Looking Forward and Giving Thanks for Maryland Farmers
By Secretary Joe Bartenfelder
Published in the November 25, 2017 issue of Lancaster Farming
With the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to take a moment to recognize our Maryland farmers. Not only do you work year-round to provide a safe, nutritious supply of food, but your continued commitment to protecting our waterways and the Chesapeake Bay is second to none.
In FY 2017, the state exceeded its Watershed Implementation Program (WIP) assessment goals for phosphorus and sediment reduction, and continued to close the gap on our nitrogen goals. This is due in large part to our farmers’ voluntary use of Best Management Practices (BMPs), and the implementation of Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) in 2015.
As a farmer, I know firsthand that this has not always been an easy transition; but, as your Secretary of Agriculture, it gives me great pride to see Maryland’s sense of commitment and innovation held up as the blueprint for other states’ efforts in resource conservation.
On behalf of the Hogan/Rutherford Administration, I can assure you that your efforts have not gone unnoticed, and we will continue to fight on your behalf here in Annapolis. In Maryland, we are fortunate to have Governor Larry Hogan who is dedicated and determined to serve agriculture and who understands that farmers were the original environmentalists and stewards of the land, and we will continue to be. Governor Hogan also recognizes that Maryland’s family farms are businesses that are a major contributor to the vitality and economy of our state.
New Season of Maryland Farm & Harvest Released
Maryland Public Television’s (MPT) popular original series Maryland Farm & Harvest, returned for its fifth season earlier this month. Each week, Maryland Farm & Harvest takes viewers on a journey across the state, telling stories about the farms, people, and technology required to sustain and grow Maryland’s number one industry: agriculture. Over the past year, MPT’s production team has filmed stories at more than four dozen farms for this season. Maryland’s rich agricultural heritage, the importance of bees, and growing crops in the face of changing weather patterns are among themes covered in depth during upcoming episodes.
We are very pleased that this is MPT’s highest rated, locally produced show – with nearly 5 million viewers since the series first aired (not including on demand or online views). The series has visited more than 200 farms in its first four seasons, covering every Maryland county, as well as Baltimore City and Washington, D.C. A new episode premieres every Tuesday at 7 p.m. on MPT. You can watch all of the episodes on the show’s website: www.mpt.org/farm
2017 Census of Agriculture
In just a few weeks, farmers across the country will have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their communities and industry by taking part in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. I cannot stress how important it is for all farmers to stand up and be counted. Your answers to the census have a far-reach impact on farm programs and rural services that support your community. The census is conducted every five years and compiles the most complete set of data on the agriculture industry, which is used to make decisions on policy, agribusiness and financial issues.
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will mail surveys at the end of this year. NASS has also extensively revised the online census questionnaire at www.agcounts.usda.gov to make it more convenient for producers. Farmers can either mail in their completed census form or take advantage of new time-saving features by responding online.
FSMA Produce Grower Trainings – November 27, 30
The University of Maryland, University of Maryland Extension, and Maryland Department of Agriculture will host two Produce Safety Alliance Grower Trainings this fall. The first is scheduled for Monday, November 27 at the Cecil County Extension office in Elkton, and the second is scheduled for Thursday, November 30 at the Charles Soil Conservation District Office in Waldorf. These trainings are critically important for any operation that will be effected by the new FSMA rules going into effect. More information and registration forms are available on the department’s website.
Farms are critical to Maryland’s economy and priceless rural heritage. As a department, we are continuing efforts to:
- Help farmers to 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;
- Serve as a resource to the agricultural community; and
- Work 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 the overall economy.
As always, we invite your feedback on how we may improve our services to you, the agriculture community. 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 holiday season.