Md. urged to support value-added producers
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — State and local governments should create new support programs for value-added agriculture and invest more in its producers, an economic analysis of the industry released last week said.
In addition to creating a statewide organization to oversee coordination and marketing of the value-added agriculture industry, more money and training should be available for entrepreneurs in the industry, according to the report produced by Grow & Fortify, a Baltimore company that manages several value-added agricultural organizations in Maryland.
“If anything (the report is) a baseline,” said Kelly Dudeck, chief strategy officer for Grow & Fortify, at the Feb. 12 meeting of the Maryland Agricultural Commission.
Dudeck is the commission’s agritourism representative.
Among the report’s other recommendations:
• Collaborate with city, county and state agencies and nonprofits to invest in support infrastructure, including meat processing facilities, food aggregation centers and malting houses.
• Create workforce development and training programs tailored to value-added agriculture.
• Invest in support research and technology, including grants for innovative food products and services and block chain technology and associated labeling to meet consumer demand for transparency along the food chain.
The report repeatedly cited a 2018 Salisbury University report that said the value-added agriculture industry in Maryland supports 74,000 jobs and produces a more than $20 billion yearly economic impact, including nearly $875 million in return to the state government.
The industry’s recent growth has been fueled by rising consumer interest in local food, organic food and agritourism, the report said.
The number of farms in Maryland rose from 12,256 in 2012 to 12,429 in 2017, mostly due to an increase in the number of small farms between 1 and 9 acres.
“The future is bright for value-added agriculture in Maryland,” the report said. “Encouragement of the entrepreneurial spirit, as well as supportive policies, will help farms and related businesses succeed and thrive for generations to come.”
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