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Impact of the 2016 Legislative Session on Maryland Agriculture

Secretary Joe Bartenfelder

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.
  • SB526allows the Department to exempt certain agricultural operations, products, or materials from the Maryland Commercial Feed Law through regulation.
  • HB433allows 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.
  • HB815authorizes 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.


Contact Information

If you have any questions, need additional information or would like to arrange an interview, please contact:
Jessica Hackett
Director of Communications
Telephone: 410-841-5888