It’s pretty clear that we are in the homestretch of the 2021 Legislative Session. If we were in Montpelier, the hallways would be crackling with energy as we come down to, what we hope is, the final week. In contrast, the State House lawn would be the scene of recreational endeavors such as, huge frisbee games, dog walking, children playing, and friends picnicking. I am constantly amazed at and thankful for how fortunate we are to have such an accessible capitol building and grounds.
As I reported last week our Agricultural and Forestry Housekeeping Bill, H.420, was getting its finishing touches and, indeed, we concurred with the Senate’s proposal of amendment that doubled the number of animals that can be slaughtered as part of the personal exemption for on-farm slaughter. This is particularly important as there has been an increased interest in accessing local meat, in part as a result of the shortages due to the pandemic, and the difficulty for farmers getting slots at state- and federally-inspected slaughter facilities.
The amendment also asks our Legislative Counselor to work with the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets and other interested parties to see if we “may exempt the slaughter of livestock and provision of meat under an animal share contract.” This would allow for an expanded CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) model for animal sales that could improve the bottom line for many farmers who are diversifying, while keeping in mind our number one goal of food safety for Vermonters.
Our last bill that is still hanging out there is H.88, an act relating to certification of agricultural use for purposes of the use value appraisal program. The Senate has made some changes that clarify that the certification is still necessary, which we intended, but that there are other ways for the Division of Property Valuation and Review to determine that certification. It also expands an action we took last biennium to allow for a small (less than one tenth of an acre) solar installation on land enrolled in the agricultural program to forest land as well.
This is on the Senate Calendar for third reading on Tuesday. The House Agriculture and Forestry Committee has already taken testimony on the changes and are unanimously in favor of them, so we will concur when the bill gets to us later this week. Because the vote was unanimous, I’m hoping that we can have a rules suspension to assure passage in a timely manner.
On Saturday, I attended the Westminster Town Meeting, which was held on Saturday at 10 AM. My district-mate, Rep. Leslie Goldman, and I represent a small sliver of North Westminster, which abuts Bellows Falls. It is always enjoyable to attend the meeting that usually occurs in March at the Bellows Falls High School. This year, due to the pandemic, things were a little different!
I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that attending the meeting had special meaning for me. It was a perfect day – sunny and cool in the morning under the huge shade trees behind the Westminster Institute and Butterfield Library in “downtown” Westminster. Getting there a little early, I donned my mask and approached the folks setting up. Some had their masks on, but the majority didn’t, and I remembered that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and our own State team, including the governor, had decreed on Friday that mask-wearing was no longer required for folks who were fully vaccinated under most circumstances.
Still, I was hesitant, and taking off my mask was difficult. I have worn it in public for more than a year, most recently to protect others who have not been vaccinated, but I felt somewhat naked without it on. What was wonderful was seeing friends and being able to give them hugs for the first time in a long time. Reps. Mike Mrowicki and Michelle Bos-Lun, who represent the majority of Westminster, Putney, and Dummerston, were there. Mike sits next to me on the actual Floor of the House and being able to give him a hug made me feel like a huge burden had been lifted. Giving Leslie a long-overdue congratulatory hug felt great. It’s hard to explain how thankful I was and liberating it was to see many Westminster friends I have known for many years through work or because of issues, who have survived COVID. I am, indeed, grateful.
On my way back home to Windham, I stopped at Harlow’s Farm Stand to get some vegetable starts. The place was a beehive of activity and after a brief visit with Dan Harlow, with whom I worked many years ago, I headed home with tiny lettuce plants, vowing to come back for a longer visit and a Sungold tomato plant!
Perhaps, it was the weather, the promise that spring is actually here and that the forced isolation of the pandemic is loosening. That getting on my tractor to rototill the garden and watching the hummingbirds (who returned three days earlier than last year. Yes, I do keep track!) doing aerobatic ballets around the feeders; all of this assures me that things are improving and that despite great loss to some, we have so far survived a once in a century catastrophe. For that, I am thankful.
While I was at Harlow’s Farm Stand, a woman I have known for many years thanked me for these weekly articles I write. I thanked her for her kind words, and it occurred to me that since we are winding down the Legislative Session and there may not be many more of them, I’d like to thank the Brattleboro Reformer for printing them on Tuesdays. They are also posted on my website, www.carolynpartridge.com, but having them appear in the Reformer gets them out to a much wider audience and while I represent the people in the Windham-3 district, I am always happy to hear from folks in the wider, Windham County area.
This also reminds me that my district-mate, Rep. Leslie Goldman, will have her next constituent meeting on May 22nd from 10-11 AM. I’m guessing that this might be postponed if we are still in Session that day, but to sign up go to her website, www.LeslieGoldmanVT.com, and get the Zoom link. She assures me that folks who are not in the Windham-3 district are welcome to join as well.
I also want to let you know that once adjournment occurs, just because we’re not in Session doesn’t mean that your legislators are not on duty. During the rest of the year, we can be reached at our legislative email and home addresses. It is important for you to stay in touch with concerns, thoughts, and ideas.