NOFA-VT sends action alerts during key votes or comment periods on issues at the State and Federal level in an effort to encourage members and concerned citizens to make your voices heard. To ensure you receive our action alerts, sign up to receive our newsletter on the bottom of this page, and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Our blog is also an excellent source for background on policy issues.
USDA Accepting Comments on Climate-Smart Ag Through April 29
Updated April 14, 2021
On January 27, 2021, President Joe Biden issued the “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” It directs Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to collect input from stakeholders on how best to promote climate-smart agricultural practices. Submit your own comments at Regulations.gov by April 29! Read on for our comments and suggested talking points to submit your own.
USDA needs to hear from farmers directly how they can use existing programs and create new strategies to encourage adoption of climate-friendly agricultural practices.
Tell USDA they can most effectively encourage climate-friendly agricultural practices by:
- Invest in supporting more farmers transitioning to organic agriculture.
- Expanding existing conservation programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), and Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP).
- Establish and fully fund a soil health equipment grants program, as proposed in the Climate Stewardship Act of 2021.
- Create a program to support alternative (i.e. non-digester) manure management strategies on dairy farms.
- Center the knowledge, needs, and voices of small to mid-scale farmers and ranchers in climate policy for agriculture.
- Meaningfully engage with and support Black, Indigenous, and farmers of color to thrive on the land.
- Invest in on-farm renewable energy generation that is compatible with farming activities.
- Spend public money on public programs that have a track record of success, not on propping up the fossil fuel industry through support for private carbon markets.
- Expand support for local and regional supply chains in order to reduce transport distances and assist communities in building truly resilient food and farming systems.
- Double federal funding for research programs such as the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program.
For more detail on any of the above, read our full comments (pdf).
ACTION ALERT! Tell Your Representatives: Fix S.25 for an Equitable Cannabis Market
Updated April 13, 2021
Now is the time for the BIPOC community, farmers and cultivators, and small businesses advocating for equity and access in the cannabis marketplace to be heard by the VT legislature. Reach out now to your representatives and members of the House Agriculture, House Government Ops, and House Ways and Means Committees to let them know that S.25 and Act 164 are inequitable and inadequate.
Along with our coalition partners at VT Racial Justice Alliance, Trace, Rural Vermont, and Vermont Growers Association, NOFA-VT is working for a cannabis marketplace that is accessible to small farms and businesses, equitably distributes economic opportunity, and is grounded in repairing harm done (disproportionately to the BIPOC community) by cannabis criminalization.
Here is some of what we need to see:
- Scale appropriate regulation articulating minimum and maximum caps for production, and differentiating between indoor and outdoor production.
- Outdoor production must be considered agricultural, allowing land in current use and agricultural easements or zoning to be used for cultivation, and allowing for more accessible on-farm sales.
- Robust social equity programs as outlined in H.414 by the VT Racial Justice Alliance and our coalition.
- Opportunities for the agricultural and cannabis communities to be respectfully and adequately heard and represented in the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.
- For more detail, see our complete agriculture & economic equity recommendations (pdf).
What can you do:
Contact your representatives TODAY using the form below. (Thanks to Vermont Growers Association for creating this campaign tool!)
Deadline 3/31! Submit Comments to USDA on COVID-19 Relief to Farmers
Updated March 31, 2021
USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is seeking comments on how it should spend $1.5 billion authorized by Congress in December 2020 to support:
- grants/loans to small/mid-sized food processors/distributors, farmers markets, producers, or other organizations to respond to coronavirus, including funds for measures to protect workers against COVID–19. This program could set precedent for future funding and programs.
- the purchase and distribution of food and agricultural products, including seafood, fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to individuals in need. This will likely be a new or updated version of the CFAP Farm to Families food box program which USDA implemented with COVID-19 relief funds in 2020.
This funding presents an exciting opportunity for USDA to do more to support small and mid-sized farmers, local and regional food systems, and people facing food insecurity. NOFA-VT has submitted comments emphasizing the need for equitable, easily accessible relief for producers, and for grants to cover a wide range of expenses faced by Vermont's diverse and diversified farmers as a result of the pandemic. Read our comments here (pdf).
Our friends at RAFI-USA have put together a helpful toolkit including sample comments for farmers, farmers market managers and volunteers, and food pantry staff and volunteers.
Check out RAFI-USA's action alert and submit your comment today!
You can submit comments using RAFI-USA's form or directly through the AMS website.
Support the BIPOC-led Land Access & Opportunity Act (H.273)
Updated March 2, 2021
NOFA-VT stands in solidarity with Seeding Power Vermont, the collective of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) leaders, legislators, and allies that is behind the Vermont BIPOC-led Land Access and Opportunity Act (H.273). This week is an important one. With the State Legislature off this week for the Town Meeting Day receess, we are calling on folks to keep up the pressure on their Representatives to support H.273. If you haven't already, contact your legislator TODAY to urge the Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs to take up H.273. The only way we're going to see this important step taken is if we all demand change together.
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:
- Join Seeding Power Vermont for a Meeting of Supporters on Saturday, March 6 from 10am to 11am. The meeting will be facilitated by the organizers behind the bill who will talk about its significance, what's included, how people can best support the bill, and answer questions. Please feel free to share this information with your networks. You will need to register to attend. REGISTER HERE.
- Download and share these graphics on social media: graphic 1 | graphic 2 | graphic 3
- Contact your House Representative (find them here) directly to express your support for the bill. Remember, we are urging the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs to take up the bill for consideration. Personalize your email as much as possible, but keep it concise. Here is an example:
"Dear Representative [Fill in last name],
My name is [Your name] and I live in [Your town or city]. I am writing in support of H.273: the Vermont BIPOC-led Land Access and Opportunity Act. As my Representative, I request that you help to ensure that the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs take up the bill for consideration. It is important to follow the BIPOC leadership who worked to craft this historic piece of legislation and to use your power as an elected state official to work toward racial and social equity in land access and property ownership in Vermont.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Equitable land access for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) is a critical part of building a thriving, resilient food and farming system and ensuring wellbeing of BIPOC here in Vermont. THANK YOU for anything you can do to support this important step!
S.54 Passed. Now What?
UPDATED NOVEMBER 5, 2020
Supporters of the coalition for an equitable and just cannabis marketplace,
Thank you for standing by us in our advocacy! Though we were unsuccessful in including impactful language to ensure true racial and economic equity in S.54, our concerns have been acknowledged by many policymakers, as well as the Governor in his signing statement. We are ready to continue organizing and advocating over the coming months to achieve greater equity and justice in the tax and regulate structure and process being implemented in VT. We know we have your support, and hope that the support promised by our State leaders and policymakers for our concerns and proposals greet us at the Statehouse come January.
Where do we go from here? What do you need to know? Well, first you should know that S.54 is now Act 164! You can click here for more information about Act 164 and the timeline for its rollout.
It is also important to understand that the implementation of Act 164 will now be largely dependent upon the Cannabis Control Board (CCB), an appointed 3 member Board with substantial authority over the rulemaking process. As the governor indicated, the timelines for the appointment process (including that of the Nominating Committee of the CCB) do not provide us a fair opportunity to effectively include you and enable everyone to fairly participate in the process. That's why we sent this letter to the governor and legislators asking for a delay in the appointment of the Cannabis Control Board Nominating Committee.
Here is how you can help:
- Contact Governor Scott here or call him at 828-3333 and ask him slow the CCB appointment process to enable our participation.
Contact legislators and ask them to slow the appointment process to enable our participation:
- Senator Balint: [email protected] or (802) 365-1060
- Speaker Krowinski: [email protected] (802) 828-2228
- House Government Operations Committee: [email protected]
- Senate Judiciary Committee: [email protected]
Let us know if you want to testify to the legislature or CCB, if you have a story you’d like us to share with these entities on your behalf, if you’d like to be a candidate for the Nominating Committee or Cannabis Control Board, or if you’d like to help in other ways!
Sign up HERE!
TELL FSA: DON'T CUT ORGANIC CERTIFICATION COST SHARE!
UPDATED AUGUST 14, 2020
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced this week that they are reducing reimbursement rates for the Organic Certification Cost Share Program. Congress set the current reimbursement rates in the 2018 Farm Bill at 75 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $750 per scope. FSA plans to lower the rate to 50 percent of eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $500 per scope. This reduction comes in the middle of a global crisis, at a time when it is critical to support our organic farms and processors as essential to our recovery.
We at NOFA-VT and VOF are working with Vermont's Congressional delegation to fight this decision and restore full reimbursement to all organic operations.
Here is what we need from you! Contact FSA at the federal and local level to let them know:
- The Organic Certification Cost Share Program is an important tool to help organic farmers stay in business. Organic businesses need this support now more than ever because of the lost markets and increased costs to keep workers and customers safe during the pandemic.
- Congress established reimbursement rates in the 2018 Farm Bill. It is unacceptable for FSA to disregard Congressional funding directives.
- It is vital that FSA reinstate the full organic certification cost share reimbursement.
FSA CONTACT INFORMATION:
- FEDERAL: Tona Huggins, Program Policy Branch Chief, (202) 720-6825, [email protected]
- VERMONT: Wendy Wilton, Vermont State Executive Director, (802) 658-2803, [email protected]
In the meantime, VOF will be sending our applications for reimbursement to our organic producers. We encourage our certified producers to apply for cost share assistance as soon as you receive the paperwork. Operations have until November 2, 2020 to apply for funding.
"NO TAXATION AND REGULATION WITHOUT REPARATIONS." LAWMAKERS: SAY NO TO S.54!
UPDATED AUGUST 12, 2020
NOFA-VT, in solidarity with Justice for All, Rural Vermont, and the Vermont Growers Association, opposes S.54, Vermont's cannabis taxation and regulation bill. If passed, S.54 will disproportionately benefit wealthy, out of state business owners and exclude communities of color most harmed by decades of cannabis criminalization and racist policing. It will also disadvantage Vermont farmers by giving preferential treatment to existing medical dispensaries.
S.54 passed both the House and Senate earlier in the 2019-2020 biennium and is now in the hands of a conference committee made up of three members each chamber. The task of the conference committe, if and when it meets, will be to reconcile the two versions of the bill passed by the House and Senate.
As lawmakers prepare to return for a short, budget-focused legislative session later this month, a small number of well-funded, highly vested interests are working to convince lawmakers that passing S.54 should be a priority.
However, S.54 does not prioritize restorative justice and inclusion of those most harmed by our nation's history of cannabis prohibition, criminalization, and mass incarceration. It does not prioritize the expungement of all cannabis related criminal records and the immediate release of those incarcerated for cannabis related crimes. As an organization whose mission calls us to work toward a socially just food and agricultural system, we cannot support policy like S.54 that does not redress these harms before allowing the powerful to profit.
At the same time that it does not adequately address the harm done by the "war on drugs," S.54 also disproportionately benefits Vermont's existing medical dispensaries by giving them a jumpstart on licensing and market access. Rather than creating an equitable, inclusive, high quality, ecologically sound cannabis market, S.54 builds cannabis policy around assumptions based on the lopsided and inequitable markets created by other states. As we press on into this new territory, we have the opportunity to demonstrate to the nation how cannabis policy can not only bring in revenue, but do so in a way that repairs past harms, prioritizes equitable market access, supports existing farms and Vermont-owned businesses, and bolsters our rural economies and communities.
For this to become a reality, lawmakers must commit to working with our organizations, communities of color, and small farms and businesses across Vermont to develop legislation creating a tax and regulate system in our state which sets a new standard for equity, reparations, inclusivity and representation.
TAKE ACTION! SPEAK UP FOR EQUITABLE FARMER RELIEF
UPDATED JUNE 15, 2020
NOFA-VT and Rural Vermont have been advocating for ALL farms and processors to have an equitable opportunity to apply for COVID-19 relief funds from the State. We need your help to contact members of the House and Senate TODAY in order to achieve this!
In these days of Zoom sessions and hurried processes, the legislature has heard very little testimony from diversified farmers and non-dairy processors about their experiences in relationship to Covid. The current bills reflect a disparity in testimony between ag sectors with respect to funding opportunities, and time is growing exceptionally limited with the legislature planning on going to recess as soon as June 18. Both the Senate and House Ag Committees have passed different bills out of their Committees - so it is important to focus on all representatives at this point in our advocacy.
Earlier this month, NOFA-VT and Rural Vermont sent a letter to the Senate Ag Committee with recommendations for relief for non-dairy farmers and followed up with a similar letter to key legislators in the House on June 16. Here is a link to the Senate bill which does include funding opportunities for non-dairy farmers and food processors. For comparison, you can see the DRAFT bill passed by the House Ag Committee, which only provides relief funds to dairy farmers and processors, HERE.
Please reach out to your representatives about the importance of equitable access for all farms and processors to Covid relief funding, and you can contact Maddie Kempner at NOFA-VT, Andrea Stander or Caroline Gordon at Rural Vermont with any questions or if you'd like to share testimony with Rural Vermont and NOFA as well as your representatives. We need individual and organizational testimony - so please encourage food system organizations you work with to join in this call for equity in solidarity with ALL farms and farmers in VT.
Here is a link to the VT Legislature page where you can locate your representative and find his / her / their contact information.
Clearly, it is a very difficult time of year to make time for advocacy and to make extra work for farmers - please consider doing what you can with the time you have.
TAKE ACTION: TELL VERMONT LAWMAKERS TO PRIORITIZE FOOD SECURITY!
UPDATED JUNE 8, 2020
We need your help TODAY or TOMORROW to let Vermont legislators know that food security is a top priority as they allocate the Coronavirus Relief Funds that have been given to our state. Discussions are happening this week about how to spend the $1.25billion that Vermont received a few weeks ago.
A coalition of groups has asked legislators to prioritize food security for people living in Vermont, and we need your help to show support for this proposal. Our proposal asks for $18million to address immediate and emergency needs. We also ask for an additional $20million to increase 3SquaresVT benefits to families so they can buy the food they need.
The $18 million total includes financial support for currently overburdened programs like school and summer meal programs for children and the Vermont Foodbank’s efforts to distribute food — including local food through Vermonters Feeding Vermonters — in partnership with its 215 network partners to families and individuals across the state. It also includes a stimulus for schools to purchase food from VT farmers and producers; provision of school meals to early childhood sites, and feeding homeless households staying in motels during the pandemic. The funding will also cover the cost of increased outreach needed for 3SquaresVT and additional Crop Cash funding for Vermont families to access local food at farmers markets. You can see our letter here (pdf).
HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO - Please act TODAY or TOMORROW to have the biggest impact:
- Look up your legislators here: https://legislature.vermont.gov/people/search/2020
- Search by town and you will get a list of all of your legislators.
- You can click on each one to get their email address.
- Send an email to EACH of your legislators (separately).
- Your subject line should be something like: Please use CRF$ to support food security in Vermont.
- In the body, say that you support the Food Security Coalition’s request to allocate Coronavirus Relief Funds to address immediate food security needs in Vermont.
- BRIEFLY give YOUR PERSONAL reason for believing this is an important reason to spend the money this way. You can choose a talking point from below or tell a personal story or use your favorite data point. Try to keep it to 3 sentences for this part.
- Thank your legislator for their consideration and ask them to do whatever they can to support this request.
- Include your contact info (phone or email).
Some suggested talking points (pick one and include your own thoughts also):
- As we begin to emerge from the immediate COVID-19 emergency, Vermont is seeing alarming signs of increasing food insecurity for Vermonters and their families.
- The State of Vermont cannot expect our schools and charitable food system to shoulder the entire burden without state support.
- The most recent data from Feeding America, released in mid-May, estimates the number of food insecure people in Vermont has increased by 46% and that child food insecurity in VT has increased by 60%.
- No person living in Vermont should be worried about how they will get the food they need to be healthy.
- Please do not allow Vermonters to fall further and further into poverty, to go to bed hungry so that their children can eat, or to choose between paying rent, buying food, or taking their medications.
THANK YOU for taking this action to help us make sure we can get food to Vermont families who need it.
TELL VERMONT LAWMAKERS: IMMIGRANT WORKERS NEED RELIEF, TOO!
UPDATED JUNE 8, 2020
Last month, the federal government began issuing relief checks to individuals and families in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Most adults in the country received $1,200, with additional payments of $500 per child. Though these amounts are a drop in the bucket for many struggling families, the concept is a good one: direct payments to people in a time of crisis to reduce suffering and forestall economic recession.
Millions of immigrant families, however, have been glaringly left out of these relief payments. At a time when many immigrants – including farm workers sustaining Vermont’s dairy industry – are being deemed “essential workers,” this exclusion is particularly unjust.
Vermont now has an opportunity to step up where the federal government has fallen short. We are in partnership with Migrant Justice, Rural Vermont, and other human rights advocates in calling on Vermont to create a coronavirus relief fund to issue direct payments to every state resident who has been unfairly excluded from federal aid due to immigration status.
Over the past several weeks, we have joined a coalition with supporting organizations and testified in the legislature, and spoken with legislators, about this proposal. Many legislators are supportive, but for our elected officials to move this proposal forward and get it right, they need to hear from you!
Yesterday, Governor Phil Scott announced a $400 million COVID relief package for the state. It includes $50 million in relief payments to dairy farms, but no direct support for dairy farm workers – or any other immigrant workers – who have been left out of all aid packages to date.
Vermonters, please take a moment today to call your legislators! We are calling upon Vermont lawmakers to:
- Create a Coronavirus Relief Fund to issue payments to all immigrant families excluded from federal relief due to immigration status
- Relief payments should be the same as federal stimulus payments: $1,200 per adult and $500 per child
- Work with advocates and affected communities to develop and implement the fund
Find your representatives and senators on the state legislature’s website. Just select your town and then click on their names to get a phone number.
If they don’t answer, be sure to leave a message with your name and town where you live. And please note: not all legislators provide phone numbers; if the number given is (802) 828-2228 (the statehouse direct line), the call will not go to your representative or senator. In that case, send them an email with the same message.
FARMERS FEEDING OUR FAMILIES NEED HELP NOW: TELL THE USDA TO DO BETTER
Posted May 4, 2020
As farmers across the country are feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is preparing to distribute $16 billion in direct aid to producers who have experienced financial losses.
Applications for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program will be open in early May, but the program, as currently designed, may leave out the family farmers feeding our communities.
USDA’s plan fails to:
- Focus aid on independent, family-scale farmers, farmers who sell into local and regional markets, diversified farmers, and organic farmers who need help and have no other safety net (unlike large corporate operations)
- Include a thorough outreach plan or reserved funding for underserved producers, including farmers of color
- Reflect realistic timelines for farmers’ losses or their increased expenses
The farmers feeding our families need help now and have received little to no federal assistance to this point to help their businesses survive this crisis.
We have an opportunity to tell the USDA to do better. They have not yet released the full details on their program, so now is the time to urge them to fix problems with the program and get aid to the farmers who need it.
Here’s how you can help:
Tell Your Story to the USDA on Social Media
The most effective thing you can do is share your story.
Did you have a major restaurant account disappear overnight? Were schools a big part of your business until they all shut down? Have you spent hours in front of a computer instead of in the field this spring as you rush to find an online sales platform? Did you lose a space at your local farmers’ market or are you seeing reduced sales due to limited numbers of customers at markets? Are you facing other difficulties?
Most importantly, speak up about the impacts you are seeing, the market losses you are experiencing, the innovating you are doing, and why it’s important that USDA supports farmers like you. You don’t need to have all the answers; just be willing to speak up in your own words!
Here’s how to get started:
- Use the hashtags #dobetterUSDA and #plant2020 (the USDA follows this during planting season)
- Tag the USDA @USDA on Facebook and Twitter. Tag your Congressional representative and Senators too! You can look them up here
- Sample social media post: Hey @USDA! My farm has experienced major financial losses due to #coronavirus during #plant2020, but your farmer aid program doesn’t seem to include funds for farmers like me. This is a photo of [my fields, my crops, etc. Explain what the photo illustrates]. [Ask a question, such as: What are you going to do to help direct market farmers like me who have lost markets? How can diversified farmers show their losses? How can organic farmers qualify at organic prices? What about farmers whose losses came after April 16? How will you ensure equitable aid to farmers of color? How will you make sure family farmers, not just corporate middlemen, get aid?] We need you to #dobetterUSDA!
Call USDA Farm Service Agency Offices
Contact your Farm Service Agency (FSA) office to ask questions about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Not only will this help you receive information on the program as it becomes available, it will also help FSA offices share the concerns they’re hearing from small-scale, diversified, and direct-market farmers with the USDA.
Here’s how to get started:
- Look up your county office using the the FSA County Office Directory
- Call your local FSA office. Introduce yourself, your farm, and what you do
- Let them know you’re calling about the new USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program’s $16 billion in farmer aid and that you have some questions about your eligibility. Consider the sample questions below.
- Keep us posted about what you hear! Send news you learn from your FSA office to [email protected] and [email protected]
Here are some example questions you can ask:
- I hear there is aid money available for small farmers who sell at farmers markets and directly to schools and local restaurants which have been impacted by the pandemic. Do you have any information about how to apply for that?
- Do I need to have any sort of documentation of my sales or losses? How do I show the pandemic’s impact on my business?
- I grow and sell X varieties of crops and am able to capture a price premium for them. How can I ensure this is reflected in my aid?
- Is there a way to get support if I am still able to sell my crops but my costs of production, marketing, and delivery have increased because of changing protocols?
- Will I qualify for this program if most of my farm income comes later in the year?
- How will USDA handle payments to diversified farmers who don’t produce just one commodity?
- How can I prove my losses and price information as a certified organic farmer?
Tell the USDA You Stand with Farmers on Social Media
If you don’t farm, you can be effective by advocating for the farmers who continue to grow food for us when we need it the most. You don’t need to have all the answers; just speak up in your own words and stand with farmers!
Here’s how to get started:
- Use the hashtags #dobetterUSDA and #istandwithfarmers
- Tag the USDA @USDA on Facebook and Twitter. Tag your Congressional representative and Senators too! You can look them up here
Here are some sample social media posts you can use:
- Hey @USDA! Organic [or vegetable, or small-scale, or direct-to-consumer] farmers need #coronavirus aid too! How will you include underserved farmers in the USDA aid program? Don’t leave out farmers in need. We need you to #dobetterUSDA! #istandwithfarmers
- Hey @USDA! [Name of farm you are mentioning] is an amazing farm feeding our community during #coronavirus. I’m worried your aid program will leave them out. [include a photo if you can] How will you help them and other small farmers feeding our community? We need you to #dobetterUSDA!
- Hey @USDA! Farmers across the country are feeling the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Markets are upended, farmers and farm workers are in need of safety equipment, and everyone is working hard to get food to people amidst many challenges. I’m worried to see that now, to make things worse, the government’s new farmer aid program doesn’t seem to include some of the farmers who will be hit hardest. Now is the time for us to stand up for the resilient, innovative farmers and producers who are keeping their communities fed in a crisis despite lost markets. In a global state of emergency, how will you ensure that the ones feeding us are able to stay afloat? We need you to #dobetterUSDA!