The 2022 legislative session was gaveled in at 10 a.m. on the Statehouse on Jan. 4. More than 120 representatives made the journey to Montpelier to be current as we labored on and handed a number of resolutions that allowed us to return house and conduct our enterprise remotely.
It was great to be again within the Statehouse seeing people in particular person, albeit masked and at a distance. Hopefully, in a few weeks, the Omicron variant may have run its course in Vermont, and we will meet in particular person once more.
The remainder of the week our committee labored nearly, getting updates and briefings from the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (AAFM); advocates from the agriculture sector; and our legislative counselor, Michael O’Grady.
O’Grady gave an summary concerning among the issues we could be listening to about and wish to proceed to pursue throughout the session. These embrace the work of the Dairy Task Force; compost, together with digestate, PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances), and microplastics; the work of the Climate Council; Right to Farm safety; Waters of the United States EPA rule; Payment for Ecosystems Services; water high quality funding; pesticide litigation; slaughter laws; the definition of farming in regard to accent on-farm companies; the 2023 Federal Farm Bill; and African swine influenza considerations. Clearly, we’ve our work minimize out for us.
We have been lucky to have updates from seven AAFM staff together with Secretary Anson Tebbetts. One of Anson’s considerations is the psychological well being of our farmers, particularly dairy farmers. Things have been powerful sufficient earlier than COVID-19 struck, with low milk costs and better enter prices, however a few of these challenges have been exacerbated due to the pandemic. There is a scarcity of drivers to select up and ship milk and labor points prolong to shortages in dairy processor and farm employees. Companies are hiring at good wages with signing bonuses.
A major sum of money, $500,000, has been dedicated to psychological well being for farmers and farm employees. Farm First is a non-profit program sponsored collectively by the Vermont AAFM and the Vermont Agency of Human Services’ Invest EAP Centers for Wellbeing. Services, free to all Vermont farmers and their relations, are supposed to scale back the stress being skilled in our agricultural sector. Farm First was based in Vermont in 2009 after a tragic incident in New York state. If you’re a farmer having issues or know of somebody who’s, name 802-318-5538 throughout daytime work hours or 877-493-6216 to succeed in their 24/7 hotline. You also can electronic mail Karen Crowley at [email protected]. Do not hesitate to contact them, you may save a life.
Secretary Tebbetts additionally touched on among the different stressors within the agricultural sector together with the necessity for inexpensive housing and livable wages for farm employees. The pandemic added to the necessity for extra meat processing amenities, and we devoted greater than $500,000 to the growth of meat vegetation.
We have been happy to listen to that 94 p.c of the phosphorus reductions within the Lake Champlain watershed have been resulting from agriculture and there will likely be $4.9 million obtainable over the following 4 years for phosphorus discount initiatives below the Pay for Performance program.
Our committee was requested to evaluate and make a advice concerning proposals included within the Budget Adjustment Act. An extra $5-plus million was steered by the administration for clear water initiatives, together with greatest administration practices. As with many issues, prices have been larger for a few of these initiatives and the extra cash will likely be used to cowl ensuing price overruns. Given the significance of those initiatives to water high quality enchancment, our committee really useful unanimously to help these elevated investments to the House Appropriations Committee.
We have been additionally to listen to concerning the essential position the Vermont Agriculture and Environmental Lab has performed throughout the pandemic together with COVID-19 testing. They have been capable of shift their focus as sure testing wants decreased to extend their work in different providers together with consuming water testing. Their newest audit indicated glorious outcomes.
As a reminder because the 2022 session begins, legislators might be reached through electronic mail by utilizing the primary preliminary of our first identify, our final identify, and @leg.state.vt.us. For occasion, mine is [email protected]. You can view my web site at www.carolynpartridge.com the place I submit my weekly articles. To comply with legislative motion, take a look at the web site at www.legislature.vermont.gov, the place you could find all the standing committees and comply with us on YouTube. When we get again to Montpelier, you’ll be able to name the Statehouse toll free at 1-800-322-5616, depart a message with the sergeant at arms, and they’ll ship the message to me. I’ll reply as shortly as potential. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your ideas, considerations, and concepts. Together, we govern!
State Rep. Carolyn Partridge, D-Windham-3, welcomes emails at [email protected]. The opinions expressed by columnists don’t essentially mirror the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.