By Anson Tebbetts
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Boston regional office announced that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture has made significant progress toward meeting the state’s water quality goals.
In a letter to the agency dated April 2, EPA regional administrator Alexandra Dapolito Dunn noted, “Your staff have clearly been working hard to get new programs off the ground, rapidly award large amounts of new funding to priority phosphorus reduction projects, ramp up inspection programs and establish the new comprehensive tracking and accounting system. The many milestones that have been completed reflect this excellent progress.”
This independent review means Vermont’s farmers, partners and the agency are on the right track. In fact, the Agency of Agriculture met all of its milestones with a perfect score: 14 out of 14. Benchmarks cited by the EPA as part of the agency’s multi-year plan include a full revision of statewide rules for agricultural land management, training and certification for those who apply manure to the land, an increase in targeted conservation practices, and visiting every farm in the Missisquoi Bay watershed to better understand the land practices with a focus on education, outreach and inspections.
Dunn added, “We commend the state for all the good work completed to date… thank you for your commitment to restoring Lake Champlain.”
This encouraging report is part of a larger accountability agreement put in place by the EPA to monitor Vermont’s water quality progress. In 2016, after Vermont passed Act 64 of 2015 (the state’s Clean Water Act), the EPA established phosphorus pollution limits for Lake Champlain. These limits, termed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirements, include a set of milestones the state must reach. To ensure the requirements are being met, the state must report to EPA each year. In response, the EPA delivers an annual report card that evaluates the state’s progress.
Agricultural water quality is a program that the Agency will continue to build upon. With leadership, Vermont’s farmers, watershed groups, and federal and state partners are all pulling together in the right direction. The work is not easy but with commitment, focus and collaboration our water quality efforts are expanding, and these programs and accomplishments are catching the eyes of stakeholders nationwide.
Anson Tebbetts is the secretary for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets