Glen Burnie, MD
Good evening. It’s great to be with all you. It’s a little different format though isn’t it?
I said to my wife, she said, “What are you doing tonight?” She said, “Are you finally going to come home?” Because we’ve gone through the high hurdles of the transition thing and today we had what felt like final exam, which was the State of the State address, after the budget and after all the other things. I said, “No, I can’t come home tonight, I’ve got to go to the Ag Dinner.” She said, “Why do you go to that Ag Dinner every year?” I said, “Because they’re nice people, and I enjoy the Ag Dinner every year.” She said, “Yeah, my father” – her father was Joe Curran – she said, “My father used to say the same thing and he went every year also.”
It is great to be with all of you again, and I thank you so much for what you do every single day to defend our way of life in Maryland. And thank you, Buddy Hance, for the terrific job you’ve done and continue to do as our Secretary of Agriculture.
To Donna Myers and Bob Stabler and everyone at the Agricultural Council, thank you again for hosting tonight’s event. And I want to thank Bell Nursery, and all of the farmers who’ve donated the delicious food for this event. I also want to recognize Deputy Secretary Setting and all of my colleagues in federal, state and local government who are here tonight,… and one guy who believes very, very deeply, and firmly, and strongly in Maryland agriculture, and the ability for us to really open markets throughout the world for Maryland agriculture, and that is our United States Senator Ben Cardin. Ben, thank you for being here tonight.
I also want to thank all of you, it’s great to be with you, and I can’t think of a better advertisement for Buy Local. Many of you have joined us at Government House when we’ve done the Buy Local Barbecue, and I thank you so much for that. It’s one of my favorite events of the year. And I promised somebody that if I was fortunate enough to be able to host it again at your Government House in this following year, by golly, we’re going to find a way to do it when we’re not in a high hot sun of July or August. So … there is some applause from people who were there and had their ice cream wilt, right? So, Buddy, I don’t know what the excuse was. I remember asking, “Why can’t we do this at night, put up the little tiki torches or something when it goes down by 20 degrees?” So we’re gonna do that and the band’s going to play, great!
Well, look, over the last four years, Lt. Governor Brown and I have had the pleasure of visiting many of our State’s greatest farms. And I thank you so much, to all of you who have opened your farms to us, to have opened your homes to us, to have opened your businesses to us. And, really when you open your farms and your businesses and your homes to us, it’s really not just a one-generation thing is it? Many of the farms I’ve visited have been people that have been dedicated to the land, that understand the land, that understand the relationship in this State that houses our seal, the ploughman and the fisherman. And I thank you so much for allowing us to come to your farms.
Throughout our State’s history, our family farms have always been what makes our agricultural industry so strong, and it really is what makes Maryland strong – always has been since the beginning of time. And if we’re going to give our children a better future than the one we’ve enjoyed, we have got to make sure we do everything in our power to make sure we hold on to the agricultural lands we have and the contiguous agricultural tracts we have, or we won’t have a Maryland, it’s that simple. We won’t have a Maryland if we don’t have agriculture in Maryland.
So as we move forward in this changing economy, one thing absolutely will not change in a world of tremendous change, and that is my support and my heartfelt appreciation for what you do every single day and how important you are to the future of our State.
I understand how hard these last few years have been. I know they’ve been difficult, especially with last year’s drought, which is why we fought for and won with Senator Cardin’s assistance, and Barbara Mikulski and others, the Emergency Disaster Declaration.
I wanted to touch on just a couple of other things before I sit down because my favorite part of this night is actually hearing people get up and receive the awards. We haven’t done that yet, have we? Good.
I especially appreciate the fact, being raised in a mostly Irish Catholic household and married to an Irish Catholic woman, I especially enjoy seeing that in the great agricultural traditions of our State, that women are always in charge of the family farm, and that’s what I enjoy in these presentations.
SMART, GREEN AND GROWING
But anyway, let me touch on a couple things. I really want to thank you on behalf of the people of our State, and in particular, future generations of our State, for the way you all stood up on cover crops. 400,000 acres,… that is a record cover crop planting this year, and it also exceeds, by the way, EPA, if you’re listening, it exceeds by 20% a milestone that we’ve established for Bay cleanup. The cover crops which all of you planted, and you responded to the call, have kept 2.4 million pounds of nitrogen and 80,000 pounds of phosphorus from otherwise entering the Maryland waterways, and that’s a tremendous accomplishment. To make our work even more effective, we’re using some cutting-edge management tools that some of you showed me when I was visiting your farms, and innovative practices for cover crop management, like our conservation tracker and also the remote sensing.
Last year, our farmers pledged nearly $1 million to match more than $17 million in state MACS grants so that we could install 1,800 conservation projects on farms throughout the state. These are the things that we need to do and I thank you so much for being in the vanguard of leading that movement.
MOVING FORWARD TO STRENGTHEN AGRICULTURE
In the wake of this recession, all of us, throughout our country, nobody’s been immune and everybody is facing really tough fiscal choices, from every family-owned business, our federal government and all folks in between. The difficulty here is not only balancing our budgets,… it’s making sure we protect the investments we’re making so that we can give our kids a better future. And that’s true not just at state level, it’s true as you know, in your own businesses.
In order to make this new economy ours, we have to make sure that we make the right investments that allow us to keep 12,800 family farms, and the jobs, and the economy that you fuel, that you make go throughout our State.
The goals we share for advancing on this tradition are strengthened by two words: Buy Local. This is a movement that’s moved so far just in the last 4 years, and this is a movement that we need to continue to move forward. The goals we share for advancing this tradition are helped by the marylandsbest.net website, as the first point of contact to connect consumers with local products, so nobody comes in here with a tomato that drove halfway across the United States and tries to perpetrate a fraud that it was raised in Maryland.
We’re also continuing to grow our Farm to School Initiative, helping our kids eat healthier and better diets. There’s a couple of big goals you hear out there, one is reducing childhood obesity, which is a national goal that our President has set. A goal that we became the first state to set among the 50 states, which is to eradicate childhood hunger. Well, actually they’re just flip sides of the same coin. When all of you are doing the tremendous work that you’re doing in this diverse agriculture community, there is no reason why our schools can’t offer better diets for kids, no reason why our schools can’t put better food on the plates of our kids as they go to school.
So I’ll tell you, one of the frustrations I have in this job, and there are many, one of them is when I appoint people to the School Board, they forget who appointed them. But they have to come home to all of you. So the point of contact on this piece to Buy Local is your School Board, so let them know that we can do better with these tremendous opportunities here.
I also want to thank you,… I mentioned today in the State of the State – Buddy was there, he can vouch for this – there are 4 main causes of pollution into the Bay, and by golly, if the other 3 could make as much progress as you’ve made in implementing best farming practices over the last 30 years, the Bay would be healthy. Buddy can tell you, because he’s there at the meetings when we meet with the Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency,… she’s not secretary, she’s the administrator. Anyway, the person who’s in charge of the EPA, I said the same thing there and it’s absolutely true.
Everything is connected. And the only way we’re going to make a better future for our kids is by doing it all together. And part of doing it all together is doing it in a fair way, an honest way, the way where the standards apply to the whole country. Not one standard for Maryland farms and another standard for other farms. I believe that. You know I believe that, and together we’re gonna make a better day for our country and we’re gonna make a better day for farms.
I mean, look at what you’ve done in last 4 years, the preservation of 82,000 acres of our most critical lands through Program Open Space, MALPF, through Rural Legacy Initiative. I see Norm Conway there who never misses an opportunity to improve my education about rural Maryland and about agriculture. He’s a tremendous asset that we have for our One Maryland in our State, as is Buddy.
I leave you with this final thought and it is this. There are not many states that have on their seal the ploughman and the fisherman together. The land and the water together. That’s our State. That’s the state that says we’re all in this together, that we depend on one another just as surely as we depend on God’s creation for our very sustenance and being. This is the state we’ve always been. This is the state we’re going to continue to be. I thank you all so much for what you do to make this a better state for my kids. Thank you.