ST. ALBANS – The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets held a public hearing on Friday in the St. Albans Museum’s Bliss Room to receive feedback on a new set of tile drainage rules currently being drafted by the state agency.

The Agency of Agriculture is drafting the new set of required agricultural practices (RAP) rules to try and mitigate runoff from tile drainage, an agricultural practice that pulls excess water from farm fields’ soil to improve crop production. While water drained from the field is filtered through the soil during the tile drainage process, it may also pick up phosphorous within the soil that, in turn, feeds the recent algae blooms in Vermont’s lakes.

Water Quality Division Director Laura DiPietro introduced the agency’s altered RAPs, highlighting a few of the more prominent revisions in the rules’ current draft before ultimately turning the microphone over to the gaggle of attendees who gathered in the Bliss Room.

Highlighted articles were more structural than anything, related to where building sites and agricultural wastes could be relative to tile drains. Some of the particulars required waste sites to be kept 100 to 200 feet from a drain, depending on the site, and mandated that unimproved feedlots and barnyards could not be built above a drainage site. They also banned the construction of new surface inlets in a drainage system, and required existing inlets to be buffered with vegetation.

There were also requirements placed on the amount of fertilizer and manure that could be spread above a tile drainage field, with the RAPs discouraging the use of any more fertilizer than necessary. These, said DiPietro, were according to rules outlined by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Management Practice Code 590.

These requirements, DiPietro said, were meant to maintain the amount of phosphorous in the soil, while mandating reductions in phosphorous application when the amount of phosphorous could be categorized as “Very High” according to the University of Vermont’s Phosphorous Index.

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