The Fair Farms team and our farmer advisors are busy in Annapolis advocating for important legislation that would support sustainable farmers, the communities they feed, and the clean air and water we all rely on. Here is an update with opportunities for you to help.
The first three are the top priorities for Fair Farms this year.
The Urban Agriculture Grant Program (HB1216), sponsored by Delegate Melissa Wells (District 40).
This legislation builds on legislation Fair Farms worked to pass, with sponsor Delegate Wells, establishing an urban farming grant program in Baltimore. Unfortunately, the program wasn’t funded. In this session, Delegate Wells is seeking to not only obtain the necessary funding for this program but to expand this grant program throughout the state. This legislation will focus on urban farms that supply local healthy foods to communities that do not have access to nutritious food. This year our coalition has grown with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Plantation Park Heights, Prince George’s County Food Equity Council, and others all working to support this legislation.
The bill includes:
- Creating a 10 person review committee to decide who will get the money; five will be urban farmers
- Priority funding for historically underrepresented groups (Black, Indigenous, people of color)
- Grant funding for infrastructure like high tunnel systems, cold storage, and irrigation and land purchases
- Nonprofits that work with urban farmers will be eligible for funds
Urban farming is getting attention in this legislative session. Click here for more information on other bills that help urban farmers. In addition, the Maryland Farm Bureau added urban farming to their policy agenda.
Waste Diversion and Farm Composting (HB 1070) sponsored by Delegate Regina T. Boyce (District 43).
Our partner, the Institute for Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) is leading this effort. The bill will create an “Environmental Stewardship” fund that will help develop composting systems and educational programs for farms. The money will come from a small fee of $5/ton collected from waste haulers taking their trash to the dump. We expect that passing a bill with a fee will be difficult, especially during an election year. Check out this fact sheet from ILSR.
This bill will establish two types of grants:
- Waste Diversion Grants (one for counties and another for businesses, schools, nonprofits, and farmers) will fund programs that decrease trash.
- Maryland On-Farm Composting & Compost Use Grant which will support farmers who want to compost on their land.
Agrivoltaics (farm-centered solar development on farmland) (HB 936), sponsored by Delegate Kumar P. Barve (District 17). Delegate Barve is championing a bill that will create a commission to work with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Maryland Department of Environment, and other stakeholders (including Fair Farms) to assess the potential for solar development within a 4-mile radius of interconnection sites like a transformer or substation.
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 (District 20) and Senator Katie Fry Hester (District 9).
This legislation furthers HB84, which Fair Farms helped to pass in 2019.
There are three significant parts to this bill:
- The Maryland Farms and Families Fund is a grant that nonprofits can apply to get matching funding for programs like SNAP and WIC. It also expands funding to farm stands. Check out the 2021 grant for nonprofits.
- Establishes the Maryland Food and Agricultural Resiliency Mechanism Grant Program and Fund to support food banks and other emergency food providers
- Establishes the Maryland Farm-to-School Meal Grant Pilot Program and Fund to give grants to schools to buy local produce
As these bills move through the Maryland General Assembly, we will share updates as well as opportunities for you to take action through social media and our email newsletter.
We encourage you to engage directly by calling your legislators and/or testifying on the bills that are important to you!
Not sure who your representatives are? Visit mdelect.net and enter your address to look up your state representatives and their contact information.
Here is a short video on how to testify.
More updates are on the way. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about how you can get involved, please contact our Campaign Manager, Humon Heidarian, at firstname.lastname@example.org