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Ag officials ask for public feedback on water quality rules at Middlebury meeting

VERMONT — The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) has released a draft copy of the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) for a period of public comment, which will run through Dec. 18. Officials will be in Middlebury next week to explain the RAPs, which aim to clean up Lake Champlain.
This is a pre-filing period which will afford the opportunity for all interested stakeholders to review the Draft RAPs and provide initial comment before VAAFM will formalize the draft this winter and will then enter into the formal rulemaking process in the spring of 2016. Additional public comment periods will follow both the draft rewrite as well as the formal rulemaking period.
For a copy of the draft RAP document, go online to agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/ag/files/pdf/water_quality/VAAFM-Draft-RAP.pdf.
 To help facilitate this comment and input process, VAAFM has scheduled 10 public meetings across the state. These public meetings will include a detailed presentation of the draft RAPs, with a question and answer session to follow. In order to maximize public input, VAAFM is also offering to hold smaller group meetings for interested organizations and stakeholders to review the rules in greater detail.
The RAP public meeting presentation in Middlebury will be on Thursday, Nov. 19, 9-11 a.m., at the American Legion Post at 49 Wilson Road.
“It is important for all stakeholders to understand the rules are in draft form — and that their feedback in this process is critical,” said Vermont’s Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross. “We are holding these meetings because we want to engage with the public, to gather their feedback, and to ensure we are implementing a realistic, workable framework for agricultural practices in our state that effectively protects our lakes and rivers. We hope, and expect, that key stakeholders will step up and attend these meetings, to ensure their perspectives are heard.”
 VAAFM was directed by the Legislature to draft the RAPs pursuant to Act 64, signed into law last June. Act 64 amended and enacted multiple requirements related to water quality in the state. The “Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs)” were rewritten to a higher level of performance and renamed the “Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs).” VAAFM was charged with revising the RAPs by rule on or before July 1, 2016. Act 64 requires that the revised RAPs include requirements for: small farm certification, nutrient storage, soil health, buffer zones, livestock exclusion, and nutrient management.
“Farms of all sizes will be impacted by the RAPs, which is why it is important for all farmers to attend a meeting and provide comment,” said Jim Leland, VAAFM’s Director of Agricultural Resources Management Division.
For more information about the RAPs, visit agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap.
VAAFM will seriously consider all comments received during this pre-filing period, though there may be no formal response to individual comments received. Comment can be e-mailed to: [email protected] or mailed directly to: 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620.

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