Editorial: Act 64 is a sea change in policy
University of Vermont agronomy specialist Jeff Carter, who works out of the Middlebury office, recently gave adequate warning to Addison County farmers that change was coming in light of a recent agreement between the state agriculture department and the Conservation Law Foundation. In that settlement the state agreed to mandate farms whose land drain into Lake Champlain implement best management practices on their land. It’s a substantial change from previous measures and it comes with significant consequences for those who don’t comply.
“What it means for Addison County farmers is that you better wake up and pay attention because this is not their problem, it’s our problem,” Carter said of the recent agreement with the CLF, which was initially directed at farmers in the Missisquoi basin, but now also includes farmers in the South Lake, Otter Creek and St. Albans Bay watersheds.
Carter noted that Addison County farmers would “feel the pinch” in the next year or two as the state agriculture department implemented the rules and regulation passed in Act 64, as part of the process to meet standards established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the state’s waters, most notably Lake Champlain, and the rivers and streams running into the lake.
The announcement is effectively a sea change in public policy. It anticipates significant changes to current agricultural practices, which will undoubtedly be costly and take time to implement. To that end, state policy has allocated $45 million in Natural Resource Conservation Service money over the next five years to help farmers comply. Drainage and soil erosion from rural town roads as well as excessive dumping from municipal wastewater treatment systems will also face stricter compliance measures.
All are necessary and critical steps to reverse what should never have been allowed to happen: a severe degradation of the water quality of Lake Champlain and many of the rivers and streams of the Lake Champlain watershed. Like our state’s farm culture, clean water is also a cherished asset and a vital economic driver of our economy.
— Angelo S. Lynn