Playing by the Rules

Speed limits, anti-fraud protections, no littering, no smoking… Maryland has many laws on its books, designed to protect public health and to serve as a watchdog on government spending. However, the laws are only effective if they are properly enforced.

Enforcement 2For example, more than 5,400 Maryland farms are required to prepare nutrient management plans, which indicate how a farm proposes to manage pollution and prevent it from getting into rivers, creeks and streams. However, the Maryland Department of Agriculture has found that many plans are incomplete or not up to date. How can consumers be confident that they are buying meat and produce grown according to Maryland’s laws if the enforcement is inadequate or inconsistent?

To truly have confidence that our food system is producing healthy food and following the laws and regulations designed to protect Maryland families, we must have a more reliable enforcement program. Maryland state agencies need adequate staff and resources to perform their oversight duties.

For instance, many of the pollution plans for farms are not publicly accessible, despite being supported with public tax dollars. Government agencies could do more. They claim they lack the resources to properly inspect thousands of Maryland farms, but they also fail to collect permit fees for industrial-scale animal operations, resulting in inconsistent enforcement of current regulations. A review in 2013 by the Maryland Department of Agriculture found that one out of every three farms that it audited had “major” violations of their pollution control plans and a quarter of Tomatoes in Handthose farms hadn’t addressed the problem after subsequent follow up visits. 

We can do better. A clear and consistent understanding of how to play by the rules benefits everyone – farmers, corporations and consumers.

Fair Farms supports sustainable farming that is transparent, accountable and verifiable, so we can all know farmers are growing the food we need while protecting our land and water. Marylanders should be confident that the food on their table is not the result of cutting corners or bending the rules.



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