Nitka’s notes from the Statehouse, March 15, 2019

Dear Editor,

While many innovative changes are taking place around our state one can look out of the Statehouse front windows and see the tall ancient smokestack that has served the capital complex for generations. Cord wood, oil, and wood chips were burned in the old boiler with the material coming in by train to the siding or by trucks. The new biomass-fired boiler burns wood chips and heats the surrounding state buildings as well as downtown Montpelier. The same stack is still being used. We used wood in the “old days” and we are still using locally sourced wood or at least nearby today. I was reminded of all of this when I noticed a wood chip hauling truck trying to turn into the driveway, which is directly across from the Statehouse. Interestingly, in the same line of sight were our electric charging stations with four cars attached. The electric car also has an old history that might match that of the smokestack as, in 1900, 38 percent of the cars on the road were powered by electricity.

Another old Vermont product, hemp, is making a big comeback and in a report from the Dept. of Agriculture, there were 450 registered farmers growing hemp as fiber, food or forage, and oil seed crops. There are approximately 3,000 acres devoted to hemp. The largest grower I’m aware of is in Rutland County and plants 275 acres. The conversion of hay and cornfields to hemp fields is expected to increase due to the explosion in popularity of cannabidiol products. These products, better known CBDs, are legal and don’t have the same properties as marijuana. They are frequently used to treat arthritis, insomnia, and many other maladies. Their users report finding relief. One can find them sold in local stores now that hemp is legal under the federal 2018 farm bill. The new state Agriculture and Environmental Laboratory, which was recently completed on the campus of Vermont Technical College in Randolph, is set up to do testing of hemp products for safety and content. They will also be able to test medical marijuana for the medical dispensaries.

The Agency of Agriculture’s budget was presented to the Appropriations Committee this week. Proposed spending is $26,485,000 and covers all divisions from farming to food safety to weights and measures, (accuracy of store scales, gas pumps, etc.), to animal health to the expensive clean water initiatives. The Agency isn’t as high profile as it was in the past when we had more dairy farms, but there is a great appreciation for Vermont products and the agency now promotes all types of farming in addition to dairy.

Consider visiting your Statehouse and listen to testimony in the committees. Contact me at home at 802-228-8432 or the Statehouse at 1-800-322-5616 or anitka@leg.state.vt.us. I am able to read all of your emails and appreciate you sending them, however the volume received makes it impossible to respond to all of them.

Sincerely,

Senator Alice Nitka

Windsor County

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