Maryland’s 2018 Legislative Session in Review: Our Wins, Setbacks & Hopes for 2018

Annapolis Sunset

Phew, we made it! Maryland’s 2018 legislative session is officially complete, so Fair Farms is here to update you on what we were able to accomplish together, a couple setbacks, and our hopes for next year.

While there were a host of bills on the docket related to food and farming, Fair Farms prioritized four. Here’s how they fared:

Farmers Market Matching Program Funding:

The General Assembly included $200,000 for the Farms and Families Program in the final budget that takes effect July 1st! We are now one step closer to having Maryland fund a proven program that matches purchases made by low-income Marylanders using federal nutrition assistance like SNAP (food stamps) at participating farmers markets. This program will directly support small farmers, food-insecure Marylanders, and our local economy. This isn’t yet a done deal. We still need the Governor to allocate the funds. Please take a minute to ask for his support by signing this petition.

Fair Farms held countless meetings in Annapolis, lifted up the voices of farmers in support of funding, delivered hundreds of signatures from passionate Marylanders, and even suited up in a carrot costume to deliver a Valentine to the Governor (you have to check out the pictures!). We are incredibly grateful to our legislative champions, allies in the local food and anti-hunger communities, and the farmers who spoke out.

Chlorpyrifos Ban:

Unfortunately, the proposed bill to ban the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos quietly died in Maryland’s Senate. Despite having a preponderance of credible science that links chlorpyrifos with brain damage in children and support for the bill from thousands of Marylanders, powerful special interests were able to kill the bill. The most vocal opponents were the pesticide, golf course, and agriculture industries.

Do not be deterred! We are proud that bill sponsors Del. Dana Stein and Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, along with other policymakers, took a real stand. We are thankful for the many farmers in our network who testified in support of the ban, proving every day that this dangerous chemical isn’t necessary to produce food. And we are in awe of the support from people like YOU, who spoke out in support of this common-sense legislation.

Vote with your wallet: support farmers who don’t use chlorpyrifos! Be wary of some pick-your-own farms that refuse to find alternatives to chlorpyrifos. Buy organic or ask the farmer if they use the pesticide.

Hemp Pilot Program:

Legislation to legalize hemp production in Maryland passed the General Assembly and is on its way to the Governor’s desk to be signed! We’re very excited about hemp as it has great promise for our environment, can provide new income streams for farmers and diversify our state’s agriculture system (which is far too reliant on monoculture, as our recent report found), and has the possibility of bringing in new jobs to Maryland.

We owe tremendous thanks to Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo, who has been working for years to legalize hemp, as well as the Abell Foundation that produced this excellent report dispelling common myths about hemp (no, it can’t get you high) and highlighting the promise for the crop in Maryland.

Healthy Air Study Bill:

The Community Healthy Air Act unfortunately did not move out of committee. This bill would have required a one-time study of air emissions from industrial livestock farms to see if there may be health impacts on neighboring communities. It would not have regulated farmers in any way. Unfortunately, the loss on this bill shows how even legislation seeking science and simple information can face fierce opposition from the state’s powerful industrial animal agriculture players.

Despite not passing the bill, this was an important opportunity to lift up an aspect of industrial animal agriculture that is not often considered: air pollution. Unlike other industries that release potentially harmful emissions in the air, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations do not face the same requirement. By working on this bill, legislators and their staff were able to learn about this important issue and hear directly from citizens concerned about their health.

It was a busy few months and while we of course wish all of our priority bills had passed, we are feeling incredibly inspired and optimistic about the future. We were able to work alongside such passionate and talented community advocates, legislators, and local leaders. There is a powerful network of Marylanders—including people like you, our Fair Farms community—working side-by-side to build a fair and sustainable food system.