NOTICE OF DECISION Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets 116 State Street, Montpelier, Vermont 05620 Secretary Decision for the Assessment and Plan process to implement agricultural conservation practices to prevent the potential for agricultural pollutants to enter waters of the state. Attention: Farmers and Affected Citizens in the St. Albans, Otter Creek, and South Lake Basins: The Secretary has issued a decision regarding requiring mandatory Best Management Practices (BMPs) for farms in the St. Albans, Otter Creek, and South Lake Basins. This Secretary’s Decision reinforces the threshold determination made in the February 3, 2016 Revised Secretary’s Decision that BMPs are generally necessary in the basins to achieve compliance with Vermont’s water quality goals. The Revised Secretary’s Decision of 2016 and this Notice in full can be viewed here: https://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/additional-resources-and-reports/conservation-law-foundation- petition A copy of the decision and notice can also be obtained by contacting the Agency: AGR.WaterQuality@vermont.gov or (802) 828-2431 BACKGROUND: In May of 2014, the Secretary was petitioned by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) under 6 V.S.A. § 4813, to require that agricultural operations identified within critical source areas be subject to mandatory best management practices (BMPs), in addition to those required by the accepted agricultural practices (AAPs) of 2006. On November 17, 2014, then Secretary Ross issued his Secretary’s Decision denying the CLF request to impose mandatory BMPs on farms. The CLF appealed that decision to the Vermont Superior court, Environmental Division, Docket #175-12-14 Vtec. On June 16, 2015, then Governor Shumlin signed Act 64 into law. Act 64 of 2015 is Vermont’s comprehensive water quality law. Act 64 significantly modifies state regulation of agricultural operations, including a number of considerations relevant to the Secretary’s review and consideration of the requests in CLF’s petition. Given Act 64 of 2015’s scope and funding, as well as CLF’s appeal, then Secretary Ross revised his earlier decision. The proposed revised decision was put out for public comment and the Agency held a public hearing in St. Albans on November 12, 2015 to provide farmers and other affected citizens and stakeholders an opportunity to be heard. The issuance of the Revised Secretary’s Decision on February 3, 2016 (‘RSD of 2016’) was one of the final steps in settling the CLF petition and lawsuit from 2014. Since the RSD of 2016, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (AAFM) has conducted 3,911 farm visits for water quality inspection, investigation, and assessment in Vermont and has made the threshold determination that where the RAPs are not sufficient to protect water quality, BMPs are generally necessary on farms in the Missisquoi Bay, St. Albans, Otter Creek, and South Lake watersheds watershed to achieve compliance with state water quality goals. Therefore, this notice is to inform farms in St. Albans, Otter Creek and South Lake watersheds that this Revised Secretary’s Decision has been extended beyond the Missisquoi Bay watershed to also include these new watersheds as of January 30, 2020. SUMMARY OF DECISION: The Secretary, in implementing the RSD of 2016 and the requirements of 6 V.S.A. Chapter 215, has determined that BMPs are generally necessary on farms in the Missisquoi Bay, St. Albans, Otter Creek, and South Lake watersheds to achieve compliance with state water quality goals. BMPs are site specific conservation practices beyond those required by the Accepted Agricultural Practice (AAPs) regulations effective April 24, 2006. The RSD of 2016 provides a framework for outreach, education and assessment on farms in the watershed and a process for farm-specific implementation to address identified water quality resource concerns, where needed. Farm Assessments may conclude that practices required by the RAPs are sufficient to protect water quality and that BMPs may not be required due to a farm’s specific characteristics or management. Farmers are encouraged to continue to collaborate with AAFM, farm technical service providers, and the Vermont Agricultural Water Quality Partnership in the assessment, planning and implementation of conservation practices to protect and enhance water quality. Since 2016, Vermont agriculture has treated over 27,313 acres of agricultural land with conservation practices and BMPs as a result of participation in AAFM programs. Please visit the Vermont Agency of Agriculture’s website: [https://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/ additionalresources-and-reports/conservation-law-foundation-petition] for access to: • Revised Secretary’s Decision • Stipulation of the Parties for Remand • Copy of this Notice
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