MFB content with legislative session in Md.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — After early concerns about the introduction of several harmful bills to the ag community, the Maryland Farm Bureau has deemed the 2019 General Assembly session quite successful for Maryland farmers.
One of the reasons for this success was an open-door policy from all the legislators, Farm Bureau said. “We appreciated the opportunity to meet and work with legislators from both parties,” the farm group said in its session recap sent to members last week.
“The legislature was very fair to agriculture in this year’s budget it maintained funding for the Maryland Ag Cost Share Program. Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation and the other land preservation programs saw full funding again this year along with another $2.5 million in funding for MARBIDCO’s Next Generation Ag Land Preservation Program,” Farm Bureau representatives said in a statement.
Farm Bureau also cheered the inclusion of $1.5 million for the Dairy Margin Cost premium coverage of up to $9.50 margins for the first 5 million pounds of milk.
Farm Bureau designated some of the session’s agricultural highlights to include the passage of the agritourism “sprinkler exemption” bill that adds Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Kent, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s County to the list of counties that exempt existing ag structures that are going to be used for agritourism from being required to retrofit the structure with bathrooms, sprinklers and other high occupancy requirements. This exemption allows up to 200 people in the structure. and the noxious weeds bill.
Another bill passed with funding of $150,000 to focus on controlling Palmer Amaranth on the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland.
A bill passed to adjust state law to allow the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products and creates the Hemp Farming Program and permits MDA to set up the program including marketing and promotion of hemp.
A bill passed establishing the Maryland Produce Safety Program at the MDA, giving MDA authority to conduct inspection, compliance and enforcement activities for the federal Produce Safety Rule instead of the Food and Drug Administration.
A bill passed terminating the sunset clause on a 2014 law that expanded the state’s K-Tag travel radius from 10 miles to 25 miles. The 2019 bill keeps the 25-mile radius intact indefinitely.
A bill Farm Bureau initially opposed and then withdrew its opposition after negotiating several amendments, makes changes to the state’s nutrient management law compliance, primarily targeting “bad actors” and monitors nutrient movement.
The bill creates and increases fines for certain violations of the state’s nutrient management requirements.
The bill requires farmers to report on their Annual Implementation Reports to MDA the name and location of “sending” farms from whom they obtain animal manure.
Farm Bureau noted brokers should provide this information on a bill of sale.
The bill alters the environment article to require that a person must have a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation discharge permit from Maryland Department of Environment before any construction begins on a new CAFO.
Among other changes, the bill requires MDE to charge an initial fee of at least $2,000 for a proposed CAFO that will have a house capacity of greater or equal to 350,000 square feet. The bill requires MDE to charge an annual permit fee of $1,200 to all existing CAFOs of similar size.
The bill also requires the Department of Natural Resources to conduct long-term water quality sampling at sites on the Lower Eastern Shore.
The bill identifies nine specific locations that must be included in the program, including the Transquaking, Chicamacomico, Nanticoke, Wicomico, Manokin and Pocomoke rivers and sound.
Currently, sampling is conducted on a rotational basis around the state.
A bill passed expanding the ban on the use of medically important antibiotics for disease prevention in livestock and poultry while mandating farm-level data reporting by veterinarians.
Despite veto overrides of bills that raised the state’s minimum wage and allowed school start dates to be determined by counties, Farm Bureau noted the non passage of separate bills the group opposes aimed at air quality monitoring around poultry farms and banning the pesticide chlorpyrifos.
The effective date for most of the new laws is Oct. 1.