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News: Vermont Senate Bill 159 - Regenerative Agriculture PDF Print E-mail

by Tad Montgomery and Jon Megas-Russell
April 2016

In our recent shopper survey we learned that we need to provide more education relating to social and agricultural issues. In an effort to do so, we are providing an overview on Vermont Senate Bill 159 that relates to regenerative agriculture.

A bill currently before the Vermont Senate would introduce a state-level certification program under which farmers could have their land and farming methods certified as regenerative. The classic definition of ‘regenerative’ is an action that leaves a person, community, society, or ecosystem healthier and more robust than before the action took place.

Senate Bill 159 defines regenerative agriculture as farming that has undertaken a certification that includes three standard yes-or-no tests: has topsoil increased; has carbon been sequestered; has soil organic matter increased. A farm would need to meet only one of these criteria, over a three-year period and with each successive year, to be certified as regenerative. This voluntary certification is the first of its kind in the country, and is directly related to sections of the recent global climate treaty that came out of COP21 in Paris. A tremendous amount of atmospheric carbon could be sequestered in our soils if we changed our farming practices.

The legislation was first written by Jesse McDougall, a farmer in Shaftsbury. McDougall wants to go beyond organic and let his customers know that his land and the climate are actually being improved through his farming practices. Senator Brian Campion of Bennington has introduced S. 159.

“Carbon farming” techniques put the emphasis on soil health using nature’s systems to regenerate the land. According to Andre Leu, president of IFOAM—Organics International, “Rebuilding soil by sequestering carbon reduces CO2 from the atmosphere and creates land that is more drought resistant and grows healthier food, plants and animals.”

This is the first piece of legislation specific to regenerative agriculture in the U.S. and one that can serve both farmers and consumers. The certification is intended to result in a State of Vermont seal, visible to consumers at the grocery store and available to certified farmers to share, educate, and promote their work.

One of the Brattleboro Food Co-op's Ends Policies states that we aim to be a “a regenerative business that has a net environmental impact.” Selling and promoting food that is grown through regenerative agricultural practices could be another step in the accomplishment of this mission.