What we’re up to this Maryland General Assembly!
March 11, 2019
Spring is almost here, and the Fair Farms team can’t wait! But right now, we are busy in Annapolis working to advance a number of initiatives — from incentivizing the purchase of local foods to promoting healthy soils practices — with the goal of building our new food system. Check out where the bills are and see how your support has helped move our legislative initiatives along.
This bill sought to establish a task force to review state procurement processes and seek farmer input on the best ways to increase state purchases of locally grown foods. After hearings in mid-February, the committee chairs decided that it would be more efficient to directly ask the Maryland Department of General Services to create a task force to accomplish the bill’s goals of providing more market opportunities for our local farming community. We are continuing to push for this task force to move forward and are cautiously optimistic this will be as effective as a legislative task force.
Two years ago, the General Assembly created a “Farms and Families Program” that doubles the purchasing power of Marylanders using federal nutrition assistance (like SNAP and WIC) at participating farmers markets. The Program increases access to fresh, local produce for food-insecure Marylanders, and encourages steady markets for farmers. This bill would guarantee funding for this important program. It has already passed the Senate unanimously and the House with a very strong bipartisan votes. Now, the two chambers must reconcile small differences in the bills. Help continue the momentum until Governor Hogan signs the bill! Take action now.
In 2017, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Keep Antibiotics Effective Act to stop the routine use of antibiotics in livestock who are not sick, which is contributing to the alarming rise in antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections (“superbugs”). Last year, when the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) finally developed regulations to implement this law, we saw that they were sadly insufficient and would fail to achieve the law’s intent. This bill would clarify the law to ensure that it will be implemented effectively and as intended, and include data reporting. This bill has already passed in both the House and Senate. Now, the two chambers must reconcile small differences in the bills. Please take action now to encourage Governor Hogan to sign the bill when it reaches his desk. Take action now.
Other Issues We Support
This bill would encourage access routes to healthy food between people who live in food deserts (especially those who do not have a personal vehicle) and businesses who offer healthy food options. The bill would allow that the creation of such food-access-friendly infrastructure would be eligible for state funding under the state’s Complete Streets program. The bill passed overwhelmingly in the House of Delegates and unanimously by the Senate. Now, we just need the opposite chambers to approve the legislation. Please urge your legislators to support HB 82 and SB 116.
The intent of the bill was to raise the state minimum wage to $15/hour by 2023, thus lifting thousands of families out of poverty, creating new customers and revenues for local businesses, and strengthening neighborhoods. This bill has passed in both chambers and is now in conference committee. Unfortunately, the General Assembly chose to retain the current exemption for agricultural workers in rural parts of the state, which will deny them the same minimum wage benefit that other workers will receive under this important legislation. We intend to keep working on this issue until farmworkers also receive a living wage.
“Agritourism” is any 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 will update permit requirements to make it easier for Anne Arundel farmers to use their barns and buildings for agritourism. This bill passed the House and Senate unanimously, and proved so popular that it was expanded to include Allegany, Baltimore, Kent, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s Counties. Once it clears the opposite chamber and is signed by the Governor, it will become law. See you on the farm!
When manure is spread as a fertilizer in excess on farm fields, it can wash into our streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, forming “dead zones.” A few years ago, Maryland implemented a 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, so run-off into the Bay is minimized This bill would add accountability, compliance, and enforcement measures to ensure 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). This bill has already passed in the Senate and House of Delegates. Nonetheless, the law is not assured until the differences between the two versions are reconciled and signed by the Governor. Please urge your representatives to continue to push for full passage of HB04/SB546.
Chlorpyrifos is a dangerous pesticide – a toxic nerve agent that causes brain damage in children and also harms the environment and wildlife. In 2015, after extensive study, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists recommended that the pesticide be banned for all uses. Despite this, the Trump EPA 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. The bill has passed in the House of Delegates but has not yet moved in the Senate. Call or email your legislators to support this bill now.
EYES TOWARD NEXT YEAR: Sustainable Clamming
(Del. Gilchrist – HB384)
Like oysters, clams are extremely important for filtering our waterways. It is increasingly important that we “clam” responsibly – the Chesapeake Bay clam population is in dire need of conservation. This bill would have required the sustainable management of our clams by adding soft shell and razor clams to the fisher management plan species list for greater protection. Unfortunately, this bill did not have adequate support as written and has been withdrawn by the sponsor.
EXPANDING INCENTIVES FOR FARMER DONATIONS: Food Donation Pilot Program Expansion
(Del. Ebersole – HB403)
In 2017, that state created a State income tax credit for eligible fresh food donations for human consumption made by a qualified farm, through tax year 2019. The credit is equal to 50% of the value of the eligible food donation, and 75% of the value for certified organic produce. This bill extends the food donation income tax credit for two additional years, and expands the program so that farms in Baltimore County, not just in the five originally-specified counties, qualify for the credit. The program will increase the availability of fresh, wholesome produce for those who otherwise have the least access to it. The bill has passed in the House of Delegates and now moves to the Senate.
SOIL MATTERS: Carbon Sequestration
(Del. Stein – HB514)
Soil is an extremely important resource in addressing climate change – healthy soils capture carbon, and prevent it from reaching the atmosphere and contributing to subsequent climate disruption. This bill would require the state to set biennial greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, ultimately reaching a 40% reduction by 2030. If those targets are not reached, the bill would authorize the state to offer state funding for farmers and others who sequester carbon in their practices. This bill died due to lack of support from a House of Delegates committee.