Vermont files lawsuit against dairy farm

Dairy farm contends it filed proper permits and chose legal route to challenge state’s actions.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

January 6, 2020

2 Min Read
Pleasant Valley Farms.jpg
Pleasant Valley Farms Facebook page

The Vermont attorney general and Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets have filled a complaint against Pleasant Valley Farms of Berkshire LLC and its operators, Mark and Amanda St. Pierre, regarding allegations of permit violations. The lawsuit focuses on violations from actions at the Lumbra Farm located in Berkshire, Vt.  

In the complaint, the state alleges that, in 2017, Pleasant Valley Farms and the St. Pierres expanded an existing barn at the Lumbra Farm without obtaining any necessary permits and approvals and without providing required advanced notice to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. The barn is alleged to have increased in size from around 13,000 sq. ft. to approximately 104,000 sq. ft. (roughly 2.4 acres) and from approximately 120 ft. long to 825 ft. long.

In addition to the unpermitted barn expansion, the state alleges that Pleasant Valley Farms and the St. Pierres also built a 10 million gal. manure pit -- capable of accommodating waste for more than 1,500 mature dairy cows -- at the Lumbra Farm without required notice or advanced approval, the attorney general’s statement noted.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the St. Pierre family said they believed they applied for the correct permits for that site. “We feel we were wrongfully denied those permits so opted to appeal, giving us a day in environmental court to explain why,” the statement noted. “We chose to appeal and utilize the judicial system on this matter to stand up for our rights as Vermont dairy farmers. We look forward to our day in court to defend our permitting application.”

In addition to claims relating to the failure to obtain necessary permits and pre-construction approval, the state has alleged violations of Vermont’s required agricultural practices (RAPs) for the farm’s failure to have a nutrient management plan or maintain necessary documents during a 2018 inspection of the Lumbra Farm by the agriculture agency. RAPs are standards to which all types of farms in Vermont must be managed to ensure that agricultural pollution does not reach Vermont’s waters.

The state’s seven-count complaint, which was filed Jan. 2 in the Vermont Superior Court, Franklin Unit, seeks an order requiring Pleasant Valley Farms and the St. Pierres to, among other things: apply for a Large Farm Operation (LFO) permit for the Lumbra Farm, bring the Lumbra Farm into compliance with all required RAPs and LFO rules and pay civil penalties as permitted by law.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets has worked with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office in all aspects of this enforcement matter.

“We have a long and proud tradition of farming, agriculture and environmental stewardship in Vermont,” Attorney General T.J. Donovan said. “We need to continue to support our farmers while also protecting water quality and the environment by applying these rules across the board.”

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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