Fair Farms Legislative Priorities for 2019
January 3, 2019
Our Priority Bills
Eating local food provides many benefits to the consumer, the community, and the environment. With the hope of expanding support for local food, this bill will establish a task force that will review current state procurement processes and seek farmer input on the best ways to increase state purchases of locally grown foods. The goal of this bill is to increase the amount of locally grown food procured by Maryland Institutions, providing more market opportunities for our local farming community.
Everyone deserves access to sustainable, locally-grown food. This bill would mandate funding each year for the Farms and Families Program – which supports programs that match purchases made by Marylanders using federal nutrition assistance like SNAP at participating farmers markets. The Program increases access to fresh, local produce for food-insecure Marylanders and puts more money in the pockets of farmers. This bill is needed to ensure that the funding of the Program is guaranteed each year.
In 2017, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Keep Antibiotics Effective Act with broad, bipartisan support in order to stop the routine use of antibiotics in livestock, which is contributing to the alarming rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Maryland Dept. of Agriculture (MDA) waited a very long time to propose regulations that would implement the 2017 law (more than a year!). Unfortunately, the regulations fail to achieve the law’s basic intent — to prevent the routine, low-dose use of antibiotics in agriculture.
This bill clarifies the law passed in 2017, with technical fixes to ensure MDA is implementing the bill as intended by the legislature and that Maryland is doing its part of preserve antibiotics.
Other Issues We Support
Carbon Sequestration Legislation
(bill numbers forthcoming)
Soil is the very foundation of life on farms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture calls it “a living and life-giving substance.” Fertile, healthy soil is vital to grow the wholesome farm foods we depend on. Soil is also incredibly important to climate change – healthy soils capture carbon and prevent it from reaching the atmosphere and contributing to the greenhouse gas effect that is warming our planet. This climate-friendly bill would require the state to set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets to achieve 40% reductions by 2030. It would offer state funding for farmers and others who sequester carbon in their practices.
This bill would encourage access routes to healthy food for people who live in areas of food apartheid and don’t have a personal vehicle. This means that this food-access-friendly infrastructure would now be eligible for state funding under the state’s Complete Streets program. Complete streets integrate our transportation networks, help ensure streets are safe and user-friendly “for people of all ages and abilities, balance the needs of different modes of transportation, and support local land uses, economies, cultures, and natural environments.”
Raising the minimum wage would help lift thousands of families out of poverty, create new customers and revenues for local businesses and strengthen neighborhoods. It would also help farmworkers. This bill would increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2023 and remove exemptions in current law for agricultural workers in rural parts of the state, ensuring they are also are entitled to the state minimum wage.
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there were 381 farms in Anne Arundel County averaging 74 acres in size. “Agritourism” is an educational, recreational, or hands-on activity conducted on a farm with members of the general public and includes things like farm tours, hayrides, corn mazes, seasonal petting farms, farm museums, guest farms, pumpkin patches,“pick your own” or “cut your own” produce, skills-building classes, picnics, and more. Agritourism is an important means of income for many farms, and this bill makes it easier for Anne Arundel farmers to use their barns and buildings for on-site events.
When manure is spread as a fertilizer in excess on farm fields, it can end up washing into our streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, forming “dead zones.” A few years ago, Maryland implemented a new, science-based measurement called the Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) to ensure farmers are responsibly measuring the amount of manure that can be used as fertilizer. This bill would put in place accountability, compliance, and enforcement measures to ensure the the PMT is working. It would also increase water quality monitoring on the Lower Eastern Shore, where there is a large density of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs)
Chlorpyrifos is a toxic nerve agent pesticide proven to cause brain damage in children and known to harm the environment and wildlife. It is found in air and water—and people’s bodies. In 2015, after extensive study, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists recommended that the pesticide be banned for all uses. Despite this, Scott Pruitt—the head of the EPA appointed by President Trump—overrode the recommendations of his own scientists and reversed the decision to ban chlorpyrifos. This legislation would prohibit the use of chlorpyrifos in Maryland, protecting farmworkers, wildlife, pollinators, and public health as a whole.
(Del. Gilchrist – HB384)
Clams, like oysters, are incredibly important for filtering our waterways. With the clam population being in dire need of conservation and the benefits that clams provide to water – it’s more important than ever that the state “clams” responsibly. This bill would require the sustainable management of our clams by adding soft shell and razor clams to the fisher management plan species list for greater protection.