January 23, 2020 – Farmers and agricultural leaders briefed members of Maryland’s House Environment and Transportation Committee this morning on the current state of Maryland agriculture.
“Farming and agriculture in Maryland is a diverse community and industry where conservation remains our top priority,” Maryland Farm Bureau President Wayne Stafford said. “Looking ahead, I am encouraged to see lawmakers and farmers coming together to support a model of sustainability and profitability, especially during this tough farm economy.”
Major topics of discussion during the briefing included Chesapeake Bay clean-up efforts, diversity in farming, and climate-smart agriculture.
CHESAPEAKE BAY CLEANUP
Maryland is leading the nation is cover crop plantings for healthier soils and water quality improvement. Farmers have remained committed to clean-up efforts by implementing a variety of best management practices on their farms.
It was recently determined that Phosphorus Management Tool implementation would not be delayed in 2020. Governor Hogan’s proposed budget is expected to provide the necessary support needed to meet implementation goals. The upcoming phase-in will also allow time to establish a marketplace for poultry manure throughout the region.
DIVERSITY IN FARMING
Farm groups are engaging with minority organizations and programs to increase diversity within the farming community, including historically black colleges and universities and undergraduate leadership programs such as Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS).
Farm Credit currently partners with MARBIDCO to incentivize urban farming and provide needed support to get farms up and running. Baltimore County Farm Bureau has allocated a board seat to Baltimore City farmers to build new relationships between traditional and urban farmers.
Land ownership remains a challenge for urban farming. Cost-share programs are not granted on urban farms without landowner consent. Stormwater management also proves to be an added challenge in urban farm settings.
In Maryland, agriculture makes up only two percent of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to nine percent, on average, nationwide. Agriculture also provides the only two options for naturally removing carbon from the atmosphere via forestry and crop production.
There is currently a bill in the legislature to use funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to improve soil health practices on farmland.
Representatives from the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Maryland Grain Producers Association, Farm Credit, the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts, Maryland Farm Bureau, the Delmarva Poultry Industry, and the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources were in attendance to brief committee members and answer questions.