Collaboration at Mid-Atlantic State Agriculture Meeting
Published in the April 28, 2018, edition of Lancaster Farming
In my role as Maryland’s Secretary of Agriculture, I have made it a priority to collaborate with my counterparts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to address issues that affect farmers throughout the region. One of the ways I have done that is by hosting the annual Mid-Atlantic State Agriculture Secretaries and Commissioners meeting, which has coincided with our celebration of Earth Day the past four years.
This year’s meeting included leadership from Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and Pennsylvania departments of agriculture, as well as EPA Region 3 and NASDA. We also had the distinct privilege of welcoming U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for the afternoon portion of the meeting. It was a very productive day with discussions on everything from labor issues to soil health.
Of course, the overall theme of this meeting has historically been about protecting the Chesapeake Bay from nutrient pollution. It was great to have EPA Region 3 administrator Cosmo Servidio with us to discuss our progress toward reducing agriculture’s impact on nitrous and phosphorus loads in the watershed. We also touched on a variety of related topics including Maryland’s push for healthy soils and our manure transport program.
One major focus of the meeting was the hardships facing our dairy farmers. It is no secret that the dairy industry in our region has been struggling with historically low prices since 2014. Without much relief in sight, my counterparts and I presented Secretary Perdue with a letter requesting that he use his secretarial authority under Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1935 (7 U.S.C. 612c) to provide some much-needed support for an industry that once thrived in this part of the country.
We believe it is important to use every available federal resource to help our dairy farmers and the rural communities that depend on a healthy dairy industry. One of the ideas we proposed was offering financial assistance through the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act. This could help ensure that farmers throughout the region are able to bridge the gap until other policy and/or market factors stabilize. I am confident that Secretary Perdue understands just how much this would mean to our farmers, and I look forward to working with him on this important issue.
Another area of concern was the emergence of the Spotted Lanternfly. Though we have not yet discovered this destructive insect in Maryland, it has spread widely throughout Pennsylvania, with sightings reported in Delaware and Virginia, as well. As our neighbors to the north have learned, this non-native invasive pest poses a major threat to our industry, especially grape growers and orchards. USDA has provided $17.5 million of emergency funding for the region to use for eradication, outreach, and monitoring. Here at MDA, we have created a website dedicated to the issue: mda.maryland.gov/spottedlanternfly. Marylanders are encouraged to submit a photo of a possible sighting to DontBug.MD@maryland.gov.
Our visit with Secretary Perdue also provided a great opportunity to discuss the upcoming Farm Bill and priorities for the region and our individual states. There is sense of optimism that the bill will pass Congress and be submitted to the President before the October 1 deadline.
I would like to thank my colleagues, Secretary Michael Scuse of Delaware, Acting Commissioner Charles Green of Virginia, and Deputy Secretary Greg Hostetter of Pennsylvania for making the trip to Annapolis. This meeting has been a great way for us to collaborate and share lessons learned throughout the years. I look forward to more of these meetings in the coming years.