Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts speaks at SATEC 10-10-2019

Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts speaks during an event at SATEC celebrating Farm to School initiatives this October.

In response to a large amount of rain and snowfall in 2019, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture is extending exemptions for manure spreading snow-covered grounds until December, according to a notice signed by the state’s Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts last week.

While the required agricultural practices (RAPs) enforced by the Agency of Agriculture typically forbid spreading over frozen or snow-covered ground, the Secretary of Agriculture reserves the right to allow exemptions to the RAPs in cases the secretary determines to be emergencies, so long as certain criteria are established to mitigate the risk of nutrient runoff.

The RAPs are a set of land management practices required of Vermont farmers by the Agency of Agriculture in order to mitigate agriculture’s impact on water quality.

The Agency’s latest exemption was issued, according to the notice, due to a late winter thaw pressing the growing season further into 2019 and record levels of flooding that battered the state later this year. The notice also cites recent continued snowfall that, under the RAPs, would limit farmers from spreading manure before the winter.

“The past year has been a historic and unrelenting weather crisis for Vermont farmers,” the notice reads in its lead. “Yet again, in a second unprecedented year in a row, very early season and persistent snows in November 2019 are again covering fields and creating a weather crisis for farming in Vermont.”

According to the Agency of Agriculture’s notice, farms governed by the RAPs are still required to be compliant with certain limitations under the secretary’s exemption, with restrictions asking farmers to consider best practices like manure injection and limits to where farmers are allowed to spread manure while there is still snow on the ground.

Farms are, for example, required to work with technical service providers to make sure manure is spread only on “lower risk fields,” and, when spreading, farmers are still required to avoid spreading when rainfall or snow is expected and avoid spreading in areas where water is actively running off their fields.

In their notice to farmers, the Agency of Agriculture said it would conduct field investigations during the exemption period to guarantee compliance from farmers.

The exemption period expires Dec. 15, the formal start of a seasonal manure spreading ban enforced by under the RAPs.

The exemption does not apply to any other rules enforced by the RAPs, according to the Agency of Agriculture’s notice.

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