The 2019 Maryland legislative session has come to a close. We are grateful and proud that so many of our bills were successful this year – from incentivizing the purchase of local foods, to ensuring that antibiotics are used responsibly in farming. e vow to keep fighting for those that were not. Here’s our end-of-session wrap up. As always, thank you for your support in helping us achieve these successes!
Schools, hospitals, and prisons purchase a tremendous amount of food every year. The Maryland Food for Maryland Institutions Act, sponsored by Delegate Lorig Charkoudian and Senator Katie Hester – sought to create a task force to explore the most effective ways for institutions run by the state to purchase food locally, thus opening up new markets for smaller scale farmers.
Ultimately, committee leadership decided that instead of passing a law, they would directly ask the Maryland Department of General Services to create the task force. Great news – planning for the task force is already underway! We’ll be working with the task force to lift up the voices of our partner farmers and ensure there are workable, effective plans put into place.
The Maryland Farms and Families Program was created in 2017 to double the purchasing power of food-insecure Marylanders buying locally-grown food at farmers’ markets using federal nutrition assistance like WIC and SNAP (formerly food stamps). There has never been a dependable funding stream for this program—until now!
Fair Farms lifted up the voices of farmers in support of funding and delivered hundreds of messages from passionate Marylanders like you. We are incredibly grateful to our legislative champions – Delegate Lorig Charkoudian and Senator Guy Guzzone – as well as our partners in the local food and anti-hunger communities, our friends at the Maryland Farmers Market Association, and our farmer advocates including Peter Elmore of Star Bright Farm.
Almost two-thirds of human antibiotics are sold for use in animals! The routine use of these drugs in agriculture contributes to the rise of resistant bacteria, aka “superbugs”, that render antibiotics ineffective for treating infections. Two years ago, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Keep Antibiotics Effective Act to address the problem. Unfortunately, regulations written under this law had so many loopholes that they basically left the barn door open for continued, problematic antibiotic use.
This year, we returned to the General Assembly with a bill to close the loopholes, establish stronger regulations, and include data reporting so that we could track the impact of this bill. Thanks to your vocal advocacy, stalwart legislative leaders – Senator Paul Pinsky and Delegate Sara Love – strong partnerships with environmental and public health groups, and farmers like Alex Smith, who testified in Annapolis, we were successful. Farmers will now have clear direction as to when antibiotics are appropriate for use.
Please take action to encourage Governor Hogan to sign the bill when it reaches his desk. Take action now.
Other Issues We Support
This bill encourages 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 makes the creation of such food-access-friendly infrastructure eligible for state funding under the state’s Complete Streets program. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and with a very strong bipartisan vote in the House. We look forward to Governor Hogan’s signature and to greater access to healthy food for all.
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 and the General Assembly has already overridden Governor Hogan’s veto. However, despite our efforts, 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 farmers in Anne Arundel, Allegany, Baltimore, Kent, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s Counties to use their barns and buildings for agritourism. This popular bill passed the General Assembly unanimously. Once it 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) This bill will help the agriculture industry comply with the PMT, Improves enforcement of nutrient management plans, updates current reporting requirements to track manure transport and land application, changes the permitting process for new industrial CAFOs to ensure more transparency and discontinue the decades-long waiver of permit fees. The bill has passed in the General Assembly and now heads to Governor Hogan’s desk for his signature.Please take action and urge Governor Hogan to protect our Chesapeake Bay!
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. We had high hopes that the General Assembly would respond to this by banning the use of chlorpyrifos in Maryland, protecting farmworkers, wildlife, pollinators, and public health as a whole. Unfortunately, although the bill passed in the House of Delegates, the Senate did not move it forward. This is very disappointing, but leadership in the General Assembly has assured us and our partners that they will take action on this in the 2020 session.
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 planspecies list for greater protection. Unfortunately, this bill did not have adequate support as written and has been withdrawn by the sponsor.
PASSED: 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 passed unanimously in the General Assembly and we expect that Governor Hogan will also support these expanded incentives for farmer donations of healthy food.
NEXT YEAR FOR SOIL: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.