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Sunsetting of Vermont’s Hemp Program and the Transitioning to the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program 

This is the final year that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (Agency) will administer the Vermont Hemp Program, including the Vermont Hemp Rules and under its USDA approved Domestic Hemp Production Plan.  The Agency approved its first registration to cultivate hemp in 2013.  That first year the Agency registered 174 acres.

In 2014 the Farm Bill passed allowing states to enact pilot programs to “study the growth, cultivation, or marketing” of hemp. The Agency operated a pilot program through December of 2021 to a 1% total THC standard, participated in the federal rulemaking process, and advocated for federal policy changes in support of sensible regulation that allows, and even encourages, states to foster and help grow a sustainable U.S. hemp industry.

By 2019 Vermont saw an explosion of hemp cultivated for the production, development and marketing of hemp products containing cannabinoids.  The Hemp Program, in 2020, enacted regulations to protect consumers that included requirements to test for contaminants and labeling of products. These rules set the stage for compliance with the federal final rule for a U. S. Domestic Hemp Production Program that became effective in March of 2021.  As the sunset on the pilot program got nearer, Vermont prepared and submitted a state plan for USDA approval to employ federal requirements for the 0.3% total THC standard, federal reporting, and incorporating performance based sampling protocols that exempted fiber and grain growers and research institutions. In its final year of administering a hemp program, the Agency registered just over 161 acres with most crops being grown for cannabinoid production on small acreages. Vermont is also beginning to see potential in hemp fiber cultivation and processing. Many of these businesses employ Vermonters to support their operations, and market hemp products across the country.

What’s Next?

Growers that register to cultivate hemp in 2023 will do so with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Many of the same requirements in place in 2022 will remain applicable in 2023 for Vermont growers despite licensure with the federal government.  These include requirements for criminal history reports, reporting crops to the Farm Service Agency, using certified samplers, and meeting the total THC standard of 0.3%. Additionally, hemp cultivation will continue to be regulated under applicable state laws, including the Required Agricultural Practices, and Pesticide Rules.  If you operate a nursery you still need to get a nursery license; or if you manufacture animal dosage form animal health products containing CBD, you will need to register those products.   The Agency does not expect there to be any changes to access to banking and insurance for hemp industry participants.

Hemp growers and processors will still be able to apply for relevant state funds to support their businesses. These include Working Lands Enterprise Funds,  and federal funds from the Agricultural Management Assistance Program offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, or those offered through USDA, Rural Development.  Lands and buildings used in the production of hemp may be enrolled in the Current Use program when the operation meets eligibility requirements. There are no changes in access to these programs based on the transition to USDA administration of hemp production in Vermont.  Opportunities will continue to exist for businesses that grew up under Vermont’s Hemp Program and new businesses that seek for find their place.

Nationally, 2023 is the year Congress will revise or renew agricultural and food policy in what is commonly known as the farm bill.  The hemp industry may see changes in federal policies affecting their businesses, so stay tuned. 

The best place for information on becoming registered with USDA is to go to https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/hemp.  Growers in 2023 will need to create accounts in the Hemp eManagement Platform, https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/hemp/hemp-emanagement-platform.  There is a user guide for producers, USDA Producer HeMP User Guide (pdf), to help you navigate the federal registration system. If producers have questions about hemp production in 2023, contact USDA at, FarmBill.Hemp@usda.gov.

Written by Stephanie Smith, Cannabis Quality Control and Policy Administrator, Hemp Program Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

Grow More Conservation Outreach Workshop

WHEN: Nov 17, 2022 from 9am-4pm, DoubleTree Hilton, 870 Williston Rd, South Burlington

REGISTER for free at: tinyurl.com/VTGrowMore

The “Grow More” Approach: Improving Outreach by Leveraging Social Science
To support sustainable agriculture and conservation outreach efforts, National Wildlife Federation has developed the Grow More training approach. The central goal of this effort is to more directly ground conservation outreach in the best understanding of decision making and behavior change science. By basing outreach strategies in proven methods that influence conservation decisions, and the myriad factors that influence these behaviors, we aim to increase the impact of outreach efforts across the country. Put simply, the aim is to grow more: more cover crops, more conservation practices, a more diverse array of crops and livestock, and the conservation leaders that promote these approaches.
This flexible training approach is targeted at professionals and leading farmers who seek to increase the impact of their conservation outreach. The training is structured as a workshop, where trainees come together to learn from experts and each other. NWF provides some training modules that introduce participants to the basics of behavior change, outreach messaging and framing, and outreach planning tools. These workshops can be crafted to meet the specific needs of trainees, including the resource and geographic context as well as time and venue constraints.
The core training is broken down into easily digestible modules. These training lessons build on each other, beginning with basic social science principles, then progressing through more specific examples, and ending with participants being able to reflect and apply the lessons in their own outreach needs.
Key lessons include: 1) Basics of Behavior Change, 2) Culture and Social Norms, 3) Outreach Messaging, 4) Framing Your Outreach, 5) Outreach Planning and Preparing Speakers, and 6) Planning Evaluation Tools.

For more information visit: growingoutreach.nwf.org/grow-more/

Managing Disease On Hemp Farms

Managing disease of the hemp crop is a key component in bringing a high-quality product to the market! Much of disease management for hemp involves practices that need to be deployed far ahead of the harvest. Practices such as wider plant spacing, variety selection, and crop rotation can all help reducing disease pressure.

While preparation through the aforementioned cultural practices of disease control are often the first line of defense, high disease pressure in your hemp crop may warrant further action. If you begin to see additional pressure from pests, a few immediate measures can be taken including physical removal of infected hemp plant tissues. Depending on severity of disease, individual leaves, branches, or flowers may be removed from the field to reduce the spread and entire plant removal may prove beneficial in some instances. Also, a number of commercially available products registered for hemp could also prove effective for disease control if required, however it is important to follow pesticide labels for rates, frequency, and uses. Click here for a list of EPA approved products and active ingredients registered for use on hemp.

In our region the main diseases of concern include powdery mildew, white mold, gray mold, and various leaf spots. For most accurate identification of these diseases, samples of infected plant tissue can be sent to the UVM Plant Diagnostic Clinic located on the UVM campus. With the proper identification of these diseases, you can then select the appropriate control measures and respond accordingly.

Recent research at UVM Extension is evaluating the efficacy of disease control products in hemp, check out the 2021 On-Farm New England Hemp Pest and Disease Scouting Report. You can read more about UVM Extension NWCS’s most up-to-date research on our Research Results webpage. For more information on our UVM Extension Hemp-related research and outreach please visit our Industrial Hemp webpage. Or, visit our main website (click here) for all things Northwest Crops and Soils!

Fire Safety Pointers for Farmers Processing Hemp

Electrical Safety, Solvent Safety, and Building Safety are All Essential for Fire Safety (Downloadable PDF click here)

Electrical Safety:

• Do not overload electrical sockets, breakers, or circuits.
• Avoid putting cords against walls or across doorways.
• Do not run cords under or over furniture or coverings which can overheat and cause fire.
• Follow installation guidance for equipment as jerry-rigging creates risks.
• Use power strips equipped with overload protection.
• Check that all power strips and extension cords are tested and certified by a laboratory to national recognized standards, such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories).

Note: Drying equipment greatly increases an electricity load with unintended consequences. Listings are highly specified to each piece of equipment being tested. Equipment may be listed individually but plugged in together may create overloading of circuitry with wires shorting out.

Solvent Safety:

• Use proper storage and handling of flammable liquids and explosive gases in the extraction process.
• Solvent products need to be stored in separate places from processing.
• Motors can become sources of ignition to ethanol vapor so must be located away from solvents.
• Make sure buildings are adequately ventilated.
• Use appropriate signage.
• Follow regulations as to amounts of flammable and hazardous materials which can be stored.
• DIY products can add risk.
• Dispose of waste products appropriately.
• Notify your local fire department if using hazardous products, to avoid unintended exposure.

Note: Solvents used in extraction such as butane and ethanol are flammable because they have low ignition temperatures. Solvent extraction can destroy plant waxes and terpenes. Solvent extraction may produce oil which contains chlorophyll or other harmful contaminants.

Building Safety:

• Install smoke detection systems.
• Install fire sprinkler systems.
• Maintain smoke suppression systems.
• Use flame-retardant materials. Plastic coverings are flammable and can create dangerous smoke and heat.
• Make your working areas are accessible to firefighters.
• Keep the building plans handy.
• Outline clear pathways to all exit doors.

Note: Any farm or facility which performs extraction operations with flammable or compressed gases is considered a public building for meeting fire safety codes regardless of the number of employees.

For More Information:

See UVM Extension’s YouTube video of webinar recording Fire Safety on Farm
More information: www.firesafety.vermont.gov and Vermont Fire & Building Safety Codes
Questions? Contact: Benjamin.Moffatt@Vermont.gov and Landon.Wheeler@Vermont.gov

Top 10 Tips for Effective Marketing

All marketing is good. Some marketing is more effective than others.
Maximize Your Marketing Effectiveness (Downloadable PDF click here)

  1. Always include your contact information.
  2. Target your message: who is your audience? Use this information to know when and how to convey it:
    • What features/benefits resonate with your audience
    • Where they will buy the product
    • Where they will see your message
  3. Have a call to action: tell your customer what you want them to do
  4. Use marketing tactics that have easy to measure results, such as:
    • Redeemable incentives (coupons, gift cards, punch cards/frequent purchaser cards, etc.)
    • Time sensitive incentives (sales, promotions)
  5. Track your marketing by having a call to action and using tactics with measurable metrics which enable you to assess whether your marketing is working:
    • Did sales go up?
    • Did coupons get redeemed?
    • Did customers do what you asked them to do?
  6. Include people in your visual imagery, people are drawn to pictures of people.
  7. Minimize verbiage: The fewer the words, the more effective your message. Aim for 7 words or less. Think billboards: if you had to put your message on a billboard, how could you boil it down?
  8. Repetition and consistency: Customers need to see your message 5 times before they absorb it. Then they need to see it an additional 5 times before they make a decision to do something.
  9. Focus on low hanging fruit first: Employ marketing tactics to increase frequency and size of existing customers’ purchases, then worry about finding new customers.
  10. Monitor your budget! Marketing can be a black hole money pit. Set measurable objectives for each tactic, know what the cost of the tactic will be, and calculate the projected return on investment, make sure you are satisfied with the potential return before investing and then make sure to track outcomes.

By Rosalie Wilson ©2022
rosewilson.com tel. (802) 649 1000

Published by the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program. Learn more about the program at: www.uvm.edu/extension/nwcrops

This is material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2018-70027-28588.

USDA RMA Specialty Crop Changes: Greater Flexibility for Crop Insurance

The USDA Risk Management Agency has made some changes to insurance programs for specialty crop producers (this includes all fruits and vegetables). These changes make it easier for specialty crop farmers and those who sell through direct markets to obtain Federal Crop Insurance, report annual production and file any loss claims.

https://www.rma.usda.gov/Information-Tools/Agent-Locator-Page

Our ANNUAL FIELD DAY is back!

Back after a hiatus, the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils program is pleased to announce that our on-farm Annual Field Day is back for 2022! We hope you will join us outdoors and in-person on July 28th at the Borderview Research Farm located at 487 Line Rd, Alburgh, Vermont.

The field day will get underway at 10 a.m. sharp with a tour of the farm and many of its research plots and experiments involving perennial grasses, corn, soybeans, small grains, hemp, hops and other crops. Check out the equipment we use and discuss crop management tequniques. Hear updates and ask questions from UVM researchers on ongoing and innovative crop and soil research trials.

An exhibitor tent will also be available to visit – stop by at lunch or anytime for a break from the sun!

The cost is $25 per person and includes lunch. Certified Crop Adviser and water quality training education credits are available.

Go to go.uvm.edu/annualfieldday to register or contact Susan Brouillette (ext. 432) or Heather Darby (ext. 437) at (802) 524-6501. Deadline to register is July 27th, noon. If you require an accommodation related to a disability, please contact UVM Student Accessibility Services at access@uvm.edu or 802-656-7753 by July 7th.

Rock and Roll-er Crimping: Management of Cereal Rye Late Spring

While the adoption of cover crops across the northeast has exploded over the last 10 years and farmers have learned how to manage the termination of the winter cover crop, there are times when issues arise.  At the start of the 2022 planting season we’ve run into some cool, unsettled weather leading to delayed plantings.  The fields are also quite wet, limiting the farmer’s ability to get their cover crops sprayed out in a timely fashion.

If you spray too late in the spring (once the rye is over 18 inches high) and don’t immediately plant into it, no-tilling becomes a challenge due to dead plant material wrapping in the planter.  The dead biomass will also shade the soil surface and significantly delay drying of the soil surface.  If you don’t spray, the rye will get up to six feet tall and will become unmanageable without a roller crimper.

Roller crimping is the practice of rolling down the rye once it has fully matured.  If done too early in the season or into a light cover crop (< 75 lbs./acre seeding rate) the rye will not snap and stay down, instead it will bounce back up and shade out the cash crop, slowing development.  When roller crimping a mature cover crop (once the plant has reached anthesis), the use a roller crimper is the most practical way to plant into the standing rye.  Roller crimping is part science and part art depending on how the farmer implements the practice. 

There are two different types of roller crimpers – ones that mount on the tractor and ones that mount on the planter.  In either case what is important is that the planter can remove enough material from the planter row to allow the planter to place the seed at the proper soil depth and still cover the seed trench.  There are different types of row cleaners and closing wheels that will help facilitate the success, consistency, and completion of this process.  A properly setup roller crimper/planter can make the daunting task of dealing with fields of huge cover crops much more manageable.  If the farmer can wait until the cover crop is mature (which in our region is around the first week of June) the roller crimper will lay the cereal rye flat, and the planter can no-till the cash crop in with few issues.  If issues arise usually there are adjustments that can be made to the planter to make the system work. 

On the UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program, we utilize a Dawn Biologic planter mounted roller crimper.  This machine is added to the front of the planter to flatten and crimp the cereal rye while “pulling” the rye to the middle between the rows so that the planter has less material to plant through.  This system requires a steep learning curve to understand how the roller crimper on the front of the planter can change the geometry of the planting row units as the crimper “lifts” the planter as additional down pressure is applied to the crimper.  There is a fine line and once it is achieved the crimper and planter work together to get the job done.  When planning on roller crimping it is important to remove the large stones from fields as the operator will not be able to see them in the spring and they can damage components of the crimper and/or planter if they get hit. 

This spring UVM Extension NWCS staff (Jeffrey Sanders) roller crimped several fields with very different results.

In the first video below, the farmer planted cover crop with a plan to roller crimp in the spring.  Due to the long-term weather forecast and likelihood of the heavy clay soil staying wet if the crop matured and the rains kept coming (which they did) they decided to roll it early.  The rye was headed out but not fully mature.  You can see that the rye isn’t laying flat everywhere and over the next few days much of it “bounced” back up.  The plant was still quite flexible, and the crimper could not crimp it hard enough without picking the planter up out of the ground which would compromise the cash crop. 

Roller crimped rye bouncing back up, filmed May 21, 2022.

In the second video below, we demonstrate roller crimping a fully mature standing cereal rye crop.  The roller crimper is laying the rye flat on the ground and it will remain there for the summer, protecting the soil surface from the heat of the sun and pelting rains.  The roller crimper is a viable option for late season management of cereal rye.  It doesn’t remove the need for herbicide applications but will help suppress weeds throughout the summer and may provide a means to reduce chemical applications depending on the weed pressure history of the field.  

Roller crimped rye properly terminated, filmed June 7, 2022.

Looking for more information on roller crimping and/or terminating cover crops? Check out the Roller Crimping Cover Crops in Vermont: Benefits and Risks fact sheet, or our Cover Crops and Reduced Tillage webpage for additional resources.

Time to Plant Summer Annuals

Summer annual grasses, such as sudangrass and millet, can provide supplemental forage during the hot summer months as the growth of cool season perennial grasses slows. These grasses can yield 3 to 5 tons of highly digestible dry matter per acre even under droughty conditions! Now is the time to be planting these heat loving crops, but before you do, make sure you’re seeding at an appropriate rate…

What seeding rate do I use?

In the northeast, most farmers use a multi-cut or multi-graze system for harvesting summer annuals. If seeding in early-mid June, two to three harvests can typically be taken. Seeding rates aligned with a multi-harvest system should be implemented to achieve the best yield and quality.

In addition, seed size and therefore seeds per pound can be highly variable between species and varieties. Hence, summer annual seeding rates should actually be based on plants per acre rather than just pounds of seed per acre. For a multi-cut system, King’s Agriseed recommends seeding for a target of 600,000-650,000 plants per acre for sorghum sudangrass and 650,000 to 700,000 plants per acre for sudangrass. Based on the seeds per pound, Table 1 shows the seeding rates in pounds per acre that would be needed to attain the target population.

Table 1. Seeding rate adjusted for seed size, from King’s Agriseed.
Image 1. Seeds of two sudangrass varieties.

You can see that this ranges from 20-60 pounds! Image 1 shows two varieties of sudangrass that demonstrate the large differences in size that can occur between varieties of the same species. In this case, the variety on the left had 17,650 seeds per pound while the variety on the right had 28,892 seeds per pound. This means that more seed would be needed of the variety on the left to attain the same population as the variety on the right. If they were both seeded at 40 pounds per acre instead, the variety on the left would be planted at 706,000 seeds per acre while the variety on the right would be planted at 1,155,680 plants per acre!

Making these adjustments can save you money by making sure you aren’t over planting costly seed, and that you aren’t shorting your stand which could result in decreased yields or increased weed pressure. For more information on summer annuals please visit the UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program’s website for our Research Results webpage, Livestock Forages webpage, the Guide to Using Annual Forages in the Northeast, and more. Happy planting!

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