April 28, 2017
Published in the April 22, 2017, issue of Lancaster Farming
Throughout the 90-day session as the Maryland General Assembly gathered in Annapolis we focused on educating legislators about Maryland’s number one industry and a number of bills that would have had a direct negative impact on the agriculture industry and the operational and fiscal functions of the department.
We also continued with our outreach to inform legislators about the Department of Agriculture and services we provide to the industry, consumers and the general public. I personally participated in two agricultural briefings to various committees on the status of Maryland’s agricultural community and the department’s function as a state agency, in addition to countless individual meetings with legislators and their staff to ensure they understand the importance of Maryland’s agriculture industry to the economy and rural life.
The Department put forward three departmental bills this session that were adopted by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Larry Hogan. We are particularly excited about HB 120 – Seafood and Aquaculture Product Marketing, which transfers the marketing responsibility for Maryland seafood products to the Maryland Department of Agriculture from the Department of Natural Resources. Seafood marketing will join the current Agriculture Marketing and Development Program, which will be renamed Agriculture & Seafood Marketing and Development.
Along with the marketing program, HB 120 moves approximately $190,000 in special funds from fees collected on commercial watermen and processing licenses by the Department of Natural Resources. The department will pursue further funding from USDA and other grants to support the new program, as well. Our department’s marketing program has made great strides in supporting and promoting local agriculture products, and I am confident that we can have the same success with the state’s seafood and aquaculture industry.
Governor Hogan signed two additional departmental bills into law that focused on promoting Maryland agriculture products and streamlining processes identified by industry and county governments. These bills include:
- HB 130 – Maryland Wine and Grape Promotion Fund – creates a more efficient review and approval process for applications submitted to the Maryland Wine & Grape Promotion Fund
- HB 155 – Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation- Easement Termination – streamlines the easement termination process by having the county conduct its review and hearing and deciding whether the request should be approved or denied. If the county denies the request, the request fails and does not move forward to the Foundation, resulting in the Foundation not expending time and effort on termination applications that it cannot approve. If the request is approved, it moves forward to the Foundation to determine whether the land may be farmed profitably.
Governor Hogan continued to show support for Agriculture in his budget. He increased the funding for the Maryland Ag Cost Share Program (MACS) from $6 million to $8 million to help offset the lost funding from last year. This program provides farmers with grants to cover up to 87.5 percent of the cost to install conservation measures known as best management practices on their farms to prevent soil erosion, manage nutrients and safeguard water quality in streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.
The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation and the other land preservation programs received full funding this year along with $2.5 million in funding for MARBIDCO’s Next Generation Ag Land Preservation Program.
The Governor included an additional $2.5 million in his supplemental budget to pay for the record 560,000 acres of cover crops acres planted by farmers last fall. Cover crops are one of the most cost effective practices and environmentally sustainable ways for farmers to help the State reach its Chesapeake Bay clean up goals. During budget deliberations, the legislature cut the funding for this important program. The department is looking at other funding sources to ensure farmers who participated in the program are compensated for their certified planted acres.
The General Assembly also passed the following legislation of interest to the agricultural community:
SB 422 – Keep Antibiotics Effective Act of 2017– after being severely amended, prohibits the administration of a medically important antimicrobial drug to cattle, swine, or poultry solely for the purpose of promoting weight gain or improving feed efficiency. The Maryland Department of Agriculture must annually collect, and report on, specified publicly available data on the use in the State of medically important antimicrobial drugs in cattle, swine, and poultry. The Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to impose an administrative penalty for a violation of the bill’s provisions and may adopt regulations to carry out the bill. As amended, this bill conforms to the federal rule that went into effect on January 1, 2017.
HB 1063 – Maryland Healthy Soils Program – establishes the Maryland Healthy Soils Program within the Maryland Department of Agriculture. The primary function of this bill is to assist and educate farmers on how to improve their soil health. The key objective of this bill is to improve soil quality. The removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, also known as carbon sequestration, will also be reviewed and studied through the program.
HB 1035 – Motor Vehicles – Seasonal Exceptional Milk Hauling Permit – re-establishes the Exceptional Milk Hauling Permit that was allowed to sunset last October. This bill would make permanent the annual permit to allow up to 88,000 pounds on a 5-axle truck during the “spring flush,” which includes the months of March through June.
SB 917- Motor Vehicles – Gross Weight and Axle Load and Exceptional Hauling –establishes an Exceptional Hauling Permit for hauling live poultry within the nine Eastern Shore counties. This permit would be similar to the Exceptional Milk Hauling Permit and allow up to 88,000 pounds on a 5-axle truck. However, the permit is only valid for six months of the year (November through April) and has a five-year sunset. Additional data and reporting requirements must also be sent from the poultry haulers to the State Highway Administration.
SB 416 – Income Tax Credit – Qualified Farms – Food Donation Pilot Program – creates a pilot program for a state tax income credit of up to $5,000 for qualified farms donating food to authorized organizations. The program, which goes into effect on July 1, 2017, would be limited to Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties.
The department will continue to work with a wide-range of various stakeholders, commissions, and advisory boards, after the session to address any possible legislative issues or policy developments.
Agriculture Secretaries and Commissioners from five Mid-Atlantic States held their 3rd annual meeting in Annapolis on April 25 to discuss mutual interests and goals of their respective agricultural communities. Agenda topics included: federal-state partnerships, water quality goals and the Chesapeake Bay, nutrient management, manure transport, the Food Safety Modernization Act, Zika virus, high path avian influenza, and international trade issues.
Key participants included: Cecil Rodrigues (EPA Region III Administrator), Joe Bartenfelder (Maryland Secretary of Agriculture), Michael Scuse (Delaware Secretary of Agriculture), Sandy Adams (Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services), Kent Leonhardt (West Virginia Secretary of Agriculture Poultry), and Greg Hostetter (Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary of Agriculture) and Kelly Shenk, EPA Region III, Chesapeake Bay Program Office Agriculture Lead.
“I thank EPA Region III for their partnership in working together with agriculture and our neighboring colleagues for recognizing the importance of making the trip for this meeting. Our states are the closest to the Chesapeake Bay and it is essential for us to work cooperatively to help us reach one of our biggest shared goals – to protect and restore our national treasure, the Chesapeake Bay. We look forward continuing our work together.” – Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder
PHOTO ID (L-R): Greg Hostetter (Pennsylvania Dep. Secretary of Agriculture), Joe Bartenfelder (Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary of Agriculture), Michael Scuse, (Delaware Secretary of Agriculture), Cecil Rodrigues (EPA Region 3 Administrator), Sandy Adams (Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Commissioner), and Kent Leonhardt (West Virginia Department of Agriculture Secretary).
March 28, 2017
Published in the March 25, 2017, issue of Lancaster Farming
We just celebrated the 44th National Agriculture Day (March 21), which recognizes the contributions of agriculture to American society and thanks our farmers for providing us with life’s necessities – food, fiber, clothing and shelter. To coincide with this national celebration, Governor Larry Hogan declared March 19-25 as “Maryland Agriculture Week.”
There are 2.1 million farms in the United States, a country with nearly 319 million people. Agriculture products remain the nation’s top export. Each American farmer today feeds more than 155 people – a dramatic increase from 25 people in the 1960s. American agriculture is doing more – and doing it better. As the world population soars, there is an even greater demand for the food and fiber produced in the United States.
From the mountains of Western Maryland with its dairy farms and hay to Central Maryland with its greenhouse and livestock industries to the Eastern Shore’s acres of corn and poultry – Maryland truly grows something for everyone. Our vibrant agricultural industry is a critical component of our state’s economy, and our farmers go above and beyond to provide fresh, quality food that is accessible, affordable, and safe for our citizens. That’s a lot to celebrate during Ag Week!
Frederick Douglass High School New Ag Program
I spent National Ag Day with Mayor Catherine Pugh and Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford and students at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore City, where the department has been working with the school leaders, Maryland Nursery Landscape and Greenhouse Association, Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation and other industry and community leaders to bring hands-on agricultural experiences to the students. The school has created a Garden Club and developed an Urban Agriculture class with 24 students involved this inaugural year.
Thanks to the many partnerships and generous support of the industry, two new hoop houses were erected last fall. The Lt. Governor and I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the hoop houses during a statewide kick-off event for Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week at the school last September.
On National Ag Day, we helped students transplant begonias into larger pots. These are the first plants to be grown in the school’s new hoop houses, and will give each student in the school an opportunity to take home a flower on Mother’s Day weekend that was grown by Frederick Douglass students.
Hopefully in the future, we can start a FFA chapter at the school. Next year, we hope the school will be able to grow plants in the hoop houses and hold a plant sale to raise money for the school’s agriculture program.
Ag Literacy Campaign
Next month, I will join Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Dr. Craig Beyrouty, University of Maryland Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, to visit third grade classrooms at Beltsville Academy Elementary School. We will be reading the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation 2017 Ag Literacy Campaign book “Hatching Chicks in Room 6” by Caroline Arnold. This book teaches children about the life cycle of a chicken, incubating eggs, watching them hatch, and raising the chicks until they are old enough to return to the chicken coop.
This is the seventh year for Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation’s annual Ag Literacy Program. This Ag in the Classroom program seeks to instill the importance of agriculture in student’s daily lives.
You can be a Literacy Volunteer and set up a time to visit in a nearby school and read to students in grades K-3. Following the reading of the book, volunteers conduct an activity with the students and share their experiences in agriculture. The book is then left in the classroom or media center with a book plate indicating the donor.
Lesson plans and ideas for many activities can be found at www.maefonline.com. To order hardback copies of the book for $10 each, or for more information, visit maefonline.com, or contact Jeanne Mueller 410-848-4745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2017 Ag Census
USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service just launched the 2017 Census of Agriculture in conjunction with National Ag Day. This data is so important on a number of levels, and there is strength in numbers.
As a farmer, I encourage you to participate in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. It is our voice, our future, and our opportunity to shape American agriculture – its policies, services, and assistance programs – for years to come.
If you are new to farming or did not receive a Census of Agriculture form in 2012, there is still time to sign up to receive the 2017 Census of Agriculture report form by visiting www.agcensus.usda.gov and clicking on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button through June.
Spring Means Farmers’ Markets
Spring also means farmers markets will be opening up across the state. Farmers’ markets provide an important source of income for farmers. They also serve as integral links between urban, suburban and rural communities. By talking one-on-one with farmers, consumers can learn about fresh produce including preparation and storage tips. Consumers also develop a bond of trust in the integrity and accountability of our growers.
In preparation for the season, the department will hold its annual farmers’ market conference with nearly 100 participants on April 10. This conference provides participants an opportunity to network and connect with experts on farmers’ market issues in Maryland and nationally. It will also introduce market managers to prospective farmers and vendors. We look forward to a great season!
February 25, 2017
Published in the Feb. 25, 2017, issue of Lancaster Farming
Animal Waste Technology
Last week, the Governor and I toured the first Maryland poultry operation to install cutting-edge technology that converts poultry litter to energy at the Murphy family’s Double Trouble Farm in Dorchester County.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture awarded a $970,000 animal waste technology grant to Biomass Heating Solutions, Inc. (BHSL) for the manure-to-energy project and an additional $139,000 to monitor its operation for one year.
This project has the following benefits:
- Reduced environmental impact: A reduction in the potential environmental impact of manure resources
- Lower energy costs: A reduction in energy costs through using heat from the manure as a source for heating poultry houses
- Improved animal welfare: Improved animal welfare, with improved health and reduced risk of diseases
- Improved performance: Faster growth – poultry reaching target weight more quickly
- Additional revenue: Potential expansion of revenue streams – earnings from the sale of excess electricity and a fertilizer by-product
Projects like this can help to improve water quality, increase energy independence, improve animal waste management, and ensure sustainability of animal agriculture in Maryland – all while improving the farm’s bottom line.
The Murphy farm and its new technology were featured on Maryland Public Television’s Maryland Farm & Harvest show on January 24. The show is available to watch online at www.mpt.org/farm.
Maryland’s Animal Waste Technology Fund is a grant program that provides seed funding to companies that demonstrate innovative technologies to manage or repurpose manure resources.
To date, the program has approved $3.7 million in grants to six projects.
The next operational project we plan to feature will be Planet Found Energy Development project at Millenium Farms in Pocomoke City. Planet Found received a $676,000 state grant for the project, which uses an anaerobic digester to convert chicken litter into methane gas which, in turn, is used to produce electricity (26 kilowatts/hour plant producing an estimated 100,000 kilowatts/year). The system will send excess electricity not used on the farm to the grid. Excess heat generated may be used to offset propane costs for poultry house heating
Also, CleanBay Renewables, which received a $1.4 million state grant, is ready to break ground for the first of four regional facilities to convert poultry litter to energy. They should be operational in Somerset County by 2018 and will be starting one other facility in Maryland and two in Delaware.
Moving Seafood Marketing to MDA
We also toured J.M. Clayton – the world’s oldest crab processing facility – in Cambridge in support of House Bill 120, which would move the state’s seafood and aquaculture marketing program from the Department of Natural Resources back to the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
There’s a reason there is a farmer and a watermen on our State seal. This bill is an important step toward recognizing the bond between farmers and watermen.
During the visit, Governor Hogan unveiled a new logo concept for “Maryland’s Best Seafood.” We all know that Maryland is home to the best seafood, and with a strong marketing plan from the Department of Agriculture, Maryland will be open to new markets and opportunities for our watermen.
The industry would benefit from established relationships with distributors, restaurants, grocery chains and other institutions, in addition to the department’s experience in promoting products to international buyers through the Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA).
HB120 will move approximately $190,000 in special funds from fees collected on commercial watermen and processing licenses by the Department of Natural Resources. In addition to this funding, the department will be able to pursue further funding from USDA and other grants to support the new program.
The House Environment and Transportation Committee held a hearing on February 8 where the departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources and industry leaders testified in support of the bill with no opposition.
Legislation of Interest
HB 130 – The bill creates a more efficient review and approval process for applications submitted to the Maryland Wine & Grape Promotion Fund. The bill repeals the definition of the Maryland Wine and Grape Promotion Council and the Council. It requires the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Maryland Wine and Grape Growing to advise and recommend to the Secretary of Agriculture for approval the allocation of specified funds for specified projects in the Maryland Wine and Grape Promotion Fund.
HB 155 – Provides a process correction. Currently, if a landowner submits a request to terminate the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation’s easement, the statutory process requires separate, simultaneous review processes by the county receiving the request and the Foundation. If the county denies the termination request, the Foundation cannot approve it, however, the Foundation is statutorily compelled to complete its review and conduct its own hearing. This requires expenditure/s up to or in excess of $10,000 in expert fees, and a substantial amount of personnel time and resources, all of which may be unnecessary should the county find through its own process that the easement termination cannot be approved.
The proposed legislation segments the termination process by having the county conduct its review and hearing and deciding whether the request should be approved or denied. If the county denies the request, the request fails and does not move forward to the Foundation, resulting in the Foundation not expending time and effort on termination applications that it cannot approve. If the request is approved, it moves forward to the Foundation to determine whether the land may be farmed profitably.
HB602 / SB422 – Antibiotics bill – will prohibits cattle, swine, or poultry premises from administrating antimicrobial drugs without a prescription or Veterinary Feed Directive order issued by a veterinarian licensed in Maryland. The Maryland Department of Agriculture opposes the legislation as written because it is duplicative and incomplete compared to the national effort by FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine to place the use of medically important antibiotics in feed and water under veterinary oversight.
For the latest information, positions and testimony on 2017 legislation impacting Maryland agriculture, visit our website.
February 17, 2017
Published in the January 28, 2017 issue of Lancaster Farming
During the Legislative Session, the Maryland Department of Agriculture follows many bills that may impact the agency and the customers we serve. We will regularly post a synopsis of the bills the department is tracking and a hearing schedule that is updated from the Department of Legislative Services’ website. If we provide a PowerPoint presentation or written testimony for any bill, it will be posted on our website after the hearing, if not sooner.
Last week my team and I briefed the Maryland Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs and House Environment & Transportation committees on a number of issues and provided status updates on the Phosphorus Management Tool and Manure Transport Program at the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
You can access those presentations and all of our 2017 Legislation information at www.mda.maryland.gov under “Hot Topics”.
Food Safety Modernization Act
Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2010 giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate food production/manufacturing practices. FDA has promulgated seven rules to implement FSMA – four of which potentially have an impact on Maryland farmers.
The most significant impact on Maryland farmers will be the Produce Safety Rule, which for the first time regulates production practices (human pathogens in irrigation water, use of biological soil amendments, worker health and hygiene and proximity of livestock, poultry, domestic and wild animals to fruit and vegetable production).
FDA awarded $3.6 million over five years to the Maryland Department of Agriculture to develop a Maryland Produce Safety Program equivalent to the FSMA Produce Safety Rule that includes: outreach; education and technical assistance for produce growers and packers; and eventually inspection and enforcement of the provisions of the Produce Safety Rule. FDA plans to continue funding the Maryland Produce Safety Program after the initial five year period in lieu of FDA conducting inspections and enforcement in Maryland. MDA has a cooperative agreement with University of Maryland and University of Maryland Extension to provide the education and technical assistance farmers will need to successfully implement practices that meet the requirements of the rule. The department will provide outreach and technical assistance to produce growers and will develop the inspection and enforcement piece. The first inspections are required to be conducted in 2018.
The Produce Safety Rule exempts the following:
- Farmers that only grow produce that is rarely consumed raw, such as potatoes and food grains.
- Farmers that only grow produce that receives commercial processing with a step that adequately reduces the presence of microorganisms of public health concern, as long as they maintain required documentation.
- Produce growers with less than $25,000 of annual produce sales.
Additionally, produce growers with less than $500,000 of human and animal food sales annually based on a three year average that sell more than 50 percent of the food directly to consumers or to a retail or food service location within the same state or no more than 275 miles away may be eligible for a “Qualified Exemption”. Although the gross sales used to determine eligibility for the “Qualified Exemption” include both human and animal food, the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule only apply to produce covered by the rule.
FSMA Compliance Dates Fast Approaching
Any grower who believes they may meet the “Qualified Exempt” criteria must begin maintaining records starting January 26, 2017, documenting their total gross sales of human and animal food and the gross sales directly to the consumer and to restaurants and retailers located within Maryland or not more than 275 miles away. Modified requirements for labeling must be in place by January 1, 2020. Very small businesses (defined as those with more than $25,000 but no more than $250,000 produce sales annually based on a three year average) are required to be compliant by January 26, 2020. Small businesses (defined as those with more than $250,000 but no more than $500,000 produce sales annually based on a three year average) are required to be compliant by January 26, 2019. All other farms are required to be compliant by January 26, 2018.
Whether a Maryland farm falls into the exempt, qualified exempt or fully covered category, all produce growers will need to follow the requirements of the produce safety rule to protect public health and meet buyer requirements. Although many farms have already implemented best practices for produce safety, there is always room for improvement. MDA is currently identifying and developing resources to assist Maryland produce growers in implementing practices that meet the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule and will provide the safest produce possible to consumers. For more information, visit www.mda.maryland.gov/fsma
January 3, 2017
The following was published in the December 6, 2016 Baltimore Sun.
To the Editor:
The November 30 Op-Ed “Maryland wants to weaken winter manure rules” does not provide readers with the facts about the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s proposed changes to state nutrient management regulations. These changes will balance environmental protections and maintain sustainable soil health within the realities of farming and Mother Nature. When working around unknown conditions – like weather – it’s difficult to develop a one-size fits all solution.
Weather conditions are cited as one of the main reasons for sewer overflows, which according to Maryland Department of Environment 2016 overflow reports accounted for more than 117 million gallons of sewage directly entering our waterways.
The proposal adds a an emergency provision during winter restrictions to allow the Department to work with farmers to prevent an overflow from a storage structure by following procedures to minimize impact and prevent runoff into waterways. This exemption does not apply to biosolids or food waste. It is only for on-farm generated manure for which the farmer cannot store due to extraordinary circumstances.
Farmers have been taking action to comply with the manure storage regulations. Since 2012 dairy farmers constructed 58 waste storage structures and 14 are underway. Livestock farmers have applied to construct an additional 394 manure storage facilities. Storage structures are only one of many best management practices that state Soil Conservation Districts staff handle and there is currently a back log. Therefore, an emergency provision is still needed for those farms that have some storage and shown intent, but have not yet been able to build additional facilities.
The department strengthened the regulations by adding a provision that farmers cannot ever apply manure if the ground is frozen or snow covered and requiring 100 foot setbacks from surface water for any spreading during the winter.
Additional proposed changes include:
1) Removing the incorporation requirement for spring and fall manure spreading. National Resources Conservation Service studies show soil health is improved with little or no soil disturbance other than planting.
2) Extending the fall spreading dates to reflect Sept. 10 – Dec. 15 and eliminating the east and west of the Bay distinction to provide consistency across the State and with average weather conditions. New winter dates will be Dec. 16 – March 1.
We discussed the proposed changes at the Nutrient Management Advisory Committee and Phosphorus Management Tool Advisory Committee meetings over the summer, as well as several dairy workshops and one-on-one meetings with environmental organizations. The consensus from the meetings is that these are reasonable changes that account for the variability in weather conditions across our state, and providing sustainable soil health practice options for farmers while still providing environmental protections.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes the significant progress that has been made already and that Maryland agriculture is on track to meet its 2017 water quality goals. These proposed changed will not impact our progress in meeting these goals.
Maryland farmers continue to plant record cover crop acreage, which is one of the most cost-effective ways to keep nitrogen out of ground water and the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, the State invested $31.2 million in grants last year for farmers to install 2,440 conservation projects that control soil erosion, reduce nutrient runoff and protect water quality in streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay.
The Hogan Administration’s Maryland Agriculture Phosphorus Initiative has also been instrumental in helping farmers reduce agricultural phosphorus and improve water quality. Last year alone, Maryland farmers moved 213,151 tons of manure away from farm fields with high soil phosphorus levels—a nearly 40 percent increase over last year’s transport figures. And since 2014, the State has issued $5.4 million in grants through the Animal Waste Technology Fund to support new on-farm manure management technologies.
Many people are concerned about the health of the Chesapeake Bay – none more so than farmers, who rely on our land and water to grow food and fiber for us all.
Secretary, Maryland Department of Agriculture
Published in the December 24, 2016 issue of Lancaster Farming
As the holiday season draws to a close and we prepare for a new year, it’s a good time to get up to speed on potential issues for the coming year, including a new legislative session. And, if you are a poultry grower, please take note of High Path Avian Influenza outbreaks around the world and intensify your biosecurity efforts.
2017 Legislative Session
January 11 marks the start Maryland’s 90-day legislative session of the 2017 Maryland General Assembly. We are starting to hear about some legislation that may be introduced this session that would be of considerable interest to the agriculture community.
Likely topics include: legislation that would negatively affect the poultry and dairy community. Initiatives to place additional regulatory burdens on poultry producers through taxes and take away from current cost share programs like the manure transportation program. The department will closely monitor these pieces of legislation and is committed to keep Maryland farmers competitive and profitable. The department is also looking forward to putting forth measures that will promote Maryland agriculture and streamline several departmental programs.
There is only one active farmer currently in the legislature, which underscores the need for us to help our lawmakers better understand agriculture. If the General Assembly schedules a hearing for a bill that will affect your operation, I urge you all to come to Annapolis and testify.
High Path Avian Influenza
In light of the recent High Path Avian Influenza outbreaks in Western Europe, Russia, Israel, India, Korea, and Japan, Maryland poultry growers, large and small, are at a much higher risk of seeing High Path Avian Influenza (HPAI) destroy their flocks. As a result, we are calling for a renewed effort this winter by all poultry producers to intensify their biosecurity efforts.
While we have been fortunate to date, we must be vigilant and cannot afford to take any risks. I know it’s difficult to maintain a high level of biosecurity alert day after day, but it is better than the alternative. We have to do all we can to keep this virus out of our poultry flocks.
The Eurasia HPAI outbreaks are caused by HPAI H5N8, which has very close similarities to the virus that caused so much devastation in the United States in 2015. In Japan, the very recent HPAI outbreaks are caused by HPAI H5N6 – a new HPAI viral strain – and it is too early to tell how much devastation it will cause.
These viruses can be carried by waterfowl migrating this winter southward across the Bering Strait into Western Canada and could be introduced into the lower 48 states through one of the four U.S. migratory flyways.
To maintain a sanitary, bio-secure premise, growers should at a minimum:
- Restrict access to poultry by posting a sign stating “Restricted Access,” securing the area with a gate, or both.
- Take steps to ensure that contaminated materials on the ground are not transported into the poultry growing house or area.
- Provide the following items to anyone entering or leaving any area where poultry are kept:
- Footbaths and foot mats with disinfectant;
- Boot washing and disinfectant station;
- Footwear change or foot covers.
- Cover and secure feed to prevent wild birds, rodents or other animals from accessing it.
- Cover and properly contain poultry carcasses, used litter, or other disease-containing organic materials to prevent wild birds, rodents or other animals from accessing them and to keep them from being blown around by wind.
- Allow MDA to enter the premises during normal working hours to inspect your biosecurity and sanitation practices. Growers should report any unusual bird deaths or sudden increases in very sick birds to the Animal Health Program at 410-841-5810or after hours to 410-841-5971. All growers and others interested in HPAI are strongly encouraged to read up about HPAI and biosecurity measures on the MDA website.
Maryland Farm & Harvest
These cold winter nights provide a great opportunity to catch up on the most popular series on Maryland Public Television – Maryland Farm & Harvest. We are a few weeks into the fourth season and planning is already underway for a fifth. I am happy to report that Maryland Farm & Harvest has become MPT’s number one program with over 4 million viewers since it debuted in Fall 2013. The show has been a valuable asset in educating the public and younger generations
I am very proud of MDA’s involvement with the program, and I thank all of our sponsors for their support. Make sure you tune into MPT every Tuesday night at 7:30. Or watch online anytime at www.mpt.org/farm.
In closing, I am grateful for the hard work and dedicated efforts of our farmers who work each day to provide food and fiber for us all. I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
December 1, 2016
Published in the November 26, 2016 issue of Lancaster Farming
Maryland’s 12,300 farms are the backbone of our rural economies that work every day to provide the food and fiber needs of our state and nation – even the world. The most important challenge Maryland agriculture will face in 2017 is helping our elected officials and the general public understand the environmental stewardship efforts of our farmers and progress made to date to preserve our precious natural resources. We also must help them better understand the importance of Maryland agriculture to our quality of life and the overall economy. A recent University of Maryland study showed the impact of agriculture on Maryland’s economy amounts to $8.25 billion annually and 45,600 jobs – and that doesn’t even include equines.
Bay Restoration Progress
We are pleased that the EPA recognizes the significant progress that has been made already and that Maryland agriculture is on track to meet its 2017 goals. Maryland farmers continue to plant record cover crop acreage, which is one of the most cost-effective ways to keep nitrogen out of ground water and the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, the State invested $31.2 million in grants last year for farmers to install 2,440 conservation projects that control soil erosion, reduce nutrient runoff and protect water quality in streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.
Governor Larry Hogan’s Maryland Agriculture Phosphorus Initiative has also been instrumental in helping farmers reduce agricultural phosphorus and improve water quality. Last year alone, Maryland farmers moved 167,237 tons of manure away from farm fields with high soil phosphorus levels—a 40 percent increase over last year’s transport figures. And since 2014, the State has issued $5.4 million in grants through the Animal Waste Technology Fund to support new on-farm manure management technologies.
Maryland’s Best FRESH, LOCAL
From in-store promotions of Maryland-grown apples and watermelons, to advertising, media events and press releases, the department’s marketing projects continued to build demand for local products and connect farmers with consumers via our Maryland’s Best program. This state agriculture branding campaign emphasizes “Fresh, Local” and develops advertising designed to drive consumers to www.MarylandsBest.net to find local farms.
The program recently expanded to promote the Homegrown By Heroes program. In an effort to support Maryland veterans who have returned home to the farm, the program will provide unique signage to identify and promote products at farmers’ markets and local groceries grown by local veterans.
Our farmers are positioned in the Mid-Atlantic to have a unique marketplace. We have large population centers in Maryland whose residents, businesses and institutions are willing, able and happy to pay a premium for safe, fresh, delicious, locally produced food.
We are working to help farmers diversify their businesses and to capitalize on expanding marketing opportunities arising from the growing consumer demand for local agricultural products and desire to better understand where their food comes from. This includes our Farm to School program, the Maryland Ice Cream Trail, our recent restaurant promotion, and more.
Our farmers are moving fruits and vegetables – locally and wholesale, in addition to a variety of value-added products. Plus the majority of the grain grown in Maryland is the primary food source for our number one agricultural sector – the poultry industry.
Maryland Farm & Harvest
Season four of “Maryland Farm & Harvest,” which puts a human face on Maryland agriculture, debuts on Nov. 15. For the past six months Maryland Public Television’s (MPT) production team has filmed at more than four dozen farms and agriculture facilities across the state in preparation for the new 13-episode season.
We are very pleased that this is MPT’s highest rated, locally produced show – with approximately 4 million viewers since the series launched in fall 2013 (not including on demand or online views). New episodes will continue to air Tuesdays at 7 p.m. and repeat Thursdays at 11:30 p.m. and Sundays at 6 a.m. All episodes can be viewed online after they air at: www.mpt.org/farm). We appreciate the generous support of all the program sponsors that make this series possible.
Working with Elected Officials
As a former county and state elected official for nearly 30 years, I know first-hand how important it is for officials to understand the real-life impact of laws and regulations. Last month we hosted members of the House Environment and Transportation committee and the Senate Health Environment and Education committee, legislative staff, local elected officials, and other industry leaders to tour three mid-shore farming operations that highlighted poultry, grain, value-added agriculture, winery and ag-tourism.
At the Maryland State Fair, we hosted a breakfast and tour of the fairgrounds and had a positive response from more than a dozen officials who participated. Once the 2017 General Assembly is underway, we will invite legislators to tour the department, see our labs and hear from our employees about the work they do to protect consumers and the environment and to promote agriculture. We will continue working with elected officials, policy makers and the general public to ensure they know about the importance of Maryland agriculture to our quality of life and overall economy.
The year ahead will continue to bring more opportunities for Maryland agriculture, and I look forward to continuing to serve Marylanders.
November 3, 2016
Published October 2016 in Lancaster Farming
The days are getting shorter and cooler, and harvests are both underway and winding down. The first frost has already hit some areas of the state, and fall farm activities are in full swing. The season is definitely changing – but it hasn’t quite changed yet.
Maryland corn harvested for grain is 11 percentage points behind the 5 year average and barley planted is 6 percentage points behind the 5 year average (as of right now). We’ll have to wait and see what the next few weeks bring.
All in all, it’s turning out to be another year in farming.
Due to late spring planting and a warm and unusually wet fall (so far), farmers in some areas of the state are just getting into the fields now. Because soil conditions are still favorable, we recently extended three key deadlines.
- Cover Crop Planting: Farmers who signed up to plant wheat, rye or triticale cover crops have until 15 to get them in the ground. The extension only pertains to farmers who use no till, conventional, or broadcast with light, minimum or vertical tillage planting methods. It does not apply to legume/small grain mixes. Be sure to certify your cover crop acreage with your local soil conservation district by Nov. 18 to be eligible for cost-share assistance.
- Nutrient Applications: On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the deadline for all nutrient applications, including commercial fertilizer and poultry litter, has been extended to Nov. 15 to allow farmers more time to fertilize crops that will be planted later this fall. The new deadline is consistent with the nutrient cut-off date that farmers are required follow in all other areas of the state. After the 15th, farmers are prohibited from spreading commercial fertilizer and stackable manure until March 1.
- Fall application of liquid manure on dairy farms and other livestock operations has been extended to Dec. 3 to allow farmers time to empty their waste storage structures before winter, After Dec. 3, farmers may not spread manure on their fields until March 1. The extension does not apply to dry, stackable manure or poultry litter.
The weather often decides what needs to be done, and we will remain flexible for the benefit of farmers.
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service recently released findings from its 2014 Organic Survey and its 2014 Census of Horticultural Specialties. The organic survey showed that there are 120 organic farms on nearly 14,000 acres in Maryland. Together, they produced and sold $19 million in organic products. Of these – 110 farms were certified and 10 were exempt from certification because they gross less than $5,000 annually from organic sales.
The horticultural census shows that there are 313 horticultural operations in Maryland that sold $226 million in horticultural products in 2014, compared to 368 horticultural operations that sold $225 million in horticultural products in 2009. Horticulture producers in Maryland had $158.6 million in total production expenses in 2014. Hired labor expenses in Maryland accounted for 38 percent of the total production expenses. Of the 3,433 hired workers in Maryland, 1,332 worked less than 150 days compared to 2,101 who worked 150 days or more.
One of the best things about fall is the many agri-tourism activities that start up and give people who have never been on a farm an opportunity to visit one. Farms across the state offer a variety of family friendly activities, from getting lost in a corn maze to petting farm animals to enjoying home baked goods. It just doesn’t get any better than watching kids explore a farm on a crisp autumn day. Agri-tourism is a booming industry here in Maryland. According to the USDA’s most recent agricultural census, there are 307 agri-tourism farms in Maryland with revenues of $7.2 million.
If pumpkins are in the field (as they are now), we know Thanksgiving isn’t far away. We, once again, remind Maryland families to order their local, farm-fresh turkeys from their local family farm early! The Maryland turkey growers across the state offer the freshest, best tasting turkey available, and they often sell out. The high demand for these birds is evidence to the superior flavor and freshness. According to the latest USDA Census, 117 Maryland farms sell more than 154,000 turkeys – although turkeys sold directly from the farm to the consumer account for a small portion of the total production. By purchasing a locally raised turkey, consumers will help support our family farms and community.
For a list of farms offering fall activities or farms that offer fresh turkeys (and other local products you’re looking for), visit www.marylandsbest.net
See you on the farm!
Published September 2016 in Lancaster Farming
Homegrown School Lunch Week
The start of the new school year makes us focus on Homegrown School Lunch Week, which is Sept. 19-23 in Maryland. This is a component of our Farm to School Program and encourages school districts to bring more locally grown foods into Maryland school lunches and recognizes the efforts that each system is making.
The “Farm to School” program strives to bring locally produced foods into school cafeterias as much as possible, to teach student where their food comes from, how it is produced and the benefits of healthy eating. It also provides hands-on learning activities by bringing students to visit farms, inviting producers to visit schools and to encourage students to participate in school gardening and culinary classes. It also expands markets for farmers.
A very important component of this program is that it helps incorporate educational lessons about local food and nutrition for Maryland students – an important endeavor as more and more students live further away from farm life.
In Maryland, there are more than 2 million acres in farmland and more than 12,000 farms. More than 70 million lunches and 24 million breakfasts are served in Maryland schools annually. We have done a good job, so far, here in Maryland where school systems spend $18 million on local food served in schools, according a recent USDA Farm to School Census. And Maryland was also the first state in the nation to have every public school system participate in Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week.
If Maryland products aren’t on the menus of your local schools, ask the school cafeteria managers to include some. And if they need help finding local products, call our Marketing Office and we can help them locate local producers. I encourage you to learn more about www.marylandfarmtoschool.org
Celebrating The Accomplishments of Bay Area Farmers
It was my pleasure to join with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack last week in recognizing the outstanding work and significant investments that farmers and forest landowners in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have made to improve water quality across the watershed. We were also fortunate to be able to meet and talk with Maryland Farm Bureau members, soil conservation district personnel, members of various commodity groups and, of course, our colleagues at USDA and NRCS about their concerns and challenges when implementing conservation projects.
I am very proud that Maryland farmers are on the forefront of Bay conservation and restoration efforts. Our farmers have continuously stepped up to meet the goals set before them, which have become increasing more challenging.
Last week, USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service released a progress report called “Agricultural Lands Key to A Health Chesapeake Bay. “ The report details the many investments farmers have made to improve the health of the Bay through voluntary conservation measures. For instance, 99 percent of agricultural land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed has at least one conservation practice on it, and many have more than one. The report also states that that, it reports that, from 2006 to 2011, improved nutrient management has reduced the loss of nitrogen by 38 percent and phosphorus by 45 percent. And Maryland farmers planted over 492,000 acres of cover crops on their fields in fall 2015 which prevented an estimated 2.95 million pounds of nitrogen and 98,500 pounds of phosphorus from washing into Maryland waterways. I encourage all of you to read the progress report. You can download it online here: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/programs/initiatives/?cid=stelprdb1047323
Finally, I encourage all farmers and land owners to get up to speed on Palmer Amaranth, an aggressive, invasive pigweed native to the desert regions of the southwest United States which has taken root in Maryland. It is resistant to both glyphosate (Roundup) and ALS type herbicides, and it can grow more than two inches a day.
I have written about this weed in this column before because it is establishing itself more and more in Maryland and has the potential to threaten our cropping systems. It is one of the most troublesome weeds that we know and aggressive steps are necessary to minimize its impact.
For information, or assistance with identifying or controlling Palmer amaranth, please contact your local extension agent.
August 9, 2016
Published in Capital Gazette on August 8, 2016
In response to “On the Bay: Beekeepers,environmentalists criticize state’s pollinator protection plan” (The Capital, July 20), I wanted to clarify a few points. Pollinator health is declining across the country, not just in Maryland. This decline puts the nation’s food supply — about one-third of which depends upon pollinators — at risk.
President Barack Obama directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to work with state agencies to develop Managed Pollinator Protection Plans (MP3) that mitigate risks to honey bees and other pollinators. In January, the Maryland Department of Agriculture partnered with the Keystone Policy Center and the University of Maryland to conduct a statewide multi-stakeholder summit to identify opportunities and barriers to pollinator health, particularly as they relate to sustainable food production. The summit convened 70 stakeholders, including state agencies, beekeepers, growers, pesticide applicators, landowners, and land managers.
Maryland’s Managed Pollinator Protection Plan, released on June 16, addresses some of those barriers identified at the summit and provides multiple practices that various bee-loving populations can use to improve pollinator health and habitat.
This plan is not the result of the Pollinator Protection Act of 2016 which passed theMaryland General Assembly earlier this year. The EPA is conducting a series of pollinator risk assessments of neonicotinoid pesticides. After EPA releases its recommendations, the department will review and update the State’s pesticide laws and regulations as necessary — and in accordance with the Pollinator Protection Act of 2016 to ensure they are protective of pollinators and consistent with federal law.
The department is working diligently on several fronts to improve pollinator health. Thank you for the opportunity to make this clarification.
August 8, 2016
To be published July 2016 in Lancaster Farming
The Buy Local Pledge
“I pledge to eat at least one thing from a local farm every day during Buy Local Week, July 23-31, 2016.”
Some of us take the Buy Local Pledge every chance we get, but not everyone does. Governor Larry Hogan has officially declared July 23-31 as Buy Local Challenge Week to raise awareness about the benefits of local farms and food so that Marylanders will become more familiar and more frequent consumers of fresh, local products. I certainly join the Governor in encouraging all Marylanders to take the pledge and eat well the week of July 23.
Buying and eating local is more than just enjoying fresh, delicious, nutritious food that tastes better – although that’s good enough reason for me. Local food is better for the environment. It keeps land open, in production and requires less fuel for transportation and therefore less pollution. Local produce is also better for you since food that travels less time and distance holds more of its nutrients. Eating local food also supports local farm families, local economies and local communities. In addition, buying local helps preserves open space, especially in rural areas where growing development pressures put both the environment and our quality of life at risk.
In its 2010 Policy Choices Survey, the University of Baltimore Schaefer Center for Public Policy found that more than 78 percent of Marylanders said they want to buy produce grown by a Maryland farmer. The Buy Local Challenge gives them an opportunity to do just that.
The Buy Local Challenge was created by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission and has since become a statewide program. The Buy Local Challenge Week is always the last full week of July. Take the Buy Local Pledge here: http://buylocalchallenge.com/
To promote and kick off the Buy Local Challenge Week, Governor Larry Hogan and First Lady Yumi Hogan hosted the 9th Annual Buy Local Cookout at Government House on July 21. Recipes for the event showcased the many ways local Maryland ingredients can be used in all kinds of ways. Recipes were submitted by teams of Maryland chefs and producers and selected based on their availability of ingredients, geographic representation, maximum use of local ingredients and creativity. The Buy Local Cookout also featured grocery store chains, distributors, restaurants and institutions that support farmers.
Each year, the department publishes a Maryland Buy Local Cookout cookbook of all the recipes submitted for the cookout. This year’s cookbook – and every other cookbook published since 2009 – can be downloaded for free from our website at: http://mda.maryland.gov/Pages/Buy-Local-Cookout.aspx
All recipes include wine, beer or spirits pairing recommendations from the Maryland Wineries Association, Brewers Association of Maryland and the newly formed Maryland Distillers Guild.
Today, there are 145 farmers markets in Maryland and the demand for local products continues to grow. We are working hard to connect local producers with local consumers, and we invite everyone to check our searchable database at www.marylandsbest.net to find local products and markets nearby.
We also encourage consumers to ask for Maryland-grown products whenever possible – while shopping for weekly groceries, when eating at a Maryland restaurant, when visiting children’s schools and cafeterias, even while visiting someone in the hospital. Ask where the local products are and if there aren’t any, ask them to stock some.
And don’t forget, there are nine dairy farms on Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail. Enjoying a nice scoop of farm fresh ice cream counts as buying local as well!
The Buy Local Challenge and Buy Local Week helps residents – many of whom have had no connection or contact with a real, working farm – realize how delicious local products are. Once they do that, we are certain they will continue to seek out and demand more avenues for obtaining fresh, local food.
So take the pledge, take the challenge, eat well, preserve the environment, and support your local farmers – all at the same time!
June 20, 2016
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its evaluations of how well the five Chesapeake Bay states and related federal agencies are progressing toward meeting their 2014-2015 milestones and 2016-2017 milestone commitments for restoring the Chesapeake Bay. The milestones are key check-in points on the way to meeting all Bay pollution reduction measures by 2025.
We are pleased that the EPA recognized the significant progress that has been made already and that Maryland agriculture is on track to meet its 2017 goals.
Maryland farmers continue to plant record cover crop acreage, which is one of the most cost-effective ways to keep nitrogen out of ground water and the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, the State invested $31.2 million in grants last year for farmers to install 2,440 conservation projects (including cover crops) that control soil erosion, reduce nutrient runoff and protect water quality in streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. These grants helped Maryland farmers meet or exceed most of the 2014-2015 Bay restoration milestones.
Governor Larry Hogan’s Maryland Agriculture Phosphorus Initiative has also been instrumental in helping farmers reduce agricultural phosphorus and improve water quality. Last year alone, Maryland farmers moved 167,237 tons of manure away from farm fields with high soil phosphorus levels—a 40 percent increase over last year’s transport figures. And since 2014, the State has issued $3.7 million in grants through the Animal Waste Technology Fund to support new on-farm manure management technologies.
Clearly, Maryland farmers are continuing to do more than their part, and I congratulate everyone for their outstanding efforts.
Cover Crop Sign Up June 24-July 15
Let’s keep up the great work on cover crops! The Maryland Department of Agriculture’s 2016-2017 Cover Crop Sign-Up will take place June 24 through July 15 at soil conservation district offices statewide. This popular grant program helps farmers offset seed, labor and equipment costs associate with planting cover crops to control soil erosion, reduce nutrient runoff and protect water quality in streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. Governor Hogan has allocated $22.5 million for Maryland’s 2016-2017 Cover Crop Program.
Workshops Planned for Dairy Farmers
Because this has been a financially challenging year for the dairy sector, Maryland is hosting three workshops in July to provide dairy farmers with financial risk management information and updates on manure management requirements that take effect this winter.
I encourage all dairy farmers to take advantage of the information being provided at these workshops and to learn more about the tools available to help them.
Critical information will be provided by presenters from the University of Maryland, Penn State University, Maryland Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Credit, and the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corp.
All meetings will be held from 9:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Lunch is included. The workshops will be held:
- July 11 – Cecil County Extension, 200 Chesapeake Blvd., Suite 1500, Elkton (registration: 410-996-5280)
- July 12 – Washington County Extension, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro (registration: 301-405-1293)
- July 14 – Garrett County Extension (registration: 301-405-1293).
For more information, call Mark Powell at the department, 410-841-5775, or Paul Goeringer at the University of Maryland, 301-405-3541.
New Pollinator Protection Plan
The department released its Maryland Pollinator Protection Plan last week, which is designed to help various bee-loving populations improve and strengthen pollinator health and habitat. In Maryland, honey bees pollinate crops valued at more than $40 million a year, yet in recent years, honey bee colonies have been experiencing winter losses at a rate of about 30 percent. The plan provides specific information and technical advice to homeowners, beekeepers, farmers, and non-agricultural landowners about how to improve and increase areas where bees can live safely and eat well. The plan is available online. Public comments will be accepted through July 25, 2016 and can be emailed to email@example.com or call 410-841-5710.
Fight the Bite!
Mosquito season is underway. Mosquitoes that could potentially carry the Zika virus breed in containers. All residents should regularly survey their properties and their communities and eliminate or treat mosquito breeding sites. This includes emptying all containers of water around the home and yard every three or four days. These mosquitoes fly about 150 yards in their entire lives. If we eliminate all locations where they could breed, the threat of disease transmission and nuisance complaints can be cut substantially.
For more information, including frequently asked questions, 30-second videos about how to control mosquitoes around the home, tips on how to rid your community of mosquito breeding sites, and tips on how to avoid mosquito bites, visit: www.mda.maryland.gov/zika
I encourage all Marylanders to follow the department’s new Twitter feed @MdAgMosquito for information about unscheduled spray events and other timely information about mosquito control and Zika prevention in Maryland.
May 24, 2016
Published May 28, 2016, in Lancaster Farming
National Agriculture Leaders
In Maryland we are growing – growing crops, growing our industry, and growing national agricultural leaders. Did you know that here in Maryland, we currently have at least seven people who are leading, or serving on the boards of the premier agricultural organizations in the country?
- Chip Bowling, president, National Corn Growers Association
- Lee McDaniel, president, National Association of Soil Conservation Districts
- Chip Council, 1st vice president, U.S. Grains Council
- Jason Scott, 1st vice president, U.S. Wheat Growers
- Eric Spates, board member, National Association of Wheat Growers
- Dennis Howard, chief of the department’s Pesticide Regulation section, is the president of the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials.
- Julie Oberg, communications director for the department, is president of the Communications Officers of State Departments of Agriculture.
I commend each of them and thank them for their leadership and service to ensure that agriculture remains a strong and viable industry.
Mid-Atlantic Ag Leadership
Governor Larry Hogan recognizes the importance of protecting the environment and the Chesapeake Bay, our precious natural resources. Under his leadership, the agriculture industry has continued to use the latest science and do its part to help restore the Bay. Maryland is recognized as a model by our mid-Atlantic neighbors for our efforts to prevent runoff from farms.
For the second year in a row, Maryland hosted agriculture secretaries and commissioners from five Mid-Atlantic states for an Earth Day meeting in Annapolis. We were pleased to host Ed Kee (Delaware Secretary of Agriculture), Sandy Adams (Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services), Russell Redding (Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture) and Jerry Ours (West Virginia Department of Agriculture Poultry and Environmental Specialist).
During their visits, we discussed mutual interests and goals, including the financial health of agriculture in each state, nutrient management, water quality goals and the Chesapeake Bay, manure transport, the Food Safety Modernization Act, Zika virus, high path avian influenza, and international trade issues.
Weather Impacting Crops
Farmers live and breathe by the weather, and this is the coldest, wettest spring I can remember. Planting activities are behind schedule due to high moisture concentration and low soil temperatures. Those who planted early are seeing crops essentially rotting in their fields.
Strawberry plants were beautiful in March as they blossomed and formed fruits with the warmer temperatures. We thought we may have a record crop. As the freezing temperatures started, we covered the plants to protect them and lost some but we carried on, as farmers do. The blossoms picked up in April, then the rain set in and would not let up. Everything stayed wet. My daughter and I recently walked down every row on our farm, and from 12,000 plants, we barely filled one bowl.
I know many farmers across our state have faced similar losses, and we all pray that our farms will be able to recover from these losses. Many tree fruit farmers thought their crops were decimated, but some trees have recovered and overall losses will not be as dire as we anticipated. As we enter small grain harvest season, Vomitoxin is a concern among wheat and barley growers. I encourage any farmer who is having a loss of grain quality to contact their crop insurance agent immediately.
It looks like warmer, sunny days are now in the forecast. Just in time to celebrate the unofficial start of the summer fun season this Memorial Day.
Summer Fun on the Farm
What better way is there to enjoy summer than with friends and family on one of Maryland’s 12,200 farms? There are several different ways you can visit a farm or enjoy new agricultural experiences.
Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail
Last week, we kicked off the 2016 Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail at our newest creamery – Woodborne Creamery at Rock Hill Orchard, owned and operated by John and Mary Fendrick. It is the first dairy to open in Montgomery County in 60 years. Visiting one of Maryland’s on-farm creameries is a great way to celebrate National Dairy Month this June. The Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail promotes our dairy farmers and encourages Marylanders to visit a working farm. The trail is made up of nine dairy farms across the state that produce and sell ice cream directly to consumer on the farm. If you are traveling around Maryland this summer, considering visiting at least one stop on the trail.
Pick up an Ice Cream Trail Passport at any of the creameries (or www.marylandsbest.net).
Celebrating Maryland Agriculture
Summer is truly a great time for Maryland agriculture. It is our chance to shine with fresh produce available at more than 140 farmers’ markets statewide, pick-your-own opportunities at farms all over Maryland, and more than 50 agricultural fairs and shows to visit. Plus we have 70 licensed wineries, seven wine trails, and now seven on-farm breweries offering libations made from local agricultural products. We encourage the public to visit a farm or farmers’ market or attend a fair or show, or visit an agritourism farm, not only because they’re fun but also to see where their food comes from and to learn the importance of agriculture in Maryland. Learn more at www.marylandsbest.net
Hope to see you out on a farm in the coming months.
April 21, 2016
To be Published April 23, 2016, in Lancaster Farming
Throughout the 90-day session as the Maryland General Assembly gathered in Annapolis we focused on educating legislators about Maryland’s number one industry and a number of bills that would have had a direct negative impact on the agriculture industry and the operational and fiscal functions of the department.
We also continued with our outreach to inform legislators about the Department of Agriculture and services we provide to the industry, consumers and the general public. I personally participated in five agricultural briefings to various committees on the status of Maryland’s agricultural community and the department’s function as a state agency, in addition to countless individual meetings with legislators and their staff to ensure they understand the importance of Maryland’s agriculture industry to the economy and rural life.
The General Assembly passed the following bills:
- SB198 – establishes and prohibits a person from selling certain neonicotinoid products at retail in the State after January 1, 2018. This bill also restricts the type of users allowed to apply outdoor neonicotinoid products after January 1, 2018. The Department is also required to make recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor on completion of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s pollinator risk assessment of four neonicotinoid pesticides and must incorporate pollinator habitat expansion into the state’s managed pollinator protection plan.
- SB526– allows the Department to exempt certain agricultural operations, products, or materials from the Maryland Commercial Feed Law through regulation.
- HB433– allows institutes of higher education and state departments of agriculture to conduct research on industrial hemp as a potential fiber and oilseed crop.. It also requires that sites used for growing or cultivating industrial hemp be certified by, and registered with, the state department of agriculture. The bill also authorizes state departments of agriculture to promulgate regulations to carry out a pilot program.
- HB815– authorizes a licensee at the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area to conduct live racing of Arabian breed horses if the purse for an Arabian breed race is funded by the licensee or the sponsor of the race. Specified takeout provisions apply, and the licensee pays specified taxes and fees. The race must also be approved by the Maryland Racing Commission. An Arabian breed horse must have a valid certificate of registry with the Arabian Jockey Club of America.
- HB870 – authorizes the Department of Natural Resources in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture to establish a program to control the spread of black flies in Washington County.
There were three primarily anti-agriculture bills this year and all three measures targeted livestock production and the current way Maryland farmers conduct business. These bills were proposed by out-of-state interest groups, or other environmental groups who would like to see unnecessary changes be made to Maryland’s agriculture industry. The department spent a significant amount of time working to defeat these bills by educating legislators on the negative impact they would have on the industry and the fiscal impact they would place on tax-payers and family farmers. Most notably:
- HB1496 – would have placed requirements for livestock production contracts between contract producers and contractors, as defined in the bill. The bill would also establish specified rights for contract producers and prohibits contractors from engaging in specified practices. Violators are subject to civil and criminal penalties.
- HB599 – would have significantly changed the way poultry companies and growers conduct their voluntary-based contract agreements and business relations. If passed, it would have made the poultry companies responsible for the poultry litter, an organic by-product from poultry house operations. Transferring responsibility of the litter to the poultry companies would take away a valuable nutrient commodity and potential income source from poultry farmers. This bill would require the Maryland Department of Agriculture to inspect and enforce reporting requirements between integrators, manure brokers, manure transport companies, poultry growers, and receiving agricultural operations. Additional general funds would be necessary for new departmental personnel and travel to comply with these added enforcement requirements.
- HB829/SB607 – would have prohibited after January 1, 2018, cattle, swine, or poultry growers from administrating medically important antimicrobial drugs in feed or water without a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) order (Title 21,Code of Federal Regulations(CFR), §558.6 Veterinary Feed Directive Drugs).
The Maryland Department of Agriculture put forward three departmental bills during the 2016 legislative session that were adopted by the General Assembly.
- SB110 – adds positions to the Maryland Young Farmers Advisory Board: a Maryland State FFA officer, an urban farmer, and six “general public” members.
- SB112– repeals the Maryland Pest Control Compact in its entirety. The Interstate Pest Control Compact governing board voted to dissolve the compact in 2012 and it ceased operations in 2013. With the dissolution of the compact, the Maryland Pest Control Compact Law became obsolete.
- SB113– simplifies the process required to import honey bees and associated equipment into Maryland by eliminating a second step of importation (an entry permit from Maryland), while maintaining assurances that only healthy bees and disease-free equipment are imported into the state.
The department will continue to work with a wide-range of various stakeholders, commissions, and advisory boards, after the session to address any possible legislative issues or policy developments, including an interstate-agency workgroup to study the impact of hauling grain, poultry, and dairy on State highways.