Publishers' Note—Summer 2016
Written onMay 24 , 2016
Vermont has a long history of leading the nation in enacting principled laws aimed at promoting the common good. One of the many purposes of crafting laws is to establish the rules needed for a society to live and work together—and that includes farming together. We’d like to bring you up to date on four such legislative initiatives affecting our food here in the state.
Farm to Plate: This year marks the 5th anniversary of the Farm to Plate Initiative, a “statewide food system plan to strengthen the working landscape, improve the profitability of farms and food enterprises, maintain environmental resilience, and increase local food access for all Vermonters.” Passed back in 2009, the resulting strategic plan laid out 25 goals to be reached by 2020. We can report, according to recently released data, that there have been impressive increases in the areas of agricultural sales, direct sales from farms to consumers, women farmers, and value-added food manufacturing, just to name a few. And of particular note, outpacing the plan’s goal of 1,700 jobs by 2020, Vermont has added approximately 5,300 in just the past five years.
Regenerative certification: Would you like to know that your CSA farm not only offers sustainable food but is also creating a positive impact on the local environment, wildlife, climate change, and the community? The state legislature, along with numerous stakeholders, is exploring ways to increase and reward regenerative agricultural practices that not only build healthy soils and produce nutrient-dense food but also reduce carbon emissions in the environment and, by extension, support the health of our communities and economies. Senate Bill 159, which sought to create a regenerative agriculture certification program, failed to make it out of committee for this legislative session. However, discussion is already underway in and outside the statehouse to introduce improved legislation next year, and grassroots efforts will be needed for its support.
State vegetable: It’s official! The Gilfeather turnip is now Vermont’s state vegetable (click for more info).
GMO labeling: And finally, if all goes well, Vermont’s GMO labeling law (Act 120, requiring food containing genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled) is poised to go into effect on July 1. It’s been a long and bumpy road through the statehouse. Along the way the law has come under attack in the form of lawsuits from the GMO industry and threats from industry lobbyists and politicians in the U.S. House and Senate who fear that Vermont’s law, if not stifled, will open up the floodgates nationally for more states to enact similar right-to-know legislation. As of this writing, the law has already been responsible for the move by several large food manufacturers to change their labels to include the GMO language defined by Vermont.
It requires many hardworking and forward-thinking individuals and organizations to envision, craft, and then champion meaningful laws that benefit our state’s agricultural well being and sustainable future. Along with good soil, thoughtful agricultural practices, and informed consumers, these measures make Vermont a richer place to live. We are thankful to all those involved in these endeavors.