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vt july 1 2022 marijuana seeds legal

Vt july 1 2022 marijuana seeds legal

From the Statehouse

Updates from Rural Vermont’s Legislative Team

February marks the month leading up to the so-called “crossover” deadline – by town meeting week a bill needs to be passed from one chamber over to the other in order to have a realistic chance to make it through the legislative session in time to become law. Rural Vermont advocates for more equitable cannabis markets, clean streams of food residuals free of microplastics and keeps you up to date on bans of neonicotinoids, improvements to BIPOC land access, dairy, protecting farmers from poor workmanship from utility companies and much more. Reach out to [email protected] with your policy inquiries and if you’d like to support this work .

Speak Up For Farms!

Contact legislators from the agricultural committees with your concerns & join Rural Vermont and NOFA-VT for Small Farm Action Days!

Rural Vermont Policy Priorities

Plastic Residues in Compost

Relevant bills for Rural Vermont:

S. 282 , An act relating to the regulation of food depackaging facilities – Rural Vermont is in support of this bill that addresses the current unregulated expansion of the consolidation of food residual management and the increased soil contamination with microplastics.

H. 501 , An act relating to physical contaminant standards for residual waste, digestate, and soil amendments – The Protect Our Soils Coalition, that RV is part of, is informing the work on this bill with expressed concerns and suggestions for improvement (read more below).

What has happened so far?

Recording SAG hearing 1-11-22 ( watch recording here ) on depackaging machines and microplastics in compost. Lawmakers expressed frustration about how little the problem has been investigated while contamination has been allowed to occur.

The Protect Our Soils Coalition is working to uphold the original intent of the Universal Recycling Law and is aiming to protect our soils while preventing pollution of composted food scraps with microplastics, as well as the incarceration of recyclable materials. Watch the coalitions hearing on April 28, 2021 with Professor Deborah Neher, Professor of Plant and Soil Science at UVM here .

H. 501 , introduced by Vice Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee (Rep. McCullough) would set a contamination standard.

Most recently Senator Bray, Chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, made a motion to introduce S.282 with the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee that would establish a moratorium on permitting depackaging facilities until the Agency of Natural Resources completed rulemaking on the same. Natasha Duarte of the Compost Association of Vermont (CAV) testified to the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife committee on H.501 with the recommendation of a strike all amendment – suggesting to replace the language of H.501 with S.282. Rural Vermont supports CAV’s concern that the contamination standard of H.501 leaves unclear how to test for the contamination level as there currently is no standard for that. The bill also doesn’t clarify who would be liable for any contamination and who would pay for the tests. The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets will launch rulemaking on Soil Amendments soon, following their mandate to regulate composts from food residuals now that farmers can compost up to 2,000cy of the same per year. Tom Gilbert from Black Dirt Farm made recommendations that could advance the draft of S.282 to also include pursuing source separation more vigorously:

To be clear: Food residuals, as already currently defined, must be source separated from non-compostable materials at the point of generation and managed in a manner consistent with the priorities listed in the food residuals management hierarchy. Meaning that mixing food residuals with packaged organics does not satisfy the source separation requirement and automatically precludes the materials from being utilized by any of the higher priority options on the hierarchy, like composting for example.

Haulers in this state make an effort to ensure source separation and thus avoid hauling contaminated food

ANR must ensure that recyclable materials are being recycled and not being landfilled or incinerated as a result of depack.

Depackaging only of highly homogenous materials, until there’s a better understanding of the pollution potential from mixed loads.

Tom also emphasized the social and ecological interdependence and consequences that would occur from a continued contamination of ag soils with microplastics -pointing to the recent PFAS contamination case at Song Bird Organic Farm in Maine suggesting: “While we don’t have the full picture of potential risks associated with microplastics, we have enough insight to know it’s worth taking preventative action.” Watch the full testimony from last Friday, 2/4/22, in House Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife here . This precautionary approach suggests not to wait for further scientific information about substantial evidence of environmental and human health effects before taking steps to avoid soil contamination and to implement the Universal Recycling Laws source separation requirement as intended.

Sign the Petition by February 15th and Join the Protect Our Soils Coalitions call on the Legislature to protect and prioritize the separation of food scraps from packaging while preventing the incineration and landfilling of recyclable plastic packaging. This will create a stable market for operators, ensuring good resource stewardship and that these resources be used to build healthy soils and support local food systems. Sign here.

Webinar on UVM research on the state of microplastic pollution of compost here

Rural Vermont factsheet for farmers interested in composting food residuals here

Ongoing On-Farm Slaughter Issues

No formal bills at this time

The matter of on-farm slaughter restrictions has seen some movement in the past few weeks as Rural Vermont continues to put pressure on the relevant agencies, committees, and offices. First, we received a number of complaints from farmers and consumers as a response to our Call to Action, which also landed in the inbox of Julie Boisvert, Chief of Meat Inspection. Rural Vermont had the opportunity to share a summary of these complaints to the Senate Committee on Agriculture on January 27 where, upon hearing testimony from Rural Vermont, committee members supported the idea of writing a letter to VAAFM and/or USDA FSIS stating that the Vermont statute 6 V.S.A. § 3311a called the On-Farm Slaughter law will be enforced as written until the new restrictions can be provided in writing and point to their enabling statute, which has not been seen yet.

That same week, Senate Agriculture discussed the on-farm slaughter restrictions in a separate meeting where some committee members expressed agreement that the restrictions pose real challenges to the practicality of the law. Legislative Counsel Michael O’Grady in particular shared a “troubling” anecdote about a family farm affected by the restrictions. In this meeting, Senate Agriculture committee members also discussed the “murky” definition of what FSIS considers “involvement” or “participation” in slaughter.

Because of the dual state and federal nature of this issue, Rural Vermont also solicited the involvement of Senator Sanders and Senator Leahy’s offices. RV met with staffers from Vermont’s federal delegation in late January to discuss the issues as they pertain to the USDA FSIS, which spurred the federal delegation to then meet with FSIS leadership. In their February 3 testimony before the Vermont House Committee on Agriculture & Forestry, the federal delegation relayed that their meeting with FSIS did not yield much clarity on owner involvement in slaughter, but FSIS did reinforce their desire for a “direct correlation” between animal and owner through the slaughter process. The federal delegation did indicate that they have turned their attention to the State Audit Division of FSIS, which is the arm of FSIS that determines a state’s “equal-to” status, with the belief that their communication with VAAFM may be where the problem lies. House Agriculture Chair Carolyn Partridge (D, Windham-3) made clear the need to resolve the on-farm slaughter issue as quickly as possible.

Want to get involved?

In addition to provoking action among public officials and staffers, Rural Vermont also wants to involve our grassroots network. Rural Vermont will be convening an on-farm slaughter stakeholder group that will meet once a month to discuss progress on the issue and strategize next steps with input from stakeholders. Our meetings will take place via Zoom on the second Wednesday of the month. If you are interested in joining our stakeholder group, please email our Legislative Intern at [email protected] .

Payment For Ecosystem Services

Legislation for a PES program proposal is currently being developed by the Payment for Ecosystem Services working group. Read VAAFMs interim report ( Read Feb 2022 interim report here ) on the PES WG progress here, including all relevant links to meeting recordings and supplemental documents. A final report is due on January 15, 2023 (see Act 47, 2021, p. 8 ). Speak Up and provide Public Comment during one of the PES working group meetings! Register for their next meetings, which are every other Tuesday @ noon, online here .

Attention! If you want to get involved in the PES program development – consider joining our Small Farmer Group that meets in between PES WG meetings to discuss ideas on how to engage best. Next meeting of the Small Farmer Group is February 16, 2pm (email [email protected] ). Read here the most recent programmatic proposals from Vermont farmers for PES program development.

Cannabis

See THIS BLOG POST for the latest update.

Bills we’re tracking out of interest or support are:

Poor Workmanship of Utility Companies causing Animal Welfare issues

Relevant bills for Rural Vermont:

S. 166 – An act relating to utility construction worksites and consumer protection

What has happened so far?

Last fall, two farms in Tunbridge Vermont experienced significant harm to their animals due to remains that (subcontractors) from utility companies have left behind

S. 166 would require rules to ensure a standard of care related to construction worksite cleanup to hold companies accountable

Senate Judiciary took testimony from the affected farmers ( watch their testimony here ).

Rural Vermont supports this initiative to prevent harm from poor workmanship of utility companies in the future

Good news! The Senate Judiciary committee heard a bunch more testimony ( Senate Judiciary hearings on S.166 from 2/08/22 ) on the bill onTuesday and expressed their support of Draft 3.1 of the amended S.166 by voting the bill out of committee to the Senate Finance Committee unanimously. While voting in favor, Sen. Joe Benning criticized the short scope of the pole types that included only distribution lines and not also transmission lines in the new protections for livestock and (land-) owners from left behind hazardous materials.

Neonics, and Pesticides

Relevant bills for Rural Vermont:

H. 626 – An act relating to the sale, use, or application of neonicotinoid pesticides

What has happened so far?

The House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry continued to hear testimony from beekeepers (see Charles Mraz’s very compelling testimony ), agricultural technical service providers (see Heather Darby’s important testimony ), industry (Syngenta, Seed Dealers, etc.), ecologists and bird experts, and the Agency of Agriculture. The bill, as written, would charge AAFM to amend the pesticides rules related to the use of neonic “treated articles” (largely seeds), and includes a complete prohibition on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides should the Secretary fail to adopt such rules by July 1, 2024. The Agency of Agriculture is asking for the Committee to let the Agricultural Innovation Board take this on, and address this in the Pesticide Rule rewrite also happening now; suggesting it needs to do VT specific studies, and more in order to determine how to move forward. Rural VT is in conversation with NOFA VT and many environmental organizations, citizen advocates, and farmers – and Graham will be testifying this coming week in House Agriculture on this bill. We will provide testimony saying the following: the Pollinator Protection Committee was convened by the Legislature many years ago and made the recommendations in this bill – we do not need more research to understand the impacts of these substances and their negative impacts on farms (and lack of effectiveness as prophylactic on farms using them in regions like ours); the Agency’s draft Pesticide Rule rewrite does not even address treated seeds; we need the legislature to set a deadline for phasing out the use of treated seeds (evidenced by the lack of follow through by VAAFM despite their authority), allowing enough time and support for the Agriculture Innovation Board, the Agency of Ag, technical service providers, and farmers to find affordable untreated seed and to develop (and train folks in) an IPM management protocol which would facilitate monitoring for pests in order to be approved for variances to apply treated seed, or alternative pest control options. We cannot continue to use these substances prophylactically, we cannot continue to use substances which threaten other farms and the environment, and we need a just transition for farmers using these seeds.

BIPOC Land Access and Opportunities

Relevant bills for Rural Vermont:

H. 273 – An act relating to promoting racial and social equity in land access and property ownership

What has happened so far?

Now is the time for advocates to move and pass this important bill that was introduced last year

H. 273 reconciles with wealth disparities in home and land ownership of BIPOC Vermonters that have been historically marginalized by creating a fund.

The Housing Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs heard from the coalition Seeding Power including (not exhaustive) Ashley Laporte, Every Town organizers Kenya Lazuli (NEFOC) and Mindy Blank, Steffen Gillon from the Windham County NAACP and Rep. Brian Cina of Burlington. Watch the hearing here .

The House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs considered last week to integrate the BIPOC land access fund into the working lands enterprise fund and took testimonials from AAFM staff and NOFA-VT. As crossover deadline is approaching, Rural Vermont wants to see the bill moved soon but misses any announcement of H.273 on this week’s committee agenda (which could notably change any moment).

Reach out to committee members to express your support of the bill with a brief message: “I’m in support of H. 273 – An act relating to promoting racial and social equity in land access and property ownership – because …. (your message). Please vote in support of the bill.”

Did you know?

Between 1920 and 1997, the number of African Americans who farmed decreased by 98 percent, while white Americans who farmed declined by 66 percent OR at the time of World War I there were 1 million black farmers, and in 1992 there were 18,000

In Pigford v. Glickman 1997, thousands of black farming families won settlements against the USDA for discrimination between 1981 and 1996; with outlays over $2 billion

TIAA is a pension company originally set up for teachers and professors and people in the nonprofit world. Investment in farmland has proved troublesome for TIAA in Mississippi and elsewhere. “In Tunica County, where TIAA has acquired plantations from some of the oldest farm-owning white families in the state, black people make up 77 percent of the population but own only 6 percent of the farmland.”

Rural Vermont is part of the National Family Farm Coalition raising awareness about funds like TIAA impacts small farmers land access.

Right to Farm

Relevant bills for Rural Vermont:

S. 268 – An act relating to the right to farm

What has happened so far?

While waiting for the current committee of jurisdiction, the Senate Committee on Judiciary, to take action, the Senate Committee on Agriculture already did a walk through of the bill that was proposed by two of the committee members (Sen. Parent and Sen. Starr, watch recording here ). Legislative Council Michael O’Grady explained early February that most if not all states in the U.S. have a right to farm law with the intent to protect farms that have been in operation from lawsuits from neighbors. Usually the farm has to meet certain conditions, like being engaged in agricultural activities or in existence for a specific amount of years prior to the neighbors property ownership. The right to farm laws don’t prevent neighbors from filing lawsuits but simply how courts respond to the lawsuit – their ruling in favor of farms in response to a nuisance claim. He further explained that VT’s current right to farm law is fairly different from those in other states by including a rebuttable presumption that a farm is in accordance with the law. S. 268 would implement a standard more similar to states like Arkansas, Michigan, Oregon, and others – without a rebuttable presumption. Legislators gauged the need to adjust Vermont’s nuisance lawsuit protection by asking for how many related lawsuits have been filed in recent years – with the legislative council stating that it doesn’t seem like there have been any Vermont cases. That said – it remains unclear if legislators will prioritize the formal adjustment to secure greater protection from nuisance lawsuits for Vermont farmers.

Forestry Related Legislation

Current Use Program Amendments to Include Forever Forests

Relevant bills for Rural Vermont:

H. 697 – An act relating to eligibility of reserve forestland for enrollment in the Use Value Appraisal Program

What has happened so far?

The House Ways and Means Committee will pick up this bill to include two new categories of tax incentives for landowners to leave forever forests in Vermont’s Current Use Appraisal Program this Wednesday, February 9th at 1:15pm (see the agenda with the link for live streaming here ). The bill defines the new Current Use categories as follows:

“Ecologically significant treatment areas” means lands within a parcel of managed forestland that will be managed using protective or conservation management strategies and are not required to be managed for timber, including old forests; State-significant natural communities; rare, threatened, and endangered species; riparian areas; forested wetlands; and vernal pools.

“Reserve forestland” means land that is managed for the purpose of attaining old forest values and functions in accordance with minimum acceptable standards for forest management and as approved by the Commissioner.

The findings of the bill ground the initiative in the limited eligibility and enrollment to lands that are actively managed for timber and related forest products. Points to Climate change causing significant negative ecologic and economic impacts including challenges that threaten forest health, working forests, and ecological functions. Following the goal to mitigate and adapt to Climate Change through a diversity of forest management strategies the bill now aims to include forests that exhibit old forest characteristics and that can provide unique contributions to biodiversity, improve climate resilience and adaptive capacity of Vermont’s working landscape, and serve as ecological benchmarks in Vermont’s Current Use Program. The bill language acknowledges that currently only less than one percent of Vermont’s forestland show old forest characteristics with potential to grow – given the Current Use Value Appraisal program covering nearly 80 percent of Vermont’s forests through privately owned forestland.

Read more about the bill in the recent VTDigger article Bill proposes expanding Current Use program to include some wild forests from January 25, 2022 here .

Rural Vermont supports farmer activist Stephen Leslie in speaking up on behalf of soil health in the States various ambitions to measure soil health and also suggests to measure the soil health status in comparison to old growth forests, stating recently publicly:

“It is estimated that VT has lost 1/2 of its soil since the era of the 1810 Merino sheep boom. If we take as our measure the health of agricultural and forest lands nationally, VT does indeed look good. And we can recognize all the great work that has been done, especially over the last 20 years to reduce phosphorus pollution and promote soil health and sustainable working lands. But soil health nationally is not a good measure—it is in catastrophic condition. Nationally, soil loss is estimated to continue apace at 4 tons per acre per year (5 tons in IA)—that’s the equivalent of a pickup truck of soil leaving every acre every year. Nationally, SOM in ag soils is 1% or less—-even on the great plains, where Mollisol soils were typically 9%-12%.

My supposition is that we should not use national comparisons to determine the health of our baseline, but rather look back to what this region was like pre-European settlement.

If the heavily farmed rich alluvial clay and silt loam soils of the Champlain basin are now at 4-5%—imagine what they would have been when they were under the cover of the clayplain ancient old growth forests of white oak and pine? Forests that evolved over a period of 12,000 years in the wake of retreating glaciers (and where recent findings suggest the ancestors of the Abenaki were already present hunting mega-fauna). Though many of our soils are rocky, they were not poor and thin. Early VT settlers reported bumper yields from their cleared fields, far exceeding what they had experienced farming the already worn-out soils of southern New England. For a time prior to westward expansion, the Champlain Valley was known as the “bread basket of the Republic”.

We should take the soil health of the ancient old growth forests as the baseline measure for soil health in our region (emphasis added). That means understanding the ecology of ancient old growth forests, where deep soil carbon accrued through centuries. That legacy is the carbon bank we are still farming on. If we consider how the soil health principles are exemplified in an intact old growth forest system, and then mimic those functions in our land management practices, then we have before us a tremendous opportunity to heal and regenerate our land—and to respond in a most powerful and meaningful way to the challenges of a changing climate.” (Stephen Leslie, Cedar Mountain Farm/ Cobb Hill Cheese, Hartland Vermont via email to the Vermont Soil Health Policy Network on January 21, 2022)

Forest Future Program

Relevant bills for Rural Vermont:

H.566 , An act relating to the establishment of the Vermont Forest Future Program

In the past several weeks, the Vermont House Committee on Agriculture & Forestry has heard testimony from a variety of stakeholders and experts about H.566, An act relating to the establishment of the Vermont Forest Future Program. H.566 will require the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund to “strengthen, promote, and protect the forest products industry in Vermont” by creating a Vermont Forest Future Action Plan in collaboration with the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation.

The bill as written seeks to encourage “sustainable economic development” and includes language pertaining to climate change mitigation and “sustainable and responsible forest management practices.” Most recently on February 1 , House Agriculture & Forestry heard from two forest industry professionals, one of whom provided the committee with insight on how a similar action plan rolled out in Maine to support their timber industry in the wake of several paper mills closing in rapid succession. The witnesses expressed optimism about the potential for Vermont’s forest products industry while emphasizing the need for stakeholder groups to have a seat at the table for all those who have interests in Vermont’s forests, with Rep. Vicki Strong (R, Orleans-Caledonia) and committee Chair Carolyn Patridge (D, Windham-3) echoing that need. As of February 9, H.566 still sits in House Agriculture & Forestry.

Environmental Justice Bill

S.148 – An act relating to environmental justice in Vermont

S.148, An act relating to environmental justice in Vermont, seeks to establish solutions for the problem of unequal exposure to environmental hazards between certain groups in Vermont–as Elena Mihaly, Vice President of the Conservation Law Fund, noted in her February 3 testimony before the Vermont Senate Committee on Natural Resources, BIPOC and low income Vermonters tend to face more of those hazards and the benefits intended to remediate those hazards than white Vermonters. The passage of S.148 would put into motion five specific tools: an environmental justice mapping tool for the Agency of Natural Resources, community engagement plans, guidance on how government agencies can assess total environmental impacts, an inventory of where state funds have been invested in the past, and an environmental justice advisory council. In the first two weeks of February, Senate Natural Resources will finish editing and complete the markup phase of the bill, anticipating that it will be voted out of the committee by the end of the month.

RAP Amendment Bill Update

S. 258 – An act relating to amending the Required Agricultural Practices in order to address climate resiliency

What has happened so far?

S. 258 has been a conversation starter for legislators in response to environmental groups issuing a letter to use the upcoming RAP revision to also assess how far the rule is fit to mitigate agricultural practices in facing the changing climate. Senators from the agricultural committee heard from VAAFM about how they currently see the current RAPs as being already relevant for climate mitigation. Since then the bill has not been moved – possibly a sign that legislators look to rulemaking at this point. Rural Vermont is preparing for the revision process and discussing the RAPs internally as well as with other organizations.

Want to get involved?

Join the monthly meetings of the Vermont Soil Health Policy Network where a diversity of stakeholders shares about their work in the field and consults about policy proposals, contact [email protected] . This week Abbie Corse shared insights about the Climate Action Plan and gave a passionate testimony of the need to think intersectional and link environmental programs with farm viability goals as farmers lack healthcare, childcare, retirement plans and other social benefits.

To protect farmers who organize on-farm slaughter, as well as the integrity of the VT on-farm slaughter law and the work done for over a decade through the democratic process to create it, Senator Starr (Chair, Senate Committee on Agriculture) suggested on Thursday the 27th to repeal the registration requirement in Vermont law and his and the committee’s willingness to pursue writing a letter to FSIS and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture in support of VT’s on-farm slaughter law and community, asking for both entities to produce written justifications for their actions and interpretations of law, and until doing so to cease and desist their communications and enforcement thereof.

Rural VT also met with representatives of Sen. Sanders and Sen. Leahy’s offices. The representatives expressed understanding and support, and are going to reach out to FSIS to understand more about its communications to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets (given that VAAFM has not produced written communications from FSIS) and its position and report back.

Rural Vermont reported on Thursday (1/27) (watch recording here ) to the Senate Agriculture Committee about our communities’ complaints about the new requirement that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) announced on Jan 6, 2022 via email to registrants for on-farm slaughter that: “USDA has reinforced the requirements in all states, including Vermont, that in order to qualify for the personal exemption, the owner(s) of the animal has to conduct the slaughter and/or be present if they hire an itinerant slaughterer.” Read AAFM’s response to the complaints about the new restrictions here.

VAAFM publicly also announced that farmers wouldn’t be allowed to hire itinerant slaughterers (VAAFM Virtual Forum , Q&A , and presentation ) and Steven Collier (General Council, VAAFM) stated in testimony to the House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry this week that farmers wouldn’t be allowed to take carcasses to custom butcher shops on behalf of the owners of the carcass (watch the recording here ). It is our opinion that none of this is grounded in law – and it is extremely problematic that VAAFM continues to introduce new interpretations of the law while refusing to offer written guidance to practitioners or justification for its interpretations. We can not trust that VAAFM will not enforce these restrictive interpretations on those who register for on-farm slaughter and effectively prevent farmers from continuing to organize the slaughter of animals raised on their farm themselves in coordination with itinerant slaughters. In consequence, we voiced in Senate Agriculture this past week that we cannot recommend that farmers continue to comply with the law and register with the VAAFM for on-farm slaughter.

Senator Starr (Chair, Senate Committee on Agriculture) and his committee are now seeking ways to address these new restrictions that mark a swift policy shift in stark contrast to their legislative intent behind the improvements of the Vermont law for (mostly small-scale) livestock managers over the past decade. Aside from imposing political pressure on the agencies to uphold State law, Senator Starr also suggested today to repeal the registration requirement from the on-farm slaughter law in 6 V.S.A. § 3311a.

Thank Senator Starr (Chair, Senate Committee on Agriculture) and support the Agricultural Committees acting in defense of the VT on-farm slaughter law, and the proposal to repeal the registration requirement for on-farm slaughter!

Use this template message and reach out to Senator Robert Starr ( [email protected] ) and CC your legislators (find your legislators by Town here ).

“You are our Starr! Thank you for promoting the interest of farmers, homesteaders, itinerant slaughterers and communities in the State by protecting stakeholders from the irresponsible directives of FSIS and VAAFM which are far removed from the realities of on-farm slaughter in Vermont. Farmers have been, and will continue to organize on-farm slaughter on behalf of livestock owners and to act as their agent for the successful and efficient use of Vermont’s on-farm slaughter law that is so important to mitigate the devastating shortages in the meat processing industry, especially during this pandemic.

It is unrealistic and unsafe to require owners who may have no interest or experience to engage in the act of slaughtering on-farm and to force them to be present to witness the act. When have people ever been excluded from a food because they wouldn’t witness its production? Customers of on-farm slaughtered meat know that they are liable for the quality of the product because they own the animals and have consciously chosen to, and prefer to, have their livestock be slaughtered on the farm where it was raised.

To protect farmers who sell their livestock for on-farm slaughter, and the history of work and precedent supporting this law, I support:

The VT Senate and House Committees on Agriculture providing a written letter to VAAFM and FSIS stating their support for the VT law as written, requiring that FSIS and VAAFM provide written justifications for their actions and interpretations, and that VAAFM immediately halt its actions.

The repeal of the registration requirement for on-farm slaughter.

Thank you for your support!”

Next steps?

Join our stakeholder group to strategize how to move forward in this dispute! Reach out to [email protected] to join the OFS Stakeholder Group meeting on Wednesday, February 9 at 11:00am.

Discussion of S.188 has continued in Senate Agriculture, and Graham (Rural VT) and VT Cannabis Equity Coalition colleague Geoffrey Pizzutillo (VT Growers’ Association) provided testimony (our testimony begins 1 hour into the video) on Friday the 21st in support of particular changes to the bill . Senator Starr suggested in our introduction to Senate Agriculture on Thursday the 27th that the Committee was favorable to our proposal that all outdoor production be considered agricultural – which would be a significant improvement to legislation.

A critical next step in achieving our Coalitions’ goals is to get lawmakers and the CCB to pursue our recommendations and the CCB’s Social Equity recommendations of getting portions of the cannabis excise tax revenues committed to the Cannabis Development Fund and to historically underserved and disproportionately affected communities. The legislature and the CCB have by statute and in testimony committed to prioritizing social equity, small farmers, and bringing the legacy cannabis economy along with the regulatory process. How does the CCB and legislature plan to act on this fundamental social equity recommendation from the CCB and our Coalition given its statutory obligations and expressed prioritization for social equity? We have not seen a bill introduced addressing this. Our Coalition submitted H.414 in 2021 which is focused on social equity; it is a vehicle for social equity recommendations and it is still waiting to be taken up by the House Government Operations Committee.

See also  durban poison marijuana seeds for sale

We continue to also support and advocate for a number of other components of our Coalition’s platform on cannabis – in particular scale appropriate regulations supporting direct sales from cultivators to consumers of the very plants and products they have grown – as well the platform of the VT Cannabis Nurses Association / Green Mtn. Patient Alliance.

The legislature hit the ground running and we are blessed with support from our legislative intern Elena Roig (UVM) to cover the State House issues around cannabis, neonicotinoids, land access, plastic contamination, dairy, protecting farmers from poor workmanship from utility companies and much more. Despite the question about whether or not legislators will resume in person next week – which appears unlikely – hearings will continue to be streamed live on YouTube where recordings will also continue to be available. Check out this initial overview outlining bills and issues that have a good chance to be passed during this second half of the biennium. Reach out to [email protected] with your policy inquiries and if you’d like to support this work.

Rural Vermont Policy Priorities 2022 – some have already been picked up!

Cannabis

Relevant bills for Rural Vermont:

S.185 , An act relating to miscellaneous cannabis establishment procedures

S.186 , An act relating to the Medical Cannabis Registry

S.188 , An act relating to regulating licensed small cannabis cultivation as farming

S.154 , An act relating to cannabis excise tax revenue and the Vermont State Colleges

S.152 , An act relating to the cannabis excise tax and local fees (I believe this replaced S.94)

H. 414 , An act relating to cannabis social equity programs – VT Cannabis Equity Coalition, that RV is part of, supports this bill

H.502 , An act relating to the cannabis wholesale gross receipts tax

What has happened so far?

We are currently focused on S.188 (recently introduced in the Senate Ag Committee) and H.414 or other coming social equity focused bills which may emerge. S.188 would classify all licensed small cultivators as “agricultural”. It would allow licensed cultivators to purchase and sell seeds and immature plants to one another and licensed wholesalers to sell such products to licensed cultivators. This bill does not support any of the recommendations our coalition has made directly, and we intend to meet and share with its sponsors ideas for amending the bill. Some of our recommendations include: all outdoor production be classified as “agricultural” (this is a core aspect of our advocacy), we do not think it’s wise to include indoor production as agricultural (as this bill would), we have questions about allowing wholesale license holders to also have the same abilities as nurseries (a separate license category). We are also trying to determine to what extent agricultural exemptions and allowances would apply – such as the direct sale of “principally produced product” – and continue to advocate for some means of direct sales allowance for cultivators. Significantly, last week the CCB voted to affirm a recommendation of its Social Equity Subcommittee that 5% of the excise tax go to the Cannabis Development Fund, and that 20% go to reinvestment in communities which have been disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of cannabis (our coalition has been making a similar recommendation). We are awaiting a bill reflecting this recommendation.

Plastic Residues in Compost

Relevant bills for Rural Vermont:

H. 501 , An act relating to physical contaminant standards for residual waste, digestate, and soil amendments – The Protect Our Soils Coalition, that RV is part of, is informing the work on this bill

What has happened so far?

The Senate Committee on Agriculture held a meeting ( watch recording here ) on depackaging machines and microplastics in compost (Read this recent The Guardian article on Microplastics damage Human Cells ). Lawmakers expressed frustration about how little the problem has been investigated while contamination has been allowed to occur. The Protect Our Soils Coalition is working to uphold the original intent of the Universal Recycling Law and is aiming to protect our soils while preventing pollution of composted food scraps with microplastics, as well as the incarceration of recyclable materials. Senator Bray, Chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, wants to see a committee bill on this issue alongside H. 501 , introduced by Vice Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee (Rep. McCullough) that would set a contamination standard. Learn more about the issue and listen to this hearing from April 28, 2021 with Professor Deborah Neher, Professor of Plant and Soil Science at UVM here .

Get more info!

Webinar on UVM research on the state of microplastic pollution of compost here

Rural Vermont factsheet for farmers interested in composting food residuals here

Payment For Ecosystem Services

Legislation for a PES program proposal is currently being developed by the Payment for Ecosystem Services working group. A final report is due on January 15, 2023 (see Act 47, 2021, p. 8 ). Speak Up and provide Public Comment during one of the PES working group meetings! Register for their next meetings, which are every other Tuesday @ noon, online here.

What has happened so far?

The House Agriculture and Forestry Committee heard a presentation by Dr. Sara Via of the University of Maryland who gave an overview on known, science-backed methods to improve carbon sequestration such as no-till and the use of cover crops. Much of this data is based on modeling, however–soil sampling to test for carbon levels is very costly, complex, and tends to be outside of a farmer’s capabilities. Notably the PES working group continues to explore how to focus their programmatic proposal on measurable outcomes that prove to improve soil health only.

Attention! If you want to get involved in the PES program development – consider joining our Small Farmer Group that meets in between PES WG meetings to discuss ideas on how to engage best. Next meeting of the Small Farmer Group is January 19, 1pm (email [email protected])

Poor Workmanship of Utility Companies causing Animal Welfare issues

Relevant bills for Rural Vermont:

S. 166 – An act relating to utility construction worksites and consumer protection

What has happened so far?

Last fall that two farms in Tunbridge Vermont experienced significant harm to their animals due to remains that (subcontractors) from utility companies have left behind. This bill would require rules to ensure a standard of care related to construction worksite cleanup to hold companies accountable for instances like this. The bill starts off in the Senate Judiciary where legislators already took testimony from the affected farmers earlier this week ( watch their testimony here ). We are in support of this initiative to prevent harm from poor workmanship of utility companies in the future.

Bills we’re tracking out of interest or support are:

Neonics, and Pesticides

Relevant bills for Rural Vermont:

H. 626 – An act relating to the sale, use, or application of neonicotinoid pesticides

What has happened so far?

The House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry heard about EPA findings that three chemicals – clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam – were determined to likely adversely affect the majority of endangered species and critical habitats they studied, with a frequent mode of exposure being abrasion dust coming off of treated seeds. The committee will consider H.626 that finds that treated seeds violate science-based integrated pest management principles and aims to reinstate to apply pesticides only to mitigate existing pest problems rather than on the presumption of one. The bill would charge AAFM to amend the pesticides rules to uphold this standard and includes a complete prohibition on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides should the Secretary fail to adopt such rules by July 1, 2024.

BIPOC Land Access and Opportunities

Relevant bills for Rural Vermont:

H. 273 – An act relating to promoting racial and social equity in land access and property ownership

What has happened so far?

Advocates hope to now move and pass this important bill that was introduced last year and aims to reconcile with historical marginalization of BIPOC Vermonters by addressing wealth disparities in home and land ownership by creating a fund. A hopeful sign was the initial hearing right at the beginning of this week in the Housing Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs on Tuesday with the coalition Seeding Power including (not exhaustive) Ashley Laporte, Every Town organizers Kenya Lazuli (NEFOC) and Mindy Blank, Steffen Gillon from the Windham County NAACP and Rep. Brian Cina of Burlington. Watch the hearing here .

Climate Action Plan

Relevant bills for Rural Vermont (not exhaustive):

S. 234 An act relating to changes to Act 250

Note: Legislators are still soliciting recommendations derived from the Climate Action Plan for informing legislation. Rural Vermont is in contact with legislators emphasizing our recommendations to the Agriculture and Ecosystems Subcommittee of the Climate Council and offering our feedback and takeaways from the final CAP recommendations and mitigation strategies. Watch Rural Vermont’s committee introduction to the House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry and read more on what’s moving from CAP in this VTDigger article .

What has happened so far?

While there is a LOT of chatter in the virtual State House, the Rural Vermont perspective largely focuses on discourses in the agricultural complex of the Climate Action Plan (CAP) and the requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act and intersectional issues. In the House Ag committee the week began with hearing from Jane Lazorchak, the Director of Global Warming Solutions Act (ANR)

Watch the hearing in House Ag and Forestry Committee or House Nat Resources and hear farmer and Climate Council member Abbie Corse testify about her experience in working towards the CAP.

Jane pointed to improved manure management systems as one of the main opportunities for reducing Greenhouse Gas Reduction goals in the agricultural sector. Rural Vermont emphasised during Rural Vermont’s committee introduction to design policy incentives that support farmers who want to compost their manure.

CAP , p. 123 states in this regard:

“Manure from livestock contains carbon and nitrogen, which can be lost to the atmosphere primarily as methane (CH4) but also nitrous oxide (N2O), both potent greenhouse gases—25 and 298 times more potent than CO2 over a 100-year period, respectively. Emissions from manure management are significantly affected by storage type, duration, temperature, moisture and manure composition. Storage of manure as a liquid has four times higher emissions compared to solid storage because more methane, which is more potent, is emitted from the anaerobic conditions of liquid storage, compared to more aerobic conditions of solid storage, which emits carbon dioxide (less potent). As such, switching from liquid storage (2.01) to solid storage (0.49), especially one that composts (0.28 MTCO2e/dairy cow/year), reduces emissions from manure storage (4-7 times).”

We also support farmer advocates like Stephen Leslie from Cedar Mountain Farm in speaking up on the benefits of old growth forests (see mitigation strategy d “Implement agroforestry and silvopasture practices that integrate woody vegetation in agricultural production,” CAP p. 117). Commissioner of Forest, Parks and Recreations Snyder gave his take on Agroforestry and Silvopasture in his presentation to HAG (following Rural Vermont’s introduction, see link above). Along these lines, legislators of the House Natural Resources committee started discussion to establish more forever wild forests.

Jane also pointed to an increased net loss of natural or working lands, especially in agricultural and forest land and pointed to Act 250 amendments as a cross cutting solution to promote compact settlement as opposed to increased subdivision of the landscape. The Senate Natural Resource Committee is therefore working on a bill, S. 234 , that would allow municipalities privileges through waivers from Act 250 requirements for towns that adopt municipal plans that designate so-called “Smart Growth” centers to attract development of town centers. Watch the SNR hearing here .

Essential for a Just Transition towards enacting any climate related policy – or policy in general – are questions of equity that start with upholding principles like creating transparency or facilitating public participation. The Environmental Justice Bill S. 148 demands policy makers to catch up on those fronts where Vermont is lacking behind. Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale presented the bill for the first time to the Senate Natural Resources Committee this morning – watch the recording here if you want to learn more.

Want to get involved?

Join the monthly meetings of the Vermont Soil Health Policy Network where a diversity of stakeholders shares about their work in the field and consults about policy proposals, contact [email protected] . This week Abbie Corse shared insights about the Climate Action Plan and gave a passionate testimony of the need to think intersectional and link environmental programs with farm viability goals as farmers lack healthcare, childcare, retirement plans and other social benefits.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets’ Hemp Program received USDA approval on the Vermont Hemp Production Plan. The plan supports the Vermont Hemp Rules and governs registration, production, sampling and compliance for hemp cultivation for all growers of any scale beginning in 2022. There are some significant changes in Vermont’s Hemp Plan from the pilot program producer’s in the state have been operating under for a number of years.

As part of Federal requirements for hemp producers, in 2022 all individuals interested in growing hemp must obtain and submit to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets Hemp Program a criminal history report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The 2018 farm bill prevents anyone with a drug-related felony from participating in legalized hemp production for 10 years after their date of conviction and that applicants for growers (only) must be fingerprinted by the FBI. For information on how to obtain a criminal history report, please go here . This requirement does not apply to processor only registrants of the Vermont Hemp Program.

Rural Vermont testified strongly against the drug-related felony ban and background check requirements for growers as part of the 2019 Hemp Rulemaking process ( section 4.3 ). We also testified against registration and fees for hemp grown for personal use. Currently, growing small quantities of hemp for personal use is significantly more regulated than growing high THC cannabis for personal use.

Federal requirements in the 2018 Farm Bill authorizes significant shared state-federal regulatory power over hemp cultivation and production. State departments of agriculture must consult with the state’s governor and chief law enforcement officer to devise a plan that must be submitted to the Secretary of USDA.

The following summary of changes is via Stephanie Smith from VAAFM. Follow the Agency of Agriculture’s Hemp Blog for updates.

THC Compliance is 0.3% and includes both THC and THC-A

The acceptable hemp tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level is when, after the application of the measurement of uncertainty, the range of total delta-9-THC concentration includes 0.3 percent or less, as measured on a dry weight basis. Total delta-9-THC includes the potential conversion of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid into THC.

Cannabis plants exceeding the acceptable hemp THC level constitute marijuana, a schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act and registrants/licensees must either ensure the disposal of such cannabis plants on site at the farm or hemp production facility or use a DEA-registered reverse distributor or law enforcement to dispose of non-compliant plants.

A negligent violation occurs when a cannabis plant’s total delta-9- THC concentration exceeds 1.0%.

Registrants may be able to remediate and retest a harvest lot that exceeds the acceptable hemp THC level by

Removing flowers and leaves and disposing of them appropriately, and retaining only stalk; or

Chipping the entire plant into biomass for extraction or other commercial purposes.

New registration and reporting requirements

A registration will not be issued unless a criminal history report(s), submitted within 60 days of an application submission, confirms that the key participant listed on the registration has not been convicted of a felony relating to a controlled substance within the past ten (10) years. If the applicant registrant was lawfully cultivating hemp under the 2014 Farm Bill and registered on or before December 20, 2018, and has felony conviction relating to a controlled substance that also occurred before that date, they may be a registrant of the program.

All registrants/licensees must report hemp crop acreage to the Farm Service Agency within 30 days of planting hemp and provide the location where hemp is being produced, acreage or square footage of all areas dedicated to hemp production, and the issued registration/license number.

Significant changes to sampling practices including the requirement to use sampling agents when taking samples for potency testing

Registered hemp producers are no longer able to collect samples of their own crops. Sampling must be performed by a “sampling agent”. Vermont will use USDA’s sampling agent training to establish who is eligible to be a sampling agent.

Hemp producers (registrants of the Vermont Hemp Program), employees of individuals or businesses registered to grow or process hemp, individuals residing in the same household as a hemp producer registrant, or individuals related to Vermont hemp producers are not eligible for to become sampling agents.

Sampling agents must collect floral material from the flowering tops of the plant by cutting the top five to eight inches from the “main stem” (that includes the leaves and flowers), “terminal flower” (that occurs at the end of a stem), or “central cola” (cut stem that could develop into a flower) of the top of the plant. Depending on the size of harvest lot, multiple cuttings will comprise the representative sample.

Sampling must occur no more than 30 days prior to harvest.

If the registrant/licensee fails to complete a harvest within thirty (30) days of a sample collection, a second pre-harvest sample of the remainder of the lot shall be required to be submitted for potency testing.

Sampling agents must have complete and unrestricted access to all hemp and other cannabis plants, (whether growing or harvested), all hemp production and storage areas, all land, buildings, and other structures used for the cultivation, handling, and storage of all hemp and other cannabis plants, and all locations listed in the producer license.

Laboratories that conduct pre-harvest potency testing must report their results to USDA, using the HeMP online document management system here:
https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/hemp/hemp-emanagement-platform .

Effective on January 1, 2023, all registrants/licensees may only use DEA-registered laboratories to conduct THC potency testing.

Please see the Code of Federal Regulation review the requirements of the Domestic Hemp Production Program,
https://ecfr.federalregister.gov/current/title-7/subtitle-B/chapter-IX/part-990 .

For more information on hemp regulation in Vermont,
please contact Stephanie Smith, [email protected]
or Michael DiTomasso, [email protected] .

The legislative session brings the sudden arrival of a number of bills related to cannabis:

S.185, An act relating to miscellaneous cannabis establishment procedures
https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2022/S.185

S.186, An act relating to the Medical Cannabis Registry
https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2022/S.186

S.188, An act relating to regulating licensed small cannabis cultivation as farming
https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2022/S.188

S.154, An act relating to cannabis excise tax revenue and the Vermont State Colleges
https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2022/S.154

S.152, An act relating to the cannabis excise tax and local fees
https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2022/S.152

H.502, An act relating to the cannabis wholesale gross receipts tax
https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2022/H.502

This new need for advocacy and attention intersects with the ongoing Cannabis Control Board rulemaking process, as well as its ongoing meetings addressing proposals to the legislature. We continue to actively work with our coalition partners to affect the rulemaking process by attending and providing testimony at meetings of the Cannabis Control Board (CCB), as well as meeting with members of the Board and offering written testimony. We also continue to hear from members of our community – from cultivators to manufacturers to wholesalers – about their needs and concerns and ideas for an equitable economy around cannabis.

Of the current bills cited above, S.188 is one we are monitoring and intend to testify on. This bill would classify all licensed small cultivators as “agricultural”. It would allow licensed cultivators to purchase and sell seeds and immature plants to one another and licensed wholesalers to sell such products to licensed cultivators. This bill does not support any of the recommendations our coalition has made directly, and we have a number of concerns we intend to share with its sponsors as well as ideas for amending the bill to include our recommendations. Some of our recommendations and concerns include: all outdoor production be classified as “agricultural” (this is a core aspect of our advocacy), we do not think it’s wise to include indoor production as agricultural (as this bill would), we have questions about allowing wholesale license holders to also have the same abilities as nurseries (a separate license category). Senators Sears (Bennington), Pollina (Washington), Benning (Caledonia) and Thomas (Chittenden) are the sponsors of this bill – and it will need to proceed through both ag committees in order to be successful.

The current proposed Rules of the CCB can be found here – they are taking public comment for a period of time. Significantly, last week the CCB voted to affirm a recommendation of its Social Equity Subcommittee that 5% of the excise tax go to the Cannabis Development Fund, and that 20% go to reinvestment in communities which have been disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of cannabis. There are currently no mechanisms ensuring ongoing funding for the Cannabis Development Fund in statute – and no money for reinvestment in communities; so this recommendation will require legislative action, but we have not yet seen anything introduced. Achieving funding for these initiatives from the excise tax as well as vertically integrated dispensaries has been an important recommendation of our coalition from its inception.

We continue to be disappointed to see no direct sales retail option for producers – leaving them price-takers in a wholesale marketplace. Direct markets (the opportunity for a producer to sell their product directly to a consumer) are critical for small farmers’ and businesses’ viability. Direct markets and sales do not mean unregulated sales – scale appropriate regulations exist which ensure that farm stands and stores, home kitchens, farmers markets, and particular products like raw milk and on-farm slaughtered poultry are not required to meet the same regulatory standards as full grocery or retail operations or full kitchens or fully inspected meats. A direct sales license would have a lesser regulatory burden than full retail (only selling product “principally produced on the farm”), and could be limited or expanded in a variety of ways: from a CSA type model (pick-up or delivery), to a salespoint with particular operating hours on-site, to online ordering and pick-up. A marketplace which does not offer accessible direct markets for producers of the very product they produce is not an equitable marketplace, and continues the pattern of undervaluing these people in our economy and policy making. The CCB and legislature are considering additional licenses – now is a good time to explain to your representatives the value and need for this type of license and / or ability for cultivators.

Please be in touch with us about your ideas, concerns, and interests. This is an important time to be active with your legislators on this issue.

We are working in the Protect our Soil Coalition to uphold the values embedded in the Universal Recycling law and to hold ANR accountable for implementing the requirement to separate food residuals from other recyclables at the source of generation. Seven Days has been shedding light on the current practice of co-mingling food waste with their packaging aiming separation through an industrial process that results in micro and nano particles of plastic in the otherwise compostable material. Read more here .

As plaintiff in the ongoing lawsuit against the USDA GMO labeling rules, our coalition of nonprofits and retailers took an important step in filing details with the federal court. The case challenges USDA’s decision to allow GMO labeling to be hidden behind QR codes, especially because that will restrict access for so many in rural areas of Vermont. The Center for Food Safety’s recent press release shares more information:

The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) organized a broad coalition of over 90 organizations (including Rural VT) who sent a letter to Congress calling for sweeping reforms to the US dairy industry based on ensuring a just price to farmers, supply management, and increased competition. Alongside the letter, the NFFC released its new Milk from Family Dairies Act (MFDA) , based on these principles. From here, the real work begins of pushing Congress to advance the policy debate on dairy ahead of the upcoming Farm Bill negotiations in 2022.

The Cannabis Control Board (CCB) has released two of its proposed Rules related to the Licensing and Regulation of Cannabis Establishments. Rural VT and the VT Cannabis Equity Coalition are reviewing them and providing comments. Sen. White has submitted a bill for introduction, S.94 , which proposes to cap the local control license fee which municipalities can charge cannabis establishments, and distribute cannabis excise tax revenue that is equal to two percent of the taxable retail sales to municipalities that host a cannabis establishment. We’ll continue to share updates and encourage you to contact us, your reps, and the CCB with your suggestions!

The Vermont Climate Council has formally adopted the VT Climate Action Plan , and the Legislature’s Climate Solutions Caucus will be hosting a Virtual Town Hall on Wednesday, December 15 at 7pm to share their reactions to the Climate Action Plan, plans for the upcoming legislative session, and to hear directly from Vermonters about what climate policies they should prioritize in 2022. Rural VT will work with its allies and members to understand the Plan and its impacts on our farms and in our communities (it’s a 270 page document), and work to continue to improve how the State addresses climate change and agriculture.

In October, we shared with you information about our dispute with the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (AAFM) and USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) about whether or not CSA programs can include animal shares from on-farm slaughtered livestock like it is legal to include on-farm slaughtered poultry (more info here). Legislators intended with Act 47 (2021) to explore the legal situation for livestock and the need for further legislation. Rural Vermont engaged in that process with AAFM and the legislative council earlier this year. From our interpretation of the law, these types of CSA programs should be already legal, given that Rural Vermont advocated successfully in 2019 to allow for multiple owners in the VT statute. The CSA program would be an option for the contractual relationship between those owners about sharing those animals and carcasses. In contract law, anything that is not prohibited is allowed. In the now issued final report on the matter, the legislative council agrees with Rural Vermont and states:

“Moreover, in review of existing law under the FMIA, FSIS regulations, and FSIS guidance, Legislative Counsel agrees with Caroline Gordon that there is a reasonable interpretation that personal slaughter under an animal share agreement, although not specifically referenced, is allowed under federal and state law. FSIS guidance seemingly provides that there may be multiple owners of an animal under the personal use exemption and that the multiple owners under the personal use exemption do not need to reside at the same physical location.

One would assume that persons who do not reside together but own livestock together have some legal arrangement, formal or informal, addressing ownership of the livestock and rights in that livestock. In addition, Vermont law explicitly allows for a person or persons to own livestock subject to the personal use exemption in State law.”

Michael O’Grady (Office of Legislative Counsel), Memo- Slaughter of Livestock under Animal Share Agreements, Dec 1, 2021, page 6

The report also shows that FSIS is inconsistent by opposing language around animal shares in statute but allowing for multiple owners in the past in their guidance documents. Aside from Vermont, most states allow for multiple owners, like California, Texas, Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. See a list of on-farm slaughter laws across the US on the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund website here . FSIS is rendering the multiple owners’ allowance ad absurdum by indicating that all owners need to take part in the slaughter of the livestock. Rural Vermont also criticized AAFM in the past for interpretations of the VT statute that render the on-farm slaughter exemption impractical and make it extremely difficult for practitioners to comply. AAFM Meat Inspection Chief Julie Boisvert stated that not farmers but customers of animals sold for on-farm slaughter have to hire an itinerant slaughterer- even though the statute does not rule out that farmers can organize on-farm slaughter themselves (watch the AAFM virtual forum from May 2021 here ). From a business standpoint, it would be impossible to have customers reach out to the few busy itinerant slaughters in the state individually, creating an extreme organizational burden for the itinerant slaughter community who then would have to concert the inquiries with the farmer.

The discourse around animal shares with AAFM and legislative council revealed that our State agency is handcuffed themselves as FSIS is threatening Vermont’s ‘equal-to status’ that allows AAFM to conduct and receive funding for the state’s meat inspection program under an agreement with FSIS.

Take Action! Speak with VPR about what on-farm slaughter means to you, if the law currently is clear or confusing to you and if it would be meaningful to you if AAFM would support CSA’s with shares from on-farm slaughter. Email VPR reporter Howard Weiss-Tisman ([email protected]) and CC: [email protected]

More info?

* Read the memo from legislative council Michael O’Grady from December 1, 2021, “Slaughter of Livestock under Animal Share Agreements” here

* Find the current interpretation of the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets presented in this virtual Q&A forum here , and in their online brochure here .

Get in touch – and join our on-farm slaughter supporter email list, email [email protected], and seek practitioners to join our core stakeholder group to consult on the issue (Subject: OFS core).

Anyone knows that plastics decompose on a very different timescale than organics – they basically don’t decompose. Google says it can take anywhere between 20 to 500 years depending on size and structure. Yet our Agency of Natural Resources and Vermont’s number one waste systems management company, Casella, believe that we don’t have to go through the inconvenient process of separating plastics from food wastes, as mandated by the Universal Recycling Law, at the source. Instead, Casella’s new innovative solution to the mandated landfill ban is a so-called Depackaging Facility that does the hard work automatically and separates food scraps from the plastics that package them.

Watch the video above and learn in 6 minutes from Casella that the technology is so proficient that the resulting stream of food scraps may be composted, sent through biodigesters, and even land applied on farms. But what about the remaining plastic contamination, yet the hard to scope microplastic contamination? Casella is funding research at UVM to analyze the issue and associated risks for the environment, including human health (learn more here).

“Our findings are hugely important to Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law (URL) which necessitated this kind of research. There is so much we don’t know about using food waste, particularly the impacts of plastic contamination.” said Kate Porterfield, a PhD student in College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS).

Rural Vermont is in coalition with Poultry Farmers For Compost Foraging (PFCF), Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) to emphasize that there are decentralized pathways to compost food residuals that have been separated from their recyclable packaging materials at the source on farms in a way that does not create another resource concern but that truly enhances the soils of agricultural producers in Vermont. The coalition imposes political pressure on the Agency of Natural Resources to implement and enforce the related source separation requirement and the priority uses of food residuals as laid out in the Universal Recycling Law (more info here).

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Depackaging technology conveniently alleviates generators’ responsibility under the Universal Recycling Law to separate organics from other waste streams in stark contrast to the mandate and definitions in the law but upon incentive from ANR. Alongside the pressing environmental concerns resulting from plastic contaminations of soils, this mismanagement or lack of implementation of the URL directives also furthers corporate consolidation towards a monopoly on food residuals management (remember that Casella bought Grow Compost? see story here). A development that infringes upon opportunities for market development for decentralized on-farm composting facilities like Black Dirt Farm, Perfect Circle Farm, Cloud Path Farm, Sunrise Farm and others. The easy way out for generators, including institutions like grocery stores and schools, through depackaging facilities makes collaborations with decentralized actors less attractive/ less cost effective.

Contact [email protected] to stay in the loop on this campaign for protecting the Universal Recycling Law.

Legislative leadership (Speaker Krowinski and Pro Tem Balint) have scheduled more community conversations in the following counties:

Washington County Conversation, Thursday, October 28th, 5:30 – 6:30. Register here.

Orange County Conversation, Tuesday, November 2th, 5:30 – 6:30. Register here.

Chittenden County Conversation, Thursday, November 4th, 5:30 – 6:30. Register here.

Orleans County Conversation, Monday, November 8th, 5:30-6:30. Register here.

Lamoille County Conversation, Wednesday, November 10th, 5:30 – 6:30. Register here.

Final conversation open to anyone across the state, Tuesday, November 16th. Register here.

You can also fill out an online survey to share what your community needs and your recommendations on how VT should spend the ARPA funds here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf5jgOMdwDpuDGcdKbSCnJ5yTpyyY2ebN9SJriWMY8z2X1VyQ/viewform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 23, 2021

Vermont Cannabis Equity Coalition Releases Sweeping Recommendations to Cannabis Control Board: Will There be a Place for Equity, Small Farmers, and Small Local Businesses?

Montpelier, VT — The Vermont Cannabis Equity Coalition has recently submitted its sweeping recommendations to the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) for its public rulemaking process, and in support of a cannabis economy in Vermont which is racially just, economically equitable, agriculturally accessible, and environmentally sound.
Collectively, the Vermont Cannabis Equity Coalition represents tens of thousands of Vermonters, including local communities and individuals most impacted by cannabis prohibition, and it is the Coalition’s sincere hope that the CCB integrates its vision, principles, and proposals into its own work, process, and recommendations to the legislature. The Coalition likewise expresses hope that the CCB take a different posture than the most of the Vermont legislature, and invite in and prioritize the voices of Black, Brown and poor communities, individuals and communities disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of cannabis, as well as small businesses, legacy growers and cultivators, patients, nurses, caregivers, and small farmers.

The Vermont Cannabis Equity Coalition shares a vision for a cannabis economy in Vermont which is racially just, economically equitable, agriculturally accessible, and environmentally sound. We envision a Vermont cannabis market where Black, Brown and poor folks are assured an equitable opportunity for success within every aspect of this industry. This vision for a racially just economy is grounded in an understanding of our true national history and the impacts of systemic racism; the history of criminalization and disproportionate, violent, enforcement of prohibition in communities of color and poor communities; and, the necessity for mechanisms of repair being established by members of those communities most impacted. In this decentralized economy, scale- appropriate regulations facilitate and prioritize small businesses, outdoor cultivation, and distributed access to the wealth generated by this industry to community members throughout the State. Cannabis is grown, packaged, and distributed in ways which protect and improve soil health, water quality and account is taken for climate change mitigation, adaptation, resilience, and human health.

The CCB was handed a rushed and impractical timeline by the legislature – through ACT 164 (2020) and ACT 62 (2021) – for developing rules and regulations for every aspect of the legal cannabis marketplace, and to reform the state medical cannabis program. The Vermont Cannabis Equity Coalition would like to call attention to the inadequacy of this timeline within which the CCB has been asked to complete its rule making process, and the inadequacy of the associated timeline by which the legislature must act on the CCB’s recommendations. In conversations with members of the CCB, with consultants hired by the CCB, and with legislators, the Coalition’s concerns about this timeline have repeatedly been reflected and shared by these other actors.. The CCB is doing its best within the limitations set by the legislature – however, it is very clear that the rulemaking process and regulatory considerations would be afforded more thorough public input, and more comprehensive research if more time were available – and thereby move us further in the direction of our collectively desired equitable outcomes.

“Though we will still need action from the legislature to address foundational issues of inequity in existing statute outside of the rulemaking process, the CCB public rulemaking process is a significant opportunity to affect change and grow our collective movement for an equitable, accessible, affordable, and scale appropriate cannabis economy in VT. Our coalition’s recommendations with respect to racial and social equity programs and funding, a scale appropriate and affordable licensing structure (including producer to consumer direct sales), and more have the potential to affect a greater distribution of wealth and access in the coming market.”
– Graham Unangst-Rufenacht / Rural VT

The conception of an entirely new market is a unique opportunity for Vermonters to generate wealth, especially for local people of color, economically disadvantaged, and those most harmed by prohibition, and Vermont must get it right at the start. The recommendations from the Vermont Cannabis Equity Coalition lead with racial equity and market access and construct a viable craft-centric marketplace ready for federal legalization and bringing redress to those harmed by cannabis prohibition.”
– Geoffrey Pizzuillo / Vermont Growers Association

Members of the Vermont Cannabis Equity Coalition include the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, Justice for All, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT), Rural Vermont, and the Vermont Growers Association (VGA). We have received significant support from Vermonters in our advocacy demanding the inclusion of structures ensuring the racial justice and agricultural and economic equity that a viable adult-use and medical cannabis marketplace needs.

With the rulemaking process moving forward at an unreasonable pace, member organizations of the Vermont Cannabis Equity Coalition and their constituents are calling on the CCB and legislators to work to integrate their recommendations which truly promote racially just, economically equitable, agriculturally accessible, and environmentally sound legal cannabis industry in VT.

About the Vermont Cannabis Equity Coalition: We are a local coalition representing communities across Vermont that came together to support a cannabis economy that is racially just, economically equitable, agriculturally accessible, and environmentally sound for all Vermonters.

First in the South – Virginia’s Legalization Focuses on Public Safety, Health and Social Justice

The criminal justice reforms and commitment to repairing harms related to past prohibition of cannabis are soon to be a present-day reality. Virginia is the first Southern state to take the path towards legal adult use cannabis. It is unlikely to be the last.

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With the signing of the Cannabis Control Act (the Act) on April 21, 2021, Virginia became the first southern state to legalize adult use cannabis and just the fourth state to do so through the legislature. Legalizing adult use cannabis through the legislature, as opposed to through the ballot box, is not the typical route states have followed up to now. Eleven of the sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult use cannabis through the use of ballot measures. Virginia joins Vermont, Illinois, New York and New Mexico (which legalized after Virginia) as one of the few states that have gone the legislative route. Under Governor Northam’s administration, the path to legalization was swift, taking less than four months from introduction to passage.

Governor Northam added amendments to the already passed Senate Bill 1406 and the General Assembly voted to approve those amendments, with the Lieutenant Governor breaking the tie in the Senate’s vote. Upon signing, Governor Northam called the law a step towards “building a more equitable and just Virginia and reforming our criminal justice system to make it more fair.” This message and the opportunities to promote social equity through a legal cannabis industry have been consistent points of advocacy made by supporters as the bill advanced to becoming law.

Prior to the Governor’s amendments, the Act under consideration set July 1, 2024 as the date on which both legal possession and adult use sales would begin. The Governor decided to accelerate the date for legal possession to July 1 of this year, a decision believed to have been influenced by data showing that Black Virginians were more than three times as likely to be cited for possession, even after simple possession was decriminalized in the state a year prior. The regulated adult use market is still set to begin making sales on July 1, 2024; however, it remains possible that this date could be advanced through the legislature in the meantime. Nevertheless, Virginia is on track to becoming the first southern state with an operating regulated commercial cannabis market.

Creating an Administrative Structure for the Adult Use Program

This sweeping fifty-page law creates the Cannabis Control Authority to regulate the cultivation, manufacture, wholesale and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis product. The Act further lays the groundwork for licensing market participants and regulating appropriate use of cannabis; defining local control; testing, labeling, packaging and advertising of cannabis and cannabis products; and taxation. The Act also contains changes to the criminal laws of the Commonwealth. Companion to the Act are new laws addressing the testing, labeling and packaging of smokable hemp products and manufacturing of edible cannabis products. Additionally, the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board was created to address the impact of economic divestment, violence and criminal justice responses to community and individual needs through scholarships and grants.

While persons 21 years or older may possess up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to four plants for personal use per household beginning on July 1, 2021, there are a host of regulations to be written in order to regulate the adult use market. These regulations will be the devil in the details of how the regulated market will work. Regardless, the Cannabis Control Act does establish the framework for adult use cannabis that is unique to Virginia and designed to promote and encourage participation from people and communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition and enforcement.

The Cannabis Control Authority (CCA) will consist of a Board of Directors, the Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council, the Chief Executive Officer and employees. The Board will have five members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the legislature, each with the possibility of serving two consecutive five-year terms. The Board is tasked with creating and enforcing regulations under which retail cannabis and cannabis products are possessed, sold, transported, distributed, and delivered. It is expected that the Board will begin discussing regulations next year and that applications for licenses for cannabis cultivation facilities, manufacturing facilities, cannabis testing facilities, wholesalers, and retail stores will begin to be accepted in 2023. Importantly, a Business Equity and Diversity Support Team, led by a Social Equity Liaison, and the Equity Reinvestment Board, led by the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, are to contribute to a plan to promote and encourage participation in the industry by people from disproportionately impacted communities.

Regulating Participation in the Market

The Act empowers the Board to establish a robust and diverse marketplace with many entry opportunities for market participants. Up to 450 cultivation licenses, 60 manufacturing licenses for the production of retail cannabis products, 25 wholesaler licenses and 400 licenses for retail stores can be granted. These numbers do not include the four permits granted to pharmaceutical processors (entities that cultivate and dispense medical cannabis) under the Commonwealth’s medical program.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam
Image: Craig, Flickr

In addition to the sheer number of licenses that can be granted, the Act devises a unique approach to addressing concerns of a concentration of licenses in too few hands and a market dominated by large multi-state operators. At the same time, it sets up a mechanism to capitalize two cannabis equity funds intended to benefit persons, families and communities historically and disproportionately targeted and affected by drug enforcement through grants, scholarships and loans. Over-concentration and market dominance concerns are addressed by limiting a person to holding an equity interest in no more than one cultivation, manufacturing, wholesaler, retail or testing facility license. This eliminates the ability of companies to be vertically integrated from cultivation through retail sales operations. However, there are two exceptions to the impediment to vertical integration. First, the Board is authorized to develop regulations that permit small businesses to be vertically integrated and ensure that all licensees have an equal and meaningful opportunity to participate in the market. These regulations will be closely scrutinized by those looking to enter Virginia’s regulated market once they are proposed. Qualifying small businesses could benefit substantially from the economic advantages commensurate with being vertically integrated, assuming they have the access to the capital needed to achieve integration and operate successfully. The second exception allows permitted pharmaceutical processors and registered industrial hemp processors to hold multiple licenses if they pay $1 million to the Board (to be allocated to job training, the equity loan fund or equity reinvestment fund) and submit a diversity, equity and inclusion plan for approval and implementation. Consequently, Virginia is attempting to fund, in part, its ambitious social equity programs by monetizing the opportunity for these processors to participate vertically in the adult use market.

Those devilish details of how this market will function, and how onerous compliance obligations will be, will emanate from those yet to be proposed regulations covering many areas and subject matters including:

  • Outdoor cultivation by cultivation facilities;
  • Security requirements;
  • Sanitary standards;
  • A testing program;
  • An application process;
  • Packaging and labeling requirements;
  • Maximum THC level for retail products (not to exceed 5 mg per serving or 50 mg per package for edible products);
  • Record retention requirements;
  • Criteria for evaluating social equity license applications based on certain ownership standards;
  • Licensing preferences for qualified social equity applicants;
  • Low interest loan program standards;
  • Personal cultivation guidelines; and
  • Outdoor advertising restrictions.

Needless to say, the CCA Board has a lot work ahead in order to issue reasonable regulations that will carry out the dictates in the Act and encourage the development of a well-functioning marketplace delivering meaningful social equity opportunities.

Much work needs to be done before July 1, 2024 to prepare for its debut The application process for the five categories of licenses will be developed by the Board, along with application fee and annual license fee amounts. It is not clear how substantial these fees will be and what effect they will have on the ability of less-well-capitalized companies and individuals to compete in the market. The Act dictates that licenses are deemed nontransferable from person to person or location to location. However, it is not entirely clear that changes in ownership will be prohibited. The Act contemplates that changes in ownership will be permitted, at least as to retail store licensees, through a reapplication process. Perhaps the forthcoming regulations will add clarity to the transferability of licenses and address the use of management services agreements as a potential workaround to the limitations in license ownership.

Certain requirements particular to certain license-types are worthy of highlighting. For example, there are two classes of cultivation licenses. Class A cultivation licenses authorize cultivation of a certain number of plants within a certain number of square feet to be determined by the Board. Interestingly, Class B licenses are for cultivation of low total THC (no more than 1%) cannabis. Several requirements specific to retail stores are noteworthy. Stores cannot exceed 1,500 square feet, or make sales through drive-through windows, internet-based sales platforms or delivery services. Prohibitive local ordinances are not allowed; however, localities can petition for a referendum on the question of whether retail stores should be prohibited in their locality. Retail stores are allowed to sell immature plants and seek to support the home growers, an allowance that is fairly unique among the existing legal adult-use states.

Taxing Cannabis Sales

Given the perception that regulated cannabis markets add to state coffers, it is little surprise that Virginia’s retail market will be subject to significant taxes. The taxing system is straightforward and not complicated by a taxing regime related to product weight or THC content, for example. There is a 21% tax on retail sales by stores, in addition to the current sales tax rates. In addition, localities may, by ordinance, impose a 3% tax on retail sales. These taxes could result in a retail tax of approximately 30%.

Changes to Criminal Laws

Changes to the criminality of cannabis will have long lasting effects for many Virginians. These changes include:

  • Fines of no more than $25 and participation in substance abuse or education programs for illegal purchases by juveniles or persons 18 years or older;
  • Prohibition of warrantless searches based solely on the odor of cannabis;
  • Automatic expungement of records for certain former cannabis offenses;
  • Prohibition of “gifting” cannabis in exchange for nominal purchases of some other product;
  • Prohibition of consuming cannabis or cannabis products in public; and
  • Prohibition of consumption by drivers or passengers in a motor vehicle being driven, with consumption being presumed if cannabis in the passenger compartment is not in the original sealed manufacturer’s container.

These changes, and others, represent a balancing of public safety with lessons learned from the effects of the war on drugs.

Potpourri

The Act contains myriad other noteworthy provisions. For example, the Board must develop, implement and maintain a seed-to-sale tracking system for the industry. Plants being grown at home must be tagged with the grower’s name and driver’s license or state ID number. Licenses may be stripped from businesses that do not remain neutral while workers attempt to unionize. However, this provision will not become effective unless approved again by the legislature next year. Banks and credit unions are protected under state law for providing financial services to licensed businesses or for investing any income derived from the providing of such services. This provision is intended to address the lack of access to banking for cannabis businesses due to the federal illegality of cannabis by removing any perceived state law barriers for banks and credit unions to do business with licensed cannabis companies.

The adult use cannabis industry is coming to Virginia. Much work needs to be done before July 1, 2024 to prepare for its debut. However, the criminal justice reforms and commitment to repairing harms related to past prohibition of cannabis are soon to be a present-day reality. Virginia is the first Southern state to take the path towards legal adult use cannabis. It is unlikely to be the last.

VLS In the News

Every year, the RJ4All International Institute celebrates International Restorative Justice Week. This year, RJ Week took place from November 21 – 28, and the National Center on Restorative Justice (NCORJ) marked the occasion by unveiling their restorative justice art gallery, titled “Reimagining Justice.”

The NCORJ issued a call to artists and restorative justice advocates to creatively represent a restorative approach to justice-making, or to advance public understanding and implementation of restorative justice through art. Submissions were…

September 17, 2021

Vermont Law School students are changemakers. Mission Scholarships offered by VLS support students who want to use the power of the law to make a difference in their communities and the world. Mission Scholarships are available to students pursuing careers in public service/social justice, and environmental stewardship—the core values of the Vermont Law School education.

Meet Current Mission Scholar: Josie Watson JD’23

September 15, 2021

Katie Merrill is the director of admissions at Vermont Law School, a powerhouse of admissions knowledge, and a former grassroots organizer. She saw how the status quo was no longer acceptable and personally saw the difference a person can make in the world. This is her ninth year serving VLS by finding top-notch leaders to join our community.

Here are her top five tips for applying to law school:

5. Research: Before jumping into the admissions process with any law school it is important to get to know what that school stands for and if it aligns…

September 3, 2021

August 29, 2011, was supposed to be the first day of classes at Vermont Law School. Instead, catastrophe struck. South Royalton was battered by Hurricane Irene, which dumped around ten inches of rain on the area in less than 24 hours. The White River overflowed its banks. The power was out. Oakes Parking Lot was underwater. Classes were canceled, and students were encouraged to aid in recovery efforts.

VLS students rose to the occasion. They mucked out the basements of their new neighbors. They delivered food and supplies to those in need. The…

Dr. Lindsey Pointer, the Associate Director of the National Center on Restorative Justice and the Center for Justice Reform, is serving as an editor for the North American volume of the International Encyclopedia of Restorative Justice. This is an international collaboration that aims to document the growth of restorative justice around the world. Please see the call for papers below and consider submitting a proposal.

The editorial team for the North American Volume of the International Encyclopedia of Restorative Justice seeks proposals for short chapters (1500–2500 words) that…

This poem was submitted by Emma Hirst MARJ’21 to a restorative justice art contest held by Amherst College in spring 2021.

By Justin Campfield

When Vermont Law School launched the Center or Justice Reform and debuted the nation’s first Master of Arts in Restorative Justice (MARJ) degree in 2018, it could not have foreseen the series of tragic events, most prominent among them the death of George Floyd, that have since thrust social justice and criminal justice…

As COVID-19 swept across the U.S., it dramatically altered the work lives of three Vermont Law School Alumni.

By Corin Hirsch

In the mid-afternoon of Friday, March 13, 2020, lobbyist Rebecca Ramos JD/MSEL’97 was in the cafeteria of the Vermont State House, one of her usual haunts during 12-plus hour days when the legislature is in session.

Rebecca Ramos JD/MSEL’97

Photo by Jay Ericson

She was there when she learned Governor Phil Scott had declared a state of emergency, putting in place preliminary restrictions—no out-of-state…

When VLS alumna and faculty member Molly Gray JD’14 was sworn in as Vermont’s 82nd lieutenant governor, she became the fourth female in the state’s history to hold the position and the latest in a long line of Swans who have put their legal training to use in elected office.

Earlier this year, Loquitur had the opportunity to talk with Lt. Governor Gray about how her time at VLS prepared her for statewide office, how being lieutenant governor will impact her teaching, and what she hopes to accomplish in her new role, among other topics.

When VLS alumna and faculty member Molly Gray JD’14 was sworn in as Vermont’s 82nd lieutenant governor, she became the fourth female in the state’s history to hold the position and the latest in a long line of Swans who have put their legal training to use in elected office.

Earlier this year, Loquitur had the opportunity to talk with Lt. Governor Gray about how her time at VLS prepared her for statewide office, how being lieutenant governor will impact her teaching, and what she hopes to accomplish in her new role, among other topics.

When Beth McCormack was named interim president and dean by the VLS Board of Trustees on January 23, she became the first woman to hold that position in the school’s history. A VLS faculty member since 2011 and a veteran of multiple administrative roles, including serving as vice dean for students, McCormack has been tasked with leading the school through the development and early-stage implementation of a strategic plan that will better prepare it for the future. Loquitur recently talked with Dean McCormack about her path to becoming the interim president and dean,…

Tamara Toles O’Laughlin JD/MELP’09 commenced her role as North American director for 350.org by orchestrating the largest-ever coordinated series of events on climate: the national climate strikes on September 20, 2019.

If anyone was poised to take on a task of this magnitude, it was Toles O’Laughlin. After graduating from Vermont Law School, Toles O’Laughlin interned for “every environmental organization possible” and then made a name for herself as executive director of the Maryland Environmental Health Network. There, she was the chief architect…

On Friday, May 14, the staff and faculty gathered virtually to recognize several members of the Class of 2020 and 2021 for outstanding service, stewardship, and leadership, and to confer upon them the following awards:

Diversity Award: April Urbanowski and Jameson Davis

In recognition for inspiring multi-cultural awareness in the Vermont Law School community.

April plans to take the Washington DC bar and work in environmental justice policy and advocacy. She’s looking forward to spending more time at the community garden, radio…

Vermont Law School is proud to announce the recipients of the Professional Certificate in Restorative Justice scholarship, as selected by members of the Advisory Board of the National Center on Restorative Justice.

The certificate program is a unique nine-credit program for graduate students, restorative justice…

Delinda Passas MARJ’20 was among the first cohort of online Master of Arts in Restorative Justice (MARJ) students in 2018 and continues to stay an active part of the VLS community through weekly conversations held for current and former restorative justice students. Delinda uses her background in restorative justice to share education on restorative practices and foster relationships within the community to support a restorative justice program…

I am sad to inform the VLS community of Judge Peter Hall’s passing last Thursday.

A giant of the Vermont legal community, Judge Hall was the lone Vermonter on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit…

Rachel Thompson AJD’17 has always been passionate about fighting for what is right and defending those who don’t have a voice. She chose to pursue a law career because she wanted to empower others to understand their rights and defend those whose rights were not being respected.

Rachel Thompson AJD’17

For Thompson, it was an easy choice to jump into the Accelerated Juris Doctor (AJD) program, which fast-tracked her into the field in two years.

Dr. Lindsey Pointer, assistant director of the National Center on Restorative Justice and an assistant professor at VLS, recently published her second book focusing on restorative justice practices.

February 26, 2021

It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of former Dean Maximilian W. Kempner.

Dean Kempner led VLS from 1991 to 1996, and his tenure was marked by transformational growth and progress that continue to benefit our community to this day.

His many accomplishments include greatly expanded opportunities for women on the faculty and staff, the development of multiple study-abroad and international exchange programs, a 400-percent increase in the endowment, the initiation of a campus-wide master plan, launch of the First…

February 26, 2021

The murder of George Floyd by police on May 25, 2020, triggered grief, horror, and outrage throughout America and the entire world. It also triggered a groundswell of reflection, activism, and determination, as everyone asked themselves, “How can I personally contribute to ending racial injustice?”

Shirley Jefferson, Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Diversity and Associate Professor of Law, has devoted her life to fighting racism. As a teen in 1960s Selma, Alabama, she participated in the civil rights movement, integrating her high school,…

February 18, 2021

By Kyla Schweber MARJ’21

Restorative justice differs from the traditional adversarial process, which tends to be a very cookie-cutter form of justice. In the current correctional system, an offender commits a crime, and a judge will administer a punishment most likely based on precedent if that person is found guilty. Unlike the adversarial system, restorative justice is not a universal process, it is specific to the community, situation, and people involved.

“Although the definition of restorative justice continues to evolve,…

February 18, 2021

By Robert Sand Founding Director, Center for Justice Reform

The New Year invites a time for family and reflection, sometimes even reflections on our own childhood. Thinking about childhood often leads to reminders about nursery rhymes and other stories for kids. Looking at those stories and poems now shows how horrible some of them really are, full of fright and harm.

So why not rewrite those old stories and poems through a different lens, a restorative lens? We welcome submissions of your Restorative ReWrites and will publish some of them in…

February 5, 2021

Dear friends of Vermont Law School:

My name is Beth McCormack and late last month I was honored to be named Vermont Law School’s interim president and dean – the first woman to serve in this role. While I’ve met many of you during my decade as a professor and administrator at VLS, I would like to introduce myself to those of you who I haven’t met, as well as share a few thoughts about the future of our school.

I joined the VLS faculty in 2011 and have been the vice dean for students since 2017. In that position I have been responsible for all of our…

January 26, 2021

Dr. Tade Oyewunmi is a Vermont Law School assistant professor and senior research fellow in energy law and policy. His teaching and research focuses on policies and regulation of natural gas and electricity markets, international energy and resources law, decarbonization and energy transitions, energy justice, and regulation of network-based industries.

Recently Dr. Tade Oyewunmi gave us some insight into his newest book project, …

Vermont Law School recently caught up with Amber Widmayer LLM’17 to discuss why she chose VLS in general, and the LLM in Energy Law specifically, and what she is up to now.

January 14, 2021

While a growing number of Master of Arts in Restorative Justice (MARJ) students are now official graduates and have gone on to new jobs, experiences, and even time zones, we hope that ALL continue to feel connected to the restorative justice community here at Vermont Law School. It is so exciting to see the variety of paths MARJ alums have taken, and this alumna spotlight is one way we hope to stay tuned in to those journeys.

Emily Severson was among the first…

Karla Barron MARJ’21

Vermont Law School students Karla Barron MARJ’21 and Caleb Sabatka MARJ’21 recently combined forces to submit public comments to the Department of Labor opposing a controversial executive order signed by President Trump.

Caleb Sabatka MARJ’21

Issued on Sept. 22, 2020, Executive Order 13950 purports to combat “race or sex stereotyping in the Federal workforce or in the Uniformed Services” by preventing federal contractors from conducting workplace training that the order claims teaches, among other things, “that men and members of certain…

December 18, 2020

As the year comes to a close, we reflect on all that 2020 was. It might not have been the year we expected, but as a community, we got through it. In anticipation of the New Year, here are the most popular blogs of 2020 based on readership. Enjoy!

1) David Versus Goliath

Kyle Tisdel JD’05 and his colleague took a seat at the large, oak counsel’s table in the federal courtroom in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The cavernous chamber made the two public interest attorneys feel…

December 8, 2020

As the semester draws to a close, the 2L students at VLS have completed a major rite of passage.

Lauren Wustenberg JD’21

Appellate arguments are a chance for students to put into practice everything they’ve learned in the previous semesters. In the required Appellate Advocacy course, students spend the semester researching a case that is currently pending before the United States Supreme Court. They are assigned to act as the lawyer for one side and spend the semester researching their case and participating in practice moots before the Moot Court…

See also  marijuana cornbread seeds

December 4, 2020

Vermont Law School recently caught up with Matthew Rubin MERL’18 to discuss why he chose VLS in general, and the MERLS program specifically, and what he is up to now.

December 2, 2020

Vermont Law School students are changemakers. Mission Scholarships offered by VLS support students who want to use the power of the law to make a difference in their communities and the world. Mission Scholarships are available to students pursuing careers in public service/social justice, and environmental stewardship—the core values of the Vermont Law School education.

Meet Current Mission Scholar: Nathan Carrier JD’21

November 25, 2020

This year has been a challenge, to say the least, and finding gratitude may not have been the easiest task to accomplish. It seems like everything about 2020 redefined the term “non-conventional,” so as we crash into the holiday season, it is only appropriate that we consider non-conventional things to be thankful for.

Being thankful for friends, family, and healthy food is always good for the soul. But as members of the Vermont Law School community, we know that laws are worthy of our gratitude as well. Laws regulate and shape the human experience ranging…

Professor Hillary Hoffmann’s areas of expertise include federal Indian law, natural resources law, and public lands law. Her recent scholarship analyzes the systems governing natural resource uses on federal and tribal lands and explores the conflicts that arise from Constitutional and other systemic challenges facing indigenous nations in the United States. She has also lectured and published extensively on the topics of energy development, mining, livestock grazing, and other…

November 18, 2020

Last month, the National Center on Restorative Justice (NCRJ) at Vermont Law School launched “Reimagining Justice,” a restorative justice art contest. The contest encouraged the restorative justice and art communities to consider a very important question: How can we use the power of images to communicate the concept of restorative justice and the greater philosophical shift at work to a wider audience?

In celebration of International Restorative Justice Week, a gallery of contest submissions and…

November 16, 2020

By Karla Barron MARJ’21

Everyone is feeling something. The uplifted weight of the false and negative rhetoric that now lies in defeat. It is a sigh of slight relief and air of hope.

I, like so many others, did my due diligence and voted because it was the most critical election I can remember during my lifetime. The culmination of burdens, injustices, struggles, fears and so much more that many of us have been carrying, gave rise to this moment.

I didn’t mind the media following the results. I wasn’t ready to relive the emotions of…

November 5, 2020

By Meg York, Staff Attorney and Assistant Professor

Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court has caused many Vermonters to fear that their rights are in jeopardy. The LGBTQ community is particularly vulnerable. Until very recently, LGBTQ rights were not even rights. Marriage equality, though secured earlier in Vermont, was recognized nationally in the 5-4 United States v. Windsor decision in 2013 and mandated nationally in the 5-4 Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015. However, earlier this year, Justices Thomas and…

October 26, 2020

October 23, 2020

By Austin Scarborough JD’21

Every year, the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law hosts a symposium. The topics vary and are based on different issues of environmental law. This year, the symposium was based on decarbonization and titled, “Don’t Be a Fossil Fool: Transitioning To, Living In, and Protecting A Decarbonized World.”

There were four panels that focused on clean energy justice, climate goals, nature-based solutions, and grid security. Each panel addressed a different aspect of the importance of decarbonization. Panel members were…

September 25, 2020

On Friday, September 18, the world lost a true hero of the legal profession. Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s lifetime of achievements and trailblazing career inspired people the world over to fight for fairness, justice and equality.

Vermont Law School was among the first higher education institutions to award Justice Ginsburg an honorary degree, which we bestowed on her at the 1984 Commencement. As the former director of the ACLU and a current D.C. Court of Appeals Judge, she had embodied the school’s motto to great effect: using…

September 14, 2020

Since her junior year of high school, Lauren Mabie AJD’21 knew she was destined to be a justice-driven lawyer. She started her journey to Vermont Law School at American University where she attended for her undergraduate. While enrolled there, she joined the Army ROTC program. This took her for a short detour from law – she was assigned to an Air Defense Artillery unit in Germany for four years. During this time, she never lost sight of her end goal of studying law.

A close community of justice-driven students, staff, and faculty is what…

California-based Monica Miller JD’12 fights for the separation of church and state. As legal director and senior counsel for the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center and executive director of the Humanist Legal Society, Miller’s work is often around issues that arise in public schools. When a letter isn’t enough, Miller has filed lawsuits in federal court. She won a case against a South Carolina public elementary school for holding end-of-year ceremonies in a Christian chapel and a case against a Mississippi high school for inviting a…

Even in his childhood, Michael Crouse JD’21 had values rooted in environmental stewardship. That is why environmental law was a natural choice for him when he decided to pursue a law degree. When he began his research for a Juris Doctor program, he closed in on Vermont Law School because of its strong ranking in U.S. News & World Report.

That ranking caught his eye, but what took his interest to the next level was VLS’s Institute for…

We’re thrilled to introduce the students who joined us (remotely) from law schools around the country as Summer Honors Interns at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems.

Clockwise, from top left:

Professor Joe Brennan is a Professor of Law and Director of the Academic Success Program. Professor Brennan began his legal career as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Edwin H. Stern, P.J.A.D, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division. Following his clerkship, Professor Brennan was a civil defense litigation attorney in New Jersey. His practice focused on product liability, premises liability, personal injury, complex litigation, employment law, breach of contract, fraud,…

By Rebecca Beyer

Vermont Law School student Natacha Tremblay JD’19 was finishing up her last day in the South Royalton Legal Clinic (SRLC) when she got some good news: one of her clients, a man who had immigrated to the United States from Vietnam when he was a child, was no longer at risk of deportation.

Tremblay and Assistant Professor Erin Jacobsen JD’11, the lead attorney for the clinic’s Vermont Immigration Assistance (VIA) Project, had…

As a 30-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Richard (Rick) Johnson JD’97 has always been drawn to challenges and eager to pioneer solutions. He fought in Desert Storm and deployed to more than 40 countries, including Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia. He served as commander of a C-130 squadron, inspector general for the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and chief of staff for the Marine Corps Reserves. While in the Reserves, he earned his law degree from VLS.

Now retired from the Marine Corps, Johnson’s appetite for problem-solving has led him to tackle the…

An Energy Clinic team investigates a solar project site

The Energy Clinic is preparing to file the 45-day notice to be followed by the application for a Certificate of Public Good for a 150 kW net metered community solar array on Putting Down Roots Farm in Royalton, Vermont. In addition to the local farm, the clinic has partnered with local nonprofit BALE and Catamount Solar to plan and develop this unique community solar project. The…

Q&A with Derek Miodownik MARJ’21, Community and Restorative Justice Executive for the Vermont Department of Corrections, and online student in the Masters of Restorative Justice Program at VLS. (Note: Derek discussed his experience with us in the fall of 2019.)

How have you seen restorative justice change in the 24 years you’ve been involved in the field?

A member of Tuscarora, one of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee/Iroquois Confederacy, Grant Jonathan MSEL’97 saw firsthand how environmental degradation and a changing climate impacted the land and Indian Nations. “I wanted to contribute and do some- thing about it,” he said. Jonathan attended law school at the University of Buffalo and then was awarded a First Nations Environmental Law Fellowship at Vermont Law School. Since then, Jonathan has done nothing but tribal environmental work.

For the past 18 years, Jonathan has…

By David Goodman

Kyle Tisdel takes on big oil and gas and wins!

Kyle Tisdel JD’05 and his colleague took a seat at the large, oak counsel’s table in the federal courtroom in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The cavernous chamber made the two public interest attorneys feel small. So did the scene at the table for opposing counsel, where 15 attorneys jockeyed for space. They included lawyers from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Interior and a clutch of attorneys representing the oil and gas industry who had flown in from New York and Washington, D.C.

The Energy Clinic has been working with low to moderate-income (LMI) communities in New Hampshire to help their members develop community solar arrays to both reduce their carbon footprint and their energy or lot rent costs.

Anyone will tell you that law school is not easy. From cold calling to appellate, journals to bar prep, it’s a very busy three years. Add on top of that a Masters degree in Energy Regulation and Law, work as a Research Associate in the IEE, Advanced Clinician work in the Energy Clinic, member of the Energy Law Society AND participation in Moot Court and it’s amazing JD/MERL 2021 Ellie Hardwick found time to chat with us! We are delighted she did, because talking to Ellie is always a joy (especially when she brings her sweet pup, Tallulah, with her!)

Congratulations to the Class of 2020 award winners!

On June 26, the VLS community gathered virtually to recognize several of our graduating students for outstanding service, stewardship and leadership, and to confer upon them the following awards:

National Association of Women Lawyers Award: Elyssa Willadsen

Presented to the outstanding law student in the graduating class of participating ABA-approved law schools who demonstrated academic achievement, exhibited motivation, tenacity and enthusiasm; contributed to the advancement of women in…

by Claire Andrews, Program Coordinator, U.S.-Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law

Hiking in Vermont is the gift that keeps on giving, no matter the season. Whether the branches are frosted with snow like diamonds, or burgeoning with the kaleidoscope of fall colors, each trail is a unique and pleasant surprise that offers a different adventure from season to season

Each season in South Royalton brings its own delights, from blazing fall colors to cross-country skiing. But summertime’s charms are in a league of their own. Here are some fun ways to unwind and enjoy the season while still practicing social distancing.

The horrific killing of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers, caught on a bystander’s cell phone, has shocked the world and galvanized the largest movement in support of Black Lives Matter and an end to systemic institutional racism since the civil rights marches of the 60’s. I was involved in some of those 60’s protests but this time it’s different. Now there is a much greater percentage of white and young people participating in the protests, as well as a number of police chiefs and cops in many cities taking a knee in solidarity…

Assistant Professor Emily Spiegel recently teamed up with Food and Agriculture Clinic student Cydnee Bence JD’20 to create an innovative guide to intellectual property for plant breeders. Titled A Breed Apart, the resource outlines “defensive publication,” a way plant breeders can keep innovations in the public domain. The tool will help breeders support biodiversity and push back against alarming trends in big ag: the consolidation of seed companies, prohibitive patents on genetic resources, and crop diversity loss.

Over the course of a semester…

The Food and Agriculture Law Society stands with Black communities, organizers, and protesters. FALS stands in support and solidarity of Black lives because Black Lives Matter.

We see that the Black community is grieving. We are grieving with you. We are appalled by the inexcusable murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many more.

The US food system was founded on stolen land and cultivated by the hands of enslaved people. American agriculture was built on indigenous knowledge and the labor of marginalized people. Our current…

Vermont Law Review stands in solidarity with the black community. We recognize the violence and injustices that our current systems perpetuate. VLR supports and encourages those who speak out and protest against racism. As future lawyers, we have the duty to act and stand against racial injustices. We encourage all to educate themselves on how to be a part of the solution. We each have a duty to support those most affected, those protesting, and those who cannot protest for their own safety. Our…

On September 27, 1966, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said: “Certain conditions continue to exist in our society, which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the promise of freedom and justice have not been met.” More than fifty years later, America still refuses to hear Black Americans’ voices. The senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are no exception.…

When it comes to climate change, Maeve McDermott is taking a global approach, not only to the problem, but to her own education. A native of Midlothian, Illinois (and a diehard White Sox fan), she earned a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with majors in biochemistry and Spanish literature, as well as minors in Global Health and Environmental Studies. She has completed four semesters through the Accelerated Juris Doctor program at Vermont Law School. In the fall of 2019, she arrived at the storied University of Cambridge to pursue an MPhil in…

Like so many across America, I am deeply upset by the racial injustice illustrated most recently by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as well as the continuing incidents of police brutality directed at people of color.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionately devastating impact on the health and economic status of our communities of color. It has also confirmed what we already knew — that deep racial disparities continue to exist in our nation. We stand with our students, faculty, staff and alumni in demanding an end to this…

In 2019 the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) selected Vermont Law School’s Environmental Advocacy Clinic as legal counsel in its high impact litigation and policy advocacy, ushering in a wave of change on campus. The clinic (formerly the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic) was renamed, its students began tackling new environmental cases, and NWF’s Legal Advocacy Director Jim Murphy arrived to direct the clinic and join the faculty.

by Jerry Thomas JD/MELP’21

Jerry Thomas (right) with Cameron Humphrey of Yale’s School of Forestry & the Environment in Alabama

As a member of Vermont Law School’s new Environmental Justice (EJ) Clinic, I recently had the opportunity to visit and work with members of the Ashurst Bar/Smith community in Tallassee, Alabama, who are being subjected to the negative effects of living near a large solid waste landfill.

Time and again, Tallassee residents have been let down by their government. The Ashurst Bar/Smith…

Eva Moss (left) sells her flowers at a farmers market in North Carolina.

After graduating from Vermont Law School’s Master of Food and Agriculture Law and Policy program, Eva Moss moved to North Carolina and founded Heartstrong Farm. In addition to running the no-till flower-growing business, she now …

With workplaces upended during COVID-19, farms are in uncharted territory. The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems created a guide to employment law for Vermont farmers and farm workers covering some of the most pressing questions raised by the novel coronavirus: from paid sick leave, to unemployment insurance, to rules for small businesses. View or download the latest version of…

In mid-March, Vermont Law School (VLS) made the tough-but-necessary decision to temporarily close campus, moving classes online for the rest of the semester. While no cases of the novel coronavirus had yet been detected in the South Royalton area, the school’s COVID-19 Task Force was meeting daily and closely following guidance from public health officials. “We made this decision after much deliberation and discussion, guided at all times by the…

Scarcity Training at Vermont Law School

Growing up and living with scarcity impacts decision-making and judgment. On Friday, March 6, 2020, 50 people working in court diversion and pretrial services together with VLS students, faculty, and staff came together to learn how scarcity affects people we encounter in our current or future work. The VLS Center for Justice Reform hosted the training and co-sponsored it along with the Vermont Attorney General’s…

Nico Lustig JD/MFALP’19 has a professional mission: to use the law to help communities, entrepreneurs, and workers create cooperatives, benefit corporations, and social enterprises that strengthen connection and cultivate human and environmental health. A student in the JD/ Master of Food and Agriculture Law and Policy (MFALP) joint degree program, Nico already had years of experience working on local food issues before she came to VLS.

She worked as the Food Business Development Specialist at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation in…

September 20, 2018

The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) received a $1.5 million award from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) as part of a cooperative agreement to continue their partnership. This funding will be used for a variety of major projects and initiatives addressing food and agricultural law. Specifically, the funding will support a new partnership with the Extension Service’s Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety at the University of Vermont, to assist farmers and food producers in…

In July, Sophia Kruszewski joined the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems to lead the Food and Agriculture Clinic. Sophia returns to VLS after spending the last five years immersed in federal food and agriculture policy with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). At NSAC, Sophia focused on the Food Safety Modernization Act and its implementing regulations, as well as the Farm…

Dear Vermont Law School Community:

A month ago, I wrote to you about the financial challenges our School was facing, and how we are working to address them. Today, I can confidently say that Vermont Law School has a stronger, more sustainable financial model that positions the school to thrive in coming years.

This has not been an easy process, but with the thoughtful support of the Board of Trustees, we have been implementing changes to our instructional budget. This programmatic…

Dear Vermont Law School Community:

Less than a year ago, I arrived in South Royalton to serve Vermont Law School as the new President and Dean. I have quickly learned what a close and conscientious community this truly is, and also just how big some of the challenges are that we face together.

It is no secret that VLS, like many institutions of higher education (and particularly law schools), has been facing considerable financial pressures for most of this decade.

VLS is a small, independent institution. These very characteristics help…

Thomas Mitchell delivered the 14th Annual Norman Williams Distinguished Lecture in Land Use Planning and the Law on April 12 at VLS. Mitchell, who serves as Interim Dean and Professor at Texas A&M University School of Law, discussed “How to Address Racial Disparity in Property Ownership.” He addressed how legislative reform of property laws that negatively impact disadvantaged property owners in disproportionate ways can be achieved, although there…

VLS’s Native American Law Students Association (NALSA) Moot Court Team of Kira Kelley ’18 and Samantha Doyle ’19 represented VLS at the 26th Annual National NALSA Moot Court Competition at Arizona State University Law School, March 3–4. The competition was held at the new ASU Beus Center for Law and Society in Phoenix. Professor Hillary Hoffmann coached the team. This year’s problem was highly complex, involving a choice of law question, arguments about federal v. state v. tribal jurisdiction, and the common law doctrines governing tribal…

VLS’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) is part of a collaborative group that launched a national Healthy Food Policy Project (HFPP) in the fall of 2017. The project identi es and elevates local laws and policies that promote access to healthy food and contribute to strong local economies, improved environmental quality, and health equity. The project, which focuses on socially disadvantaged and marginalized groups, is available at…

In 1978, a visionary and teacher, Professor Richard Brooks, joined Vermont Law School in founding the Environmental Law Center, an intellectual center of excellence and professional training that would support the environmental movement. By building ideas and training leaders, the center helped to transform growing public understanding of the importance of protecting public health and the environment into public policy, law, and action.

It is my distinct honor and pleasure to announce that Elizabeth C. MacDonough has accepted our invitation to serve as the 2018 Commencement Speaker. As the Parliamentarian of the U.S. Senate, she is the official advisor to the Senate on the interpretation of the standing rules and parliamentary procedure. She is the first woman to hold this role. Ms. MacDonough is a VLS alumna graduating with a J.D. in 1998. She will address the law school community at the Commencement ceremony on the South Royalton Green on Saturday, May 12 which starts…

The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School, Farmers Market Coalition, and Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont have launched an online Farmers Market Legal Toolkit, a free resource to support building resilient and accessible markets throughout the U.S. The toolkit, created with support from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, is available at farmersmarketlegaltoolkit.org.

December 20, 2017

Dear VLS Community,

With a heavy heart I share with you that on Monday, Dec. 18, our friend, colleague, teacher, and alumnus Professor Alexander Banks JD’87 passed away after…

[updated Jan. 2, 2018]

With great sadness we announce the death of Gil Kujovich, Professor Emeritus of Vermont Law School. Professor Kujovich, 71, passed away after a long illness in the company of his loving wife, Joni Chenoweth, and family on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in Boston, Mass.

“Our hearts are heavy as we share the news of the passing of Professor Gil Kujovich,” said President and Dean Thomas McHenry. “He and Joni are friends and mentors to many Vermont Law School alumni, faculty, and staff. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kujovich family.”

Nov. 10, 2017 By Laurie Izutsu Earlier this week, on a November day striking in its darkness and its warmth, I caught up with Chris Whidden JD’18, president of the Veterans Law Student Association (VLSA) at Vermont Law School, and an Army veteran. I first met Chris back in August. He had come directly from a medical procedure at the VA, under the fog of anesthesia, so as not to miss our scheduled appointment. In June, Chris had completed an independent research project designed to gather empirical evidence to support a Veterans Treatment Court in Vermont. In a comprehensive report just shy…

September 7, 2017

Dear VLS Community,

This week the Trump administration announced plans to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that, since 2012, has enabled more than three quarters of a million undocumented immigrants to legally live, work and study in the United States without fear of deportation. Brought to the U.S. as children, DACA recipients are often described as Dreamers. They have jobs, attend college, and pay taxes.

Vermont Law School stands with the Dreamers firmly and unequivocally against any policy change that would…

By Sarah M. Reiter, Adjunct Faculty, Vermont Law School; Aaron Strong, Assistant Professor of Marine Policy, School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono

Along the rocky shores of Maine, in that dynamic place where land meets sea and the tides ebb and flow, no one knows who owns the seaweed. The legal status of rockweed—a growing industry in Maine—is important to the scientists that study its ecological benefits, the harvesters that collect it for commercial purposes, the state agency concerned with its sustainable management as a marine resource, and…

​​​By Sarah Reiter, Adjunct Faculty, Vermont Law School

T​he state of California continues to act as a pioneer when it comes to American climate change initiatives, in both the mitigation and adaptation spheres. In defiant opposition to President Trump’s stance on climate change, the California Air Resources Board recently voted to move ahead with strict emissions regulations, and the California Ocean Protection Council adopted a resolution to use a recent science report to update the State’s Sea Level Rise Guidance policies.

Nevertheless, the Coastal…

By Pat Parenteau, Senior Counsel and Professor, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic​​

June 1, 2017,​ will go down as the day the United States turned its back on the international community and relinquished its leadership on the greatest environmental threat the world has ever faced. President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris climate agreement—signed by all of the nations of the world except Syria and Nicaragua—was, in the words of distinguis​​hed career diplomat R. Nicholas Burns, a “colossal foreign policy mistake.”

But there’s a catch.…

By Sarah Reiter, Adjunct Faculty, Vermont Law School; Megan Mach, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University

Despite legal protection, species and habitats found in California’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) remain exposed to harmful ocean, land and climate-based stressors. In this study, published in Ocean and Coastal Management, we used a mapping approach to assess the cumulative impacts of various stressors on the network. Not surprisingly, we…

As a candidate, Donald Trump famously dismissed climate change as a “hoax” invented by the Chinese to gain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace. As President, Trump put Scott Pruitt, who disputes the scientific consensus that carbon dioxide is the primary driver of climate change, in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In his first budget,​ Trump proposed to eliminate many climate change programs outright, and cut others sharply. The EPA, which focuses on significant climate science, would see its budget cut by 31%, reducing it to levels…

​By Sarah M. Reiter, Associate Director, Career Serv​ices and Adjunct Faculty

Our students will be traveling far and wide this summer to experience law for the community and the world. We’d like to wish fair winds and following seas to Jaime Neary, Nicole Webbert, Vincent Puleo, Kaelyn Barbour, Amy Stevens, Simonne Valcour, and Rachael Swiatek as the embark on ocean-based work for their 1L summer. Spanning the waters of the continental U.S., our students will be tackling the major issues facing our ocean.

Splitting her time between…

Marijuana reform is at a unique crossroad as policies on the recreational drug vary from state to state. On February 21, 2017, Vermont Law School professor Robert Sand offered his perspective on a fundamentally different approach to the current punitive model.

“It’s become a device that marginalizes, and stigmatizes, and penalizes,” Sand said of marijuana.”As a result, we’ve created more harm by how we’ve responded to marijuana, than has ever been created by the plant itself. And that just…

February 17, 2017

By Robert Sand, Assistant Professor of Law

“I was very pleased to see that H.55, a bill that guarantees public defense services to all needy people who were 25 or under at the time of their alleged offense, passed the Vermont House yesterday. This bill rejects the notion that some criminal charges are not “serious” for young people. All charges are serious and can have devastating direct and collateral consequences. This bill is an important advancement in justice. Thank you to the Committee Chair Rep. Maxine Grad and the entire House…

November 16, 2016

Raising Sierra Leone

Born in Sierra Leone, educated in Norway and the U.S., Joseph Kaifala created the nonprofit Jeneba Project to rebuild schools and libraries in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea—an impoverished region whose educational infrastructure was destroyed with so much else during years of brutal conflict and civil war. Here, Kaifala is shown meeting with Bishop George Biguzzi at the dedication of the newly-constructed secondary school in Masoila, Sierra Leone. The Jeneba Project also promotes literacy and raises funds for scholastic supplies…

November 16​​​​​, 2016
A former U.S. Army helicopter pilot, VLS alum Carina Roselli sees a bigger fight environmental preservation.​

November 14​, 2016
International wildlife policy has a friend in VLS alum Leigh Henry, who supports the prosecution and sentencing of high-profile illegal traffickers.​​​​​​​

November 6, 2016
As Environmental Protection Specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration, VLS alum Dan Williams has become a climate changer.​​

September 30, 2016
On this increasingly small and fragile planet, China is the single biggest Environmental Stage. Enter Vermont Law School.

September 18​, 2016
There’s no mountain eco-system high enough that VLS Alum Warnock MSEL’99 won’t fight protect as the Conservation Director for Hell’s Canyon Preservation Council.​​

September 16, 2016
VLS alum Reggie Hall JD/MSEL’02 helps make it possible for local conservation groups to purchase land by providing financial and technical assistance.​​

September 14, 2016
VLS alum Allison Buckley’s MELP’10 role as Natural Resources Planner has given her the chance to help conserve thousands of acres of land.​​

September 2, 2016
From snowshoeing in Vermont to negotiating a land purchase Lehman Brothers, VLS Alum Kate Brown JD/MSL’16, has had a deep connection with nature.

August 23, 2016
Thanks to Vermont Law, VLS alum Tom Mitchiner ’15 was able to give meaning to his passion for outdoor sports.

August 21, 2016
VLS Alum Kelly Nokes ’15 came to Vermont Law not only because of her passion for protecting the environment, but to satisfy her inner adrenaline junkie as well.

August 19, 2016
From Oregon to South Royalton, Professor Rebe​cca Purdom has balanced her expertise in law with a love for the ​outdoors.​​​​​​

August 17, 2016
An aspiring bass fishing pro, VLS Alum David Scott ’15 came to South Royalton with the mission of protecting that waterways and what he loves.​​​​​

In May 2011, an extraordinary range of experts and advocates gathered at Georgetown University to discuss the future of food. Journalist Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and a prominent critic of industrial agriculture, gave the opening remarks. Among other panelists and speakers that day were CEOs of organic food companies; the senior technology officer from General Mills; the president of The Land Institute; FDA’s deputy commissioner for food; the outreach director for the National Farm to School Network; a vice-president from the Grocery Manufacturers Association; food writers…

From the same starting point, it’s a five-minute drive north beyond the river to the open-air cow barn and the neat rows of organic vegetables at Luna Bleu Farm, where Suzanne Long and Tim Sanford work a small, diversified farm that includes grass-fed beef and free-range chickens.

The couple sells produce and meat to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shareholders, local restaurants, and the South Royalton Cooperative Market, among other places, and at the Norwich Farmers Market, where Long has been on the board of directors for close to a decade. After a discouragingly wet…