Vt. farmers discuss managing manure to help Lake Champlain - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. farmers discuss managing manure to help Lake Champlain

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

"Water quality is front and center. The more we know about these issues, the more we do," said Marie Audet of Blue Spruce Farm, Inc.

Audet attended the conference on behalf of her family farm in Bridport. Blue Spruce Farm has been around since the early 1950s, but this third-generation farm knows the times are changing.

"We have evolved, all of us, including the dairy community," Audet said. "It's really scientific. A lot of people think we are just throwing the manure out to get rid of it. That's not what it is."

It's about better managing manure. Manure runoff in Lake Champlain has been an ongoing issue for decades, contributing to problems like blue-green algae blooms.

"The challenge is figuring out how to reduce the phosphorus going into Lake Champlain," said Julie Moore of Stone Environmental. "By some estimates, right now there is about twice as much phosphorus going into Lake Champlain as it should."

Farmers learned Tuesday how to get those phosphorus levels down.

"We are talking about things like cover crops, things like buffers, potentially reduced tillage; reducing the way the farmer interacts with the land. That still allows them to make a living, but also has real water quality benefits for Lake Champlain," Moore said.

Apart from the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, the phosphorus levels in Lake Champlain have remained relatively level over the last decade. But Moore says that level is still too high. The target level of phosphorus in the lake is 427 metric tons. The levels in the lake are currently around 700-800 metric tons.

"Historically, the ideas about stormwater management really focused on getting it away as fast as possible. And that has led to a lot of the issues we have, both in the ag sector and the developed land sector. And so the more we can do to keep our stormwater on sight and manage it locally, the better off we'll be and Lake Champlain will be," Moore said.

Audet says many farmers across the state have been working on localizing stormwater.

"What we used to think of as a waste stream, a pollutant, has now become a value-added product, let's say, to the farm, because we found ways to make sure we capitalize on those nutrients," Audet said.

Audet says after years of pointing fingers, most of the state is finally moving in the right direction together. Hopefully, a path that yields better crops and cleaner water.

In addition to reducing stormwater, Vermont farmers are cutting down on pollution with improved manure storage and cropping techniques.

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