by Sylvia Dodge
When you think about the work the Legislature is doing this year, you probably think of things like education funding reform, electric industry deregulation and campaign finance reform.
Try instead ostrich farming, vineyard promotion and stallion registration - all issues that are being worked on by the members of the Legislature who focus on the Vermont farm scene.
One of the first pieces of legislation to pass the House and move on to the Senate for consideration was a bill which seeks to repeal the law requiring that all stallions in Vermont be registered with town clerks.
The antiquated law harks back to a time before automobiles, when stallions were integral to the state's transportation system.
Another bill that has been getting a lot of attention from the House Agriculture Committee in recent weeks deals with meat inspection for exotic animals such as bison, fallow deer, emus and ostriches.
It seeks to provide free inspection by the state for food products derived from those animals.
According to testimony last week, the inspection program would cost approximately $21,000.
Another bill under consideration asks for money to study goat farming and, in particular, goat diseases like the one that recently struck a goat herd in Hartland after it was imported from New Hampshire.
Aside from bills dealing with agricultural issues, legislators are also keeping abreast of new trends and directives in Vermont farming - everything from upgraded maple sugaring equipment to a travel and tourism push to develop vineyards in Vermont.
A tainted maple syrup scare last year has focused attention on tubing used to carry syrup from tapped trees, and the Vermont Department of Agriculture is trying to work out a way to make sure Vermont maple syrup is never again contaminated by inadequate tubing.
According to Rep. Jennifer Nelson,
able consensus in-state on the sometimes emotionally charged issues of clear-cutting, herbicide spraying and defining sustainable forestry.
But that's not how legislators in Concord see it as they are just starting to sort through those issues and defining terms on advisory committees, often with timber industry representatives pushing hard for voluntary and not regulatory controls.
Some say there is no need to regulate those who clearcut indiscriminately, liquidate parcels to pay off equipment and land purchase costs, degrade riparian zones with inappropriate stream crossings, take trees within a prescribed buffer zone and continue to leave the public with a sour taste for the industry as a whole.
Even the bankers decry the disappearance of quality timber from the region, forcing them to diversify into commercial loan areas other than financing loggers.