www.mdfarmbureau.com | Contact: Colby Ferguson or Pat Wolff


              
  Hotline #1  
 

January 21, 2022

Welcome to the first Hotline of the 2022 Maryland General Assembly session. The Hotline will be sent to you each week during the session to make you aware of upcoming hearings for bills that will impact Maryland's farm community. We will ask Farm Bureau members to take action on proposed legislation to ensure the preservation and protection of Maryland agriculture. 

Colby Ferguson will staff Maryland Farm Bureau's Annapolis office. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic limitations, the legislative session will be done in a virtual platform. All bill hearings and testimony will be done online. Because of this virtual format, submitting written testimony as well as signing up to testify orally must be done two days in advance of the bill hearing. For example, you must sign up on Monday for a Wednesday bill hearing. The best way to reach Colby is via text, email, or leave a voicemail message. He will get back to you as soon as possible. You can reach Colby on his cell phone at (240) 578-0396 or by email at cferguson@marylandfb.org

The Hotline descriptions will include the title of the bill, our summary, and Maryland Farm Bureau's position. Our positions are based on policy adopted by grassroots members at our annual convention. To view the text of the bill and to find the Maryland General Assembly fiscal analysis link, click the bill number hyperlink or Maryland Farm Bureau's position button at the bottom of the text. This will take you to our action center that will provide you with more information. Please keep in mind that the positions taken in each Hotline by the Maryland Farm Bureau are based on the information available on the bill at the time of publication. Our position may change if the bill is amended after publication.

The Hotline will be posted on the MDFB website each week. Maryland Farm Bureau members are urged to contact their legislators and members of the relevant committees in support of Maryland Farm Bureau's positions on the bills. To contact legislators and follow important bills, visit Maryland Farm Bureau's action center and select "key legislation." The action center can serve as a valuable tool for legislative information. The site offers the proceedings and agendas of the House and Senate, hearing schedules, bill information and status, and other data updated nightly.


 
  Tuesday, January 25, 2022  
 

SB 32: Worcester County - Public Safety - Buildings Used for Agritourism
Senator Carozza, EHEA at 1:30 PM 

This is legislation that adds Worcester County to the list of counties that exempt existing Ag structures that are going to be used for agritourism from being required to retrofit the structure with bathrooms, sprinklers, and other high occupancy requirements. This exemption allows up to 50 people in the structure. The structure must still adhere to the structural integrity standards as well as entrance and exit requirements. The counties that are already exempt in current law are: Allegany County, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Calvert County, Carroll County, Cecil County, Garrett County, Howard County, Kent County, Prince George's County, and St. Mary's County. 

Maryland Farm Bureau policy defines agritourism as activities conducted on a farm and offered to the public or to invited groups for the purpose of education, recreation, or active involvement in the farm operation. Directly related to this bill, MDFB policy reads: We further support the inclusion of specific language in the building code to permit public access to existing, structurally sound, nonresidential buildings without mandated upgrades to the full current codes.

Allowing farms to diversify, so they can improve their income generated from the farm, should be Maryland's top priority if there is to be increased financial sustainability for our farms in the future. Several of those practices include agritourism.


SB 39: Task Force to Study the Feasibility of Returning to State Meat Processing Inspection (Farms Buy Local Act)
Senator Cassilly, EHEA at 1:30 PM

This bill establishes a Task Force to Study the Feasibility of Returning to a State Meat Processing Inspection program instead of relying on the USDA to provide the services.  Maryland used to have a state meat processing inspection program. However, it was removed in the early 1990. Over the years, local processors have had increasing issues with the USDA program culminating with some significant changes to the way they were inspected last year. Most of our neighboring states have state meat processing inspection programs. With a large movement to source more local grown food, the need for additional meat processing is at its highest level in decades.  Moving back to a state program would bring a more streamlined approach to the process and help processors stay in compliance as well as start up faster.  

Maryland Farm Bureau Policy: We encourage the State and USDA to streamline the process to expedite new and expand existing custom butcher shops and livestock processing facilities. We support the reinstitution of the State inspection program for local livestock processing facilities to support direct sale to consumers.


SB 121: Maryland Farms and Families Fund, Maryland Food and Agricultural Resiliency Mechanism Grant Program, and Maryland Farm-to-School Meal Grant Pilot Program - Alterations and Establishment
Senator Hester, EHEA at 1:30 PM

This legislation does three things. First, it expands the current Maryland Market Money program by increasing the state's annual allocation from $100,000 to $300,000. Second, it creates the Maryland Food & Agricultural Resilience Mechanism (MD FARM). This program is modeled after the successful state programs in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, New York and Virginia. MD FARM would ensure that locally sourced produce, products, and services are utilized to allow food assistance organizations to: purchase surplus product, cover costs of distribution and processing, arrange contract growing, or assemble and create food boxes. As drafted, the bill would have the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) administer $1.25 million annually to support Maryland-based procurement, harvesting, contracting, distribution, or processing for hunger relief efforts throughout the state. Third, the bill would create the Farm to School Grant Pilot Program. The Farm to School Grant Pilot Program would allow Maryland school districts to apply for grants of 20 cents for every meal served that includes a Maryland food component. Farm-to-school initiatives in Maryland currently receive no state-allocated funding or staffing for this purpose. This pilot would allocate $500,000 across applicant school districts to further provide local, healthy food for Maryland's school children. Total funding allocation needed for this bill would be nearly $2 million per year.

Maryland Farm Bureau Policy: We encourage State and Local agencies and institutions to purchase all types of Maryland agricultural commodities and products.


SB 229: Environment - On-Farm Composting Facilities - Permit Exemption
Senator Gallion, EHEA at 1:30 PM

This bill requires the Maryland Department of the Environment to adopt regulations to exempt an on-farm composting facility from the requirement to obtain a permit if the on-farm composting facility uses 40,000 square feet or less in support of food scrap composting and meets any other condition for a permit exemption specified in regulations.  

Maryland Farm Bureau Policy: We support the right for Maryland farmers to make and process mulch and compost from both on and off the farm sources. 


 
  Maryland Ag News  
 

2022 Agricultural Scrap Tire Events, Coming Soon! 
The ag tire collection event sponsored jointly by MDE, Maryland Farm Bureau and MES is coming soon! Funding for the event is through the state scrap tire fund administered by MDE. The FY 2022 event is planned to be held in seven counties, including Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne's, St. Mary's and Talbot counties. The event dates are anticipated to be between February and March 2022. More here. 


New Date Announced for Taste of Maryland Agriculture
The 52nd Taste of Maryland Agriculture scheduled for February 3, 2022, has been postponed and rescheduled to Thursday, March 3, 2022, due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. More here.


Signup Period for Conservation Buffer Initiative Opens January 10
The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) today announced that the signup period for its Conservation Buffer Initiative will run from January 10 to February 18, 2022. Now in its second year, this popular conservation program offers attractive incentives, easy signup, and more management options for farmers who want to plant streamside buffers on their farms to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. More here.


Local Farm Enterprise Food Aggregation Grants Program Now Open
The Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO) is accepting applications for the current round of its Certified Local Farm Enterprise Food Aggregation Grant Program. More here.

 


Maryland to Cover 2022 Premiums for Farmers Participating in Dairy Margin Coverage Program
The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced it will continue its popular cost-share program to cover premiums for dairy farmers participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program. Enrollment for 2022 is open now and runs through Feb. 18, 2022, at local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices. More here.


Farm Credit Foundation for Agricultural Advancement Announces Community Education Program Phase I
The Farm Credit Foundation for Agricultural Advancement is now accepting applications for Phase I of its Community Education Program, providing up to $10,000 to local non-profit organizations that benefit agriculture education. The program will offer funding for projects that make a positive impact within MidAtlantic Farm Credit's footprint and Washington D.C. More here.


Agriculture Department Launches New Conservation Video Series
The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has launched a new video series that spotlights Maryland farmers who are making a difference for our state's natural resources and the Chesapeake Bay. 'Maryland Farmers: Partners in Conservation' showcases local farmers and the conservation projects they have installed to manage manure, safeguard local streams, build healthy soils, and protect the natural resources that we all depend on. You can watch the series on the MDA website or visit the department's YouTube channel


 
  National Ag News  
 

Protect the Navigable Waters Protection Rule!
Four years ago, your efforts created the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). This rule fixed the problems of the 2015 WOTUS Rule, bringing clarity to how you farm and ranch. Under the commonsense NWPR, farmers and ranchers have delivered positive environmental benefits. On December 7, 2021, the EPA and the Army Corps proposed a new rule that would reverse the NWPR and bring back the troubling pre-2015 regulatory regime. Farm Bureau is urging EPA to recognize the burden that this overreaching regulation places on farmers and ranchers, and to keep the term "navigable" in the Clean Water Act regulations. Take action here!


Farmers Struggle with Skyrocketing Fertilizer Prices
Fertilizer prices continue to skyrocket, as much as 300% in some areas, as farmers grapple with increased costs as they prepare for the 2022 growing season. The American Farm Bureau Federation's latest Market Intel examines the short- and long-term factors impacting fertilizer supply and demand. More here.