The Vermont Statutes Online
§ 1. General powers of Agency; Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets
(a) The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets shall be administered by a Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets. The Secretary shall supervise and be responsible for the execution and enforcement of all laws relating to agriculture and standards of weight and measure. The Secretary may:
(1) Delegate any authority, power, or duty as necessary for the proper execution of the laws.
(2) Conduct examinations and pass upon the qualifications of applicants for licenses.
(3) Conduct routine inspections and investigate suspected violations of any law administered by the Secretary.
(4) Conduct hearings.
(5) Issue subpoenas and administer oaths in connection with an authorized investigation or hearing.
(6) Enter into contracts on behalf of the Agency.
(7) Seek and obtain temporary or permanent injunctions to restrain a violation of any law administered by the Secretary, whenever there are reasonable grounds to believe that a law has been or will be violated.
(8) Institute appropriate proceedings in the name of the Agency to enforce any law administered by the Secretary.
(9) Apply for and accept grants of money or other gifts on behalf of the Agency, subject to 32 V.S.A. § 5.
(10) Adopt and enforce rules to implement the laws administered by the Secretary.
(11) Accept an assurance of discontinuance in lieu of instituting an action or proceeding for violation of a law administered by the Secretary.
(12) Exercise any other power or authority granted by common law or statute.
(13) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary in this title or Title 9 or 20, issue all licenses, permits, registrations, or certificates under a program administered by the Secretary for a term of up to three years; renew and issue such licenses, permits, registrations, and certificates on any calendar cycle; collect any annual fee set by law for such multiyear licensure, permit, registration, or certificate on a pro-rated basis which shall not exceed 150 percent of the annual fee for an 18-month cycle, 200 percent of the annual fee for a two-year cycle, or 300 percent of the annual fee for a three-year cycle; and conduct inspections at regulated premises at least once every three years when inspection is required by law. The authority to mandate licenses, permits, registrations, or certificates for more than one year shall not extend to any program administered by the Secretary where the annual fee is more than $125.00. The Secretary shall only provide refunds for overpayments of $25.00 or more on a license, permit, registration, or certificate issued by the Secretary. The Secretary may assess a late fee of $27.00, provided that the late fee is no greater than the fee due, in which case the late fee shall equal the fee due, for any license, registration, permit, or certification renewal that is received more than 30 days past expiration unless a higher late renewal fee is otherwise prescribed by statute.
(14) Require any person or entity regulated by the Secretary under this title or Title 9 or 20 to file an affidavit under oath or affirmation that the person or entity or their regulated premises is in compliance with an assurance of discontinuance or other order or the terms and conditions of a license, permit, registration, certificate, or approval issued by or under the statutory authority of the Secretary or rules adopted under such statutory authority. The Secretary's request for an affidavit of compliance under this subdivision may be delivered by hand or by certified mail. Failure to file such affidavit when requested or the material misrepresentation of a fact in the affidavit shall constitute a violation of the underlying regulatory program and grounds for revocation or assessment of administrative penalties or both under section 15 of this title.
(b) The following entities shall exist and operate within the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets under the general supervision of the Secretary:
(1) The Vermont Milk Commission.
(2) The State dairy council.
(3) The Vermont Dairy Industry Council.
(c) The Secretary shall provide data and funding recommendations to the Vermont Climate Change Oversight Committee with regard to:
(1) funding and implementing State conservation programs in order to increase carbon sequestration;
(2) providing cost-share assistance for farmers to purchase manure injection equipment to retrofit existing manure spreaders or purchase new equipment;
(3) providing cost-share assistance for farms to develop and implement nutrient management plans for smaller dairy farms and continuing to provide annual assistance so that existing plans on medium-sized farms continue to be implemented;
(4) providing cost-share assistance under the farm agronomic practices program so that farms implement cover crops and other soil erosion and land cover practices;
(5) other ways to create incentives for carbon sequestration on farm and forest land, Vermont's "green bank."
(d) The Secretary shall continue the Agency's methane capture program and shall collaborate with the Vermont Climate Change Oversight Committee with regard to the availability of additional funds for these purposes. The goal of the methane digester portion of the program shall be to digest and use 15 percent of the State's dairy cattle manure by 2012, and 50 percent by 2028. The goal of a second aspect of this emissions reduction program shall be to increase the percentage of poultry and nondairy livestock manure composted to 25 percent by 2012, and 50 percent by 2028. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 10, eff. March 1, 1961; 1967, No. 303 (Adj. Sess.), § 16(b); 1987, No. 277 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1989, No. 256 (Adj. Sess.), § 10(a), eff. Jan. 1, 1991; 1991, No. 17, § 8(a), eff. April 4, 1991; 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003; 2007, No. 209 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 2009, No. 146 (Adj. Sess.), § F7; 2015, No. 39, § 17; 2015, No. 149 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 2. Appointment of secretary of agriculture, food and markets
Biennially, in the month of February, with the advice and consent of the senate, the governor shall appoint a secretary of agriculture, food and markets. (Amended 1989, No. 256 (Adj. Sess.), § 10(a), eff. Jan. 1, 1991; 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 3. Duties of secretary generally; educational work
The secretary shall promote the agricultural interests and education throughout the state by means of institutes, farmers' meetings, lectures, essays, bulletins, crop reports, nature leaflets, and such other means as he or she deems advisable. Subject to the approval of the governor, he or she may employ assistants, lecturers, essayists, and experts in conducting meetings, in the preparation of bulletins and crop reports, and in the proper discharge of his duties. Such educational work shall include, among other topics, tree planting, roads, and road making. Lectures and essays shall be given and institutes and meetings held at such places and times as the secretary deems advisable. (Amended 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 4. Meetings outside state
The secretary may attend conventions, meetings, or institutes relating to agriculture, held in other states or countries. With the approval of the governor, he or she may use a portion of the moneys apportioned for agriculture, to represent the state by exhibit or otherwise outside of the state. (Amended 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 5. Repealed. 2009, No. 33, § 83(c)(1).
§ 6. Combined licenses
The secretary of agriculture, food and markets shall publish a combined application and shall issue a combined license for any person desiring to be licensed under more than one of the following provisions: retail vendors licensed under sections 1109, 2723a, 2855, and 3306 of this title and 9 V.S.A. § 2730. The license fee for the combined license shall not exceed the amount charged if each license were granted separately. Combined licenses shall expire and be renewed annually on January 1 of each year. Except as otherwise provided by statute, all fees collected under this combined license shall be deposited in the weights and measures special fund provided for under 9 V.S.A. § 2632(b) for use in administering this combined license and carrying out inspections associated with compliance. (1971, No. 177 (Adj. Sess.), § 6, eff. Jan. 1, 1973; amended 1985, No. 226 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. June 2, 1986; 1991, No. 79, § 1; 1995, No. 128 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 7. Feed, seed and fertilizer authority
Authority to administer and enforce the provisions of chapter 35 of this title is hereby transferred from the director of the experiment station to the secretary of agriculture, food and markets. Any reference in chapter 35 to the words director of the agricultural experiment station, or director shall be deemed to mean secretary of agriculture, food and markets. Any reference to the related services division of the college of agriculture shall be deemed to mean the agency of agriculture, food and markets. Any reference to the chief financial officer of the University of Vermont shall be deemed to mean the state treasurer. (Added 1983, No. 252 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; amended 1989, No. 256 (Adj. Sess.), § 10(a), eff. Jan. 1, 1991; 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 8. Agricultural lands planning criteria
(a) The secretary shall establish guidelines to assist municipal and regional planning commissions in identifying agricultural lands. The guidelines shall provide, but not be limited to:
(1) soil characteristics appropriate to agricultural land;
(2) appropriate size of the parcel and use of adjacent land;
(3) the importance of agriculture to the region or locality;
(4) the availability and capacity of agricultural services and labor to support farming in the region; and
(5) the importance of the land, as agricultural land, to the character of the locality.
(b) The guidelines established by the secretary under subsection (a) of this section may be applied by each regional and municipal planning commission to establish specific criteria for identifying agricultural lands within that region or municipality. (Added 1987, No. 200 (Adj. Sess.), § 30, eff. May 19, 1988; amended 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 9. Service charges
The secretary may assess charges for services rendered by agency employees to commercial enterprises that are not required by or otherwise referred to in statute. The secretary may also assess charges for inspections which are conducted to confirm that action has been taken to correct violations when an inspector has conducted at least two inspections regarding a violation. Service charges assessed under this section shall be sufficient to recover the agency's costs, including payment for the inspector's time, and shall be retained by the agency to reimburse these expenses. (Added 1989, No. 257 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 10. Special funds
Fees, assessments, and reimbursements of costs collected by the agency of agriculture, food and markets under the provisions of this title shall be credited to special funds and shall be available to the agency to offset the costs of providing the service. (Added 1999, No. 49, § 100, eff. July 1, 2000; amended 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 11. Administrative hearings; hearing officers
The secretary may designate a hearing officer to preside in his or her place in all matters in which the secretary is required or permitted by law to conduct a hearing. The hearing officer may administer oaths or issue subpoenas in connection with a hearing. The hearing officer shall report findings of fact to the secretary in writing, within a reasonable time after the conclusion of the hearing, in contested cases within the meaning of 3 V.S.A. § 801(b)(2). Judgment on the findings in cases covered by this section shall be rendered only by the secretary. (Added 1987, No. 277 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; amended 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 12. Search warrants
(a) Upon application by the secretary or a person designated by the secretary, a district or superior court judge shall, upon a finding of probable cause, issue an administrative search warrant to search property for violation of any provision of this title, chapter 73 of Title 9, or any other law administered by the secretary of agriculture, food and markets. A court may find that probable cause for an administrative search warrant under this section exists when:
(1) the secretary or a person designated by the secretary has reason to believe that a provision of this title, chapter 73 of Title 9, or any other law administered by the secretary has been violated; or
(2) permission to inspect has been refused and the property to be searched is subject to routine inspections in connection with a regulatory program administered by the secretary of agriculture, food and markets.
(b) The provisions of Rule 41(c) and (d) of the Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure shall apply to warrants issued under this section. (Added 1987, No. 277 (Adj. Sess.), § 3; amended 1991, No. 228 (Adj. Sess.), § 5; 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 13. Assurances of discontinuance
(a) As an alternative to judicial proceedings, the secretary may accept an assurance of discontinuance of any violation. An assurance of discontinuance may include, but need not be limited to:
(1) specific actions to be taken;
(2) abatement or mitigation schedules;
(3) payment of a civil penalty and the costs of investigation;
(4) payment of an amount to be held in escrow pending the outcome of an action, or as restitution to aggrieved persons.
(b) An assurance of discontinuance shall be in writing, and may by its terms be filed with the superior court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and become an order of the court. Evidence of a violation of an assurance of discontinuance shall be prima facie proof of the violation.
(c) Any violation of an assurance of discontinuance shall constitute a separate and distinct offense of the underlying regulatory program and shall be subject to the applicable general penalties for violations of the law under that program, in addition to any other applicable penalties.
(d) Costs of investigations collected under subsection (a) of this section shall be credited to a special fund and shall be available to the agency to offset these costs. (Added 1987, No. 277 (Adj. Sess.), § 4; amended 1991, No. 228 (Adj. Sess.), § 6; 1999, No. 49, § 101; 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 14. Acceptance of gifts of real property
The secretary, with the approval of the governor, may accept gifts of the rights and interests in real property in the manner provided by 10 V.S.A. chapter 155. (Added 1987, No. 277 (Adj. Sess.), § 5; amended 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 15. Administrative penalties
(a) In addition to other penalties provided by law, the secretary may assess administrative penalties, not to exceed $1,000.00, for each violation of this title and Titles 9 and 20, unless a higher administrative penalty amount is provided for therein.
(b) In determining the amount of the penalty to be assessed under this section, the secretary may give consideration to one or more of the following:
(1) the degree of actual and potential impact on public health, safety, and welfare resulting from the violation;
(2) the presence of mitigating or aggravating circumstances;
(3) whether the violator has been warned or found in violation of the same provisions of law in the past;
(4) the economic benefit gained by the violation;
(5) the deterrent effect of the penalty;
(6) the financial condition of the violator.
(c) Each violation may be a separate and distinct offense and, in the case of a continuing violation, each day's continuance may be deemed to be a separate and distinct offense. In no event shall the maximum amount of the penalty assessed under this section exceed $25,000.00.
(d) In addition to the administrative penalties authorized by this section, the secretary may recover the costs of investigation, which shall be credited to a special fund and shall be available to the agency to offset these costs.
(e) Any party aggrieved by a final decision of the secretary may appeal de novo to the superior court within 30 days of the final decision of the secretary. The secretary may enforce a final administrative penalty by filing a civil collection action in any district or superior court. (Added 1989, No. 49, § 1; amended 1989, No. 183 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 1991, No. 79, § 1a; 1991, No. 228 (Adj. Sess.), § 4; 1991, No. 261 (Adj. Sess.), § 5; 1995, No. 68 (Adj. Sess.), § 3; 1995, No. 128 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 1997, No. 130 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1999, No. 49, § 102; 1999, No. 100 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. May 5, 2000; 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 16. Notice and fair hearing requirements
(a) The secretary shall use the following procedures in assessing the penalty under section 15 of this title: the alleged violator shall be given an opportunity for hearing after reasonable notice and the notice shall be served by personal service or by certified mail, return receipt requested. The notice shall include:
(1) a statement of the legal authority and jurisdiction under which the hearing is to be held;
(2) a statement of the matter at issue, including reference to the particular statute allegedly violated and a factual description of the alleged violation;
(3) the amount of the proposed administrative penalty; and
(4) a warning that the decision shall become final and the penalty imposed if no hearing is requested within 15 days of receipt of the notice. The notice shall specify the requirements which must be met in order to avoid being deemed to have waived the right to a hearing, or the manner of payment if the person elects to pay the penalty and waive a hearing.
(b) Any person who receives notification pursuant to this section shall be deemed to have waived the right to a hearing unless, within 15 days of the receipt of the notice, the person requests a hearing in writing. If the person waives the right to a hearing, the secretary shall issue a final order finding the person in default and imposing the penalty. A copy of the final default order shall be sent to the violator by certified mail, return receipt requested.
(c) When an alleged violator requests a hearing in a timely fashion, the secretary shall hold the hearing pursuant to 3 V.S.A. chapter 25. (Added 1989, No. 49, § 2; amended 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 17. Collections
(a) The secretary may collect an unpaid administrative penalty by filing a civil collection action in any district or superior court, or through any other means available to state agencies.
(b) The secretary may, subject to 3 V.S.A. chapter 25, suspend any license, certificate, registration, or permit issued pursuant to his or her authority for failure to pay a penalty under this chapter more than 60 days after the penalty was issued. (Added 1989, No. 49, § 3; amended 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 18. Certificate of free sale
(a) The Secretary is hereby authorized to make available certificates of free sale to applicants who manufacture or produce Vermont food regulated by the Agency for the limited purpose of facilitating the shipment of such products for sale in foreign countries.
(b) The Agency may adopt rules for the issuance of such certificates.
(c) The Agency shall assess a fee of $30.00 per certificate to offset administrative costs. (Added 1995, No. 184 (Act. Sess.), § 1; amended 1999, No. 49, § 103; 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003; 2015, No. 149 (Adj. Sess.), § 2.)
§ 19. Emergency livestock feed program
(a) An emergency livestock feed program is established. The secretary of agriculture, food and markets is hereby authorized to administer an emergency livestock feed program to distribute funds to farmers who live in a county designated a natural disaster area by presidential declaration.
(b) The secretary shall adopt rules to implement this program, and to disburse funds from time to time appropriated by the general assembly. The rules shall include an application format, review process, eligibility criteria, and payment rates.
(c) The secretary may recoup program payments from an individual who makes a fraudulent claim to the program and may issue an administrative penalty under section 15 of this title to a claimant for each violation of this section or rule adopted under its provisions. (Added 1997, No. 66 (Adj. Sess.), § 59, eff. Feb. 20, 1998; amended 1999, No. 1, § 98, eff. March 31, 1999; 2003, No. 42, § 2, eff. May 27, 2003.)
§ 20. Vermont Large Animal Veterinarian Educational Loan Repayment Fund
(a) There is created a special fund to be known as the Vermont Large Animal Veterinarian Educational Loan Repayment Fund that shall be used for the purpose of ensuring a stable and adequate supply of large animal veterinarians in regions of the State as determined by the Secretary. The Fund shall be established and held separate and apart from any other funds or monies of the State and shall be used and administered exclusively for the purpose of this section. The money in the Fund shall be invested in the same manner as permitted for investment of funds belonging to the State or held in the Treasury.
(b) The Fund shall consist of:
(1) Sums appropriated or transferred to it from time to time by the General Assembly, the State Emergency Board, or the Joint Fiscal Committee when the General Assembly is not in session.
(2) Interest earned from the investment of Fund balances.
(3) Sums from any other public or private source accepted for the benefit of the Fund.
(c) The Agency shall administer the Fund and make sums available for loan repayment awards. The Agency may contract with a Vermont nonprofit entity for administration of the program, which shall administer awards in compliance with the requirements of Section 108(f) of the Internal Revenue Code. (Added 2009, No. 44, § 21, eff. May 21, 2009; amended 2011, No. 52, § 39, eff. May 27, 2011.)
§ 21. Authority to address public health hazards and food safety issues
(a) As used in this section:
(1) "Adulterated" shall have the same meaning as in 18 V.S.A. § 4059 and shall include adulteration under rules adopted under 18 V.S.A. chapter 82.
(2) "Emergency" means any natural disaster, weather-related incident, health- or disease-related incident, resource shortage, plant pest outbreak, accident, or fire that poses a threat or may pose a threat, as determined by the Secretary, to health, safety, the environment, or property in Vermont.
(3) "Farm" means a site or parcel on which farming is conducted.
(4) "Farming" shall have the same meaning as in 10 V.S.A. § 6001(22).
(5) "Public health hazard" means the potential harm to the public health by virtue of any condition or any biological, chemical, or physical agent. In determining whether a health hazard is public or private, the Secretary shall consider at least the following factors:
(A) the number of persons at risk;
(B) the characteristics of the person or persons at risk;
(C) the characteristics of the condition or agent that is the source of potential harm;
(D) the availability of private remedies;
(E) the geographical area and characteristics thereof where the condition or agent that is the source of the potential harm or the receptors exists; and
(F) the policy of the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets as established by rule or procedure.
(6) "Raw agricultural commodity" means any food in its raw or natural state, including all fruits or vegetables that are washed, colored, or otherwise treated in their unpeeled natural form prior to marketing.
(7) "Secretary" means the Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets.
(b) The Secretary shall have the authority to:
(1) respond to and remediate incidences of mass animal death, agricultural structure fires, or other emergencies on a farm in order to prevent a public health hazard;
(2) condemn, confiscate, or establish restrictions on the use, sale, or distribution of adulterated raw agricultural commodities or animal feed; and
(3) cooperate with the Department of Health and other State and federal agencies regarding:
(A) the prevention or remediation of the adulteration of raw agricultural commodities, food, or animal feed on farms; and
(B) application of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, 21 U.S.C. §§ 2201-2252, to farms, farm products, or value-added products produced in the State. (Added 2013, No. 159 (Adj. Sess.), § 12, eff. May 28, 2014.)