Ag still has clout in Annapolis (Editorial)

by | Sep 13, 2019

The rise and fall of the Carbon-Intensive Foods Subcommittee in Maryland’s Department of General Services shows the state’s farm community still has friends in high places, and this isn’t the last time they’re going to need them.
The subcommittee was formed after the failure of a bill that would have required the state’s Green Purchasing Committee to publish a list of carbon-intensive foods and establish best practices for state agencies to reduce, “to the maximum extent practicable,” purchasing foods on that list.
While state officials maintained the committee was only studying the issue, documents developed for the subcommittee spelled out the group’s goals, developing best practices for “reducing the volume of carbon-intensive foods purchased by state agencies and universities” and a draft list of carbon-intensive foods including beef, lamb, goat meat, butter, shellfish, cheese, pork, chicken, cream, eggs and milk.
In July, after meetings that began in the spring, the Maryland Department of Agriculture was added as co-chair of the subcommittee and several agriculture representatives were asked to take a seat at the table.
At the subcommittee’s August meeting, Hans Schmidt representing the agriculture department put the brakes on developing a hit list for food purchasers.
“… My intent was not to come up with a list, but to come up with whatever the strategy is that we can reduce our carbon footprint,” he said.
Before the month ended, the subcommittee was canned.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is these efforts to stymie animal agriculture will continue and likely intensify as the rhetoric around climate change, carbon footprints and what is considered “green” or not is amplified.
In this specific case, the legislator who got the subcommittee established, Del. Shane Pendergrass, D-Montgomery County, and chair of the House Health and Government Operations Committee, said she would meet with certain people in determining their next steps.
It’s become cliche but it remains ever more true: Farmers need to keep up their advocacy efforts showing what they do is sustainable and responsible.
It was after all, the dogged diligence of those groups that sniffed out the subcommittee’s stated goals and agenda, got a seat at the table and pushed back with facts about their industry.
Nationally, agriculture contributed 9 percent of greenhouse gasses in 2017, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and in Maryland, agriculture produced just 2 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2017, according to a 2018 report by the Maryland Department of the Environment.
“They’re trying to fix a world problem by crucifying Maryland farmers,” said Colby Ferguson, government relations director at the Maryland Farm Bureau.
The subcommittee’s dissolution little more than a month after Maryland Department of Agriculture came on as co-chairperson of the committee shows to a degree where Gov. Larry Hogan holds the interests of farmers, a pledge he has repeated since his initial campaign trail.
Maryland’s history suggests it won’t always be that way.

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