Ag Agency To Impose Tighter Controls On Farms In Missisquoi Watershed

Sep 7, 2015

The state Agency of Agriculture is moving to require more stringent controls to cut pollution from farms in the Missisquoi Basin of Lake Champlain.

The shallow bay in the northwest part of the lake is often choked with algae blooms in the summer. Those blooms are fueled in part by phosphorus run-off from farms.

Now the agency says it will hold a hearing in October on its plan to mandate what are called "best management practices" for farms in the Missisquoi Basin. These practices include buffers to prevent runoff from reaching streams, cover crops and fencing livestock out of waterways.

The proposal for best management practices is part of a potential settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Conservation law Foundation.

Chris Kilian, CLF's Vermont director, says the settlement proposal outlines financial and technical assistance for farmers to comply with best management practices, or BMPs.  

"This is a mandatory best practices program that has extensive flexibility and longer timeframes for implementation for farmers who follow through on their commitment to clean water,” he said.

Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross said in a statement that he looks forward to hearing input from farmers.

“We believe the operative terms complement the agency’s on-going, re-focused work in the most troubled areas of the lake and strike a balance to appropriately hold farmers and the agency accountable to do our part to improve water quality,” he said. 

Ross said the best management practices and the potential settlement with CLF line up well with the goals of Act 64, the state's new clean water act.