Fair Farms Legislative Wrap Up for 2022

2022 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

Fair Farms was proud to advocate in Annapolis for bills that enable sustainable farming, support farmers, and promote food security. The General Assembly debated and passed a number of groundbreaking bills this year, like the Climate Solutions Now Act, which included $500,000 for the Healthy Soils Program. While not all of our priorities passed this year,  the work we did on these bills with our partners paves the way to their passage in the near future.

Urban Agriculture Grant Fund (HB1216), sponsored by Delegate Melissa Wells (Baltimore City). 

Last year, Fair Farms worked with Delegate Wells on a successful bill that established an urban farming grant program in Baltimore. The bill introduced this year would have expanded the grant program statewide, created a review committee that included urban farmers, and prioritized funding for historically underrepresented groups.

The bill passed the House but failed to pass the Senate. Thank you to our partners Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Plantation Park Heights, Prince George’s County Food Equity Council and others who advocated for this legislation.

Click here to learn about other urban farming legislation introduced in this legislative session.

Waste Diversion and Farm Composting (HB1070) sponsored by Delegate Regina T. Boyce (Baltimore City).

This bill would have established an “Environmental Stewardship Fund” with two types of grants for farms and a separate grant for schools, nonprofits, and businesses.

Money for the fund would come from a $5/ton fee collected from waste haulers taking their trash to the dump. Unfortunately, this bill did not make it out of the House committee. Delegates voiced questions about how the $5 fee was calculated. Thanks to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and all the organizations who worked hard on this bill.

Agrivoltaics (farm-centered solar development on farmland) (HB936/ SB999), sponsored by Chairman Kumar Barve (Montgomery County). 

Environment & Transportation Committee Chair Del. Kumar Barve championed this bill to further solutions for the demand for increased solar siting in Maryland, which is needed to achieve our renewable energy goals. Some farmers want solar on their land to produce energy and create another source of income. Others are concerned solar on farmland simply takes critical farmland out of production. This bill failed to advance this year. It would have established a task force to study the potential for solar development within a 4-mile radius of interconnection sites like a transformer or substation, including agricultural land. Fair Farms would have had a seat on the commission to uplift the voices of small-scale, sustainable farmers. Agrivoltaics are dual-use solar panels with farming activity under them. 

Maryland Farms and Families Fund, Maryland Food and Agricultural Resiliency Mechanism Grant Program, and Maryland Farm–to–School Meal Grant Pilot Program (HB147, SB121), sponsored by Delegate Lorig Charkoudian (Montgomery County) and Senator Katie Fry Hester (Howard & Carroll Counties). 

This bill passed! The new law accomplishes three important things:

  • The Maryland Farms and Families Fund, created in 2019 after advocacy by Fair Farms and our partners, supports programs that match purchases made by Marylanders using federal nutrition assistance like SNAP at participating farmers markets. (This increases access to fresh, local produce for food-insecure Marylanders and puts more money in the pockets of farmers). Now, the program will include farm stands as well. 
  • It establishes the Maryland Food and Agricultural Resiliency Mechanism Grant Program and Fund with $200,000 for the next fiscal year to support food banks and other emergency food providers
  • It establishes the Maryland Farm-to-School Meal Grant Pilot Program and Fund to give grants to schools to buy local produce

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about how you can get involved in the next legislative session starting in January 2023, please contact the Fair Farms Campaign Manager, Humon Heidarian, at humon@fairfarmsnow.org