OF AGRICULTURE, FOOD AND MARKETS REVIEW

(a)  The agency of agriculture, food and markets in consultation with the legislative council shall jointly review existing state statutes as they pertain to public or quasi public entities created to provide and promote services to the Vermont agriculture sector.  The review shall consider the relevancy of the statutes as they relate to economic conditions in which Vermont agriculture is operating today.  The review shall include recommended changes in authorizing language to improve effectiveness in the development and delivery of programs designed to enhance the long-term viability of Vermont’s agriculture industry.

(b)  The agency of agriculture, food and markets with the legislative council shall report their findings back to the house and senate committees on agriculture no later than November 1, 2007.

Sec. 18.  EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect upon passage.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us