WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following catastrophic flooding in Vermont, Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Representative Becca Balint (D-VT) today introduced the Building Up Farmland Frontiers for Ecological Resilience (BUFFER) Act, legislation that would ensure all states, including Vermont, can access Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) funding to implement buffer zones, agricultural tools used by farmers to protect farmland from flooding, erosion, and water pollution. Representative Balint introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Now more than ever, we need to give our farmers the tools and resources they need to fight climate change and protect their land from flooding. I’m proud to partner with my colleagues, Senator Sanders and Representative Balint, to deliver for Vermont’s farmers and cut through red tape,” said Sen. Welch, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “The BUFFER Act will help us resolve a years-long bureaucratic battle our farmers and the State of Vermont have been forced to fight—and we’re going to make sure our farmers have the same support that farmers in other states do.”
“It goes without saying that this is an extremely difficult and stressful time for Vermonters, especially our farmers,” said Sen. Sanders. “The federal government must do everything possible to help Vermonters recover. This legislation removes red tape and ensures farmers are compensated for their mitigation efforts that will improve our state’s water quality and help protect their fields from the kind of damage we saw this summer. I look forward to continuing to work with the Vermont delegation in making sure the federal government is doing all it can to support Vermonters as we work to rebuild.”
“Vermont farmers are on the front lines of climate change,” said Rep. Balint. “I’m proud to partner with our Senators to introduce legislation that will help cut through red tape so that farmers can better protect their farmland from flooding and erosion. Resilience and conservation are key as we build back from this summer’s floods, and I am doing everything I can do help Vermont’s farmers come back stronger.”
Buffer zones are vegetative areas between active farm fields and bodies of water. Healthy buffer zones protect farmland from erosion, safeguard waterways from runoff, and provide habitat for pollinators. This legislation will help Vermont improve water quality and, in turn, better protect farmland during flooding events.
Vermont—like many states across the United States—requires farmers to implement buffer systems. Farmers in the state have fought to use the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) CRP to implement buffers in their fields, but red tape at the Farm Service Agency has hampered their ability to use this conservation tool.