By Secretary Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
As legislators move into the second half of the session, efforts to improve the quality of water in Vermont continue. On the tables of legislative committees, a series of proposals address everything from funding to emergency action. These are healthy discussions, and they are not confined to the Golden Dome.
The Agency of Agriculture is working with farmers and stakeholders on a host of issues. As the Legislature does its work, farmers and stakeholders are doing theirs. Many people are working through water quality, contemporaneously. We are making progress.
There is a water clean-up plan. It is in place. The plan is robust, and it is being followed - any suggestions to the contrary are false. At the same time, our team has continually provided detailed testimony to legislators on the action plan. We will continue providing lawmakers and others with the most accurate information as they continue their deliberations.
Just as decades of pollution have collected in Vermont waters over the years, addressing the issue will take time, but we are committed to the work. For instance, Franklin's Lake Carmi: all the players recognize the difficult situation faced by all people living and working in this watershed. Our water quality team, working with the team at the Agency of Natural Resources and the Vermont Water Quality Partnership, is in constant communication with residents, farmers, camp owners, and lawmakers, finding the best path forward.
At the same time, the talks we have had in the Legislature have been constructive. The discussions with the farm community have also been productive. Farmers working the land around Lake Carmi have stepped up and are willing to do more for water quality than they are legally obligated to do, during one of the most economically challenging periods farmers have faced in decades.
You might hear noise, distractions or distortions. Some people will try to lay blame solely at the feet of farmers, treating them unfairly, hoping it will somehow magically clean up the lake. It won't. How farmers manage the land - and the landscape itself - has changed. Over 500 acres of land is no longer in agriculture in the Carmi watershed compared to the 2009. The Agency of Agriculture will continue to work collaboratively, with anyone, on a plan that gets Vermont to a better place for all those who love our beautiful state.
Change takes time. Meaningful change does not happen overnight.
From detailed land assessments to on-farm land management practices, Vermonters will soon see the work that is behind us, as well as the work that is before us. As the Legislature works - and farmers, the Agency, and stakeholders work - our collective work will make a difference in Vermont water quality.