Glen Burnie, MD
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Secretary Hance – and thank you for fighting every day to keep family farming profitable. It’s an honor to be back for the sixth year in a row at one of my favorite events of the year. To everyone with the Agriculture Council, thank you for hosting, especially George Grillon and Bob Stabler – tonight’s newest inductee into the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame! Thank you, Gary Magnum with Bell Nursery, and all of the farmers who donated the delicious, local meal tonight. I also want to recognize Deputy Secretary Setting, and all my colleagues in federal, state and local government.
Let me begin tonight with a word of thanks to you and your fellow farmers – who continue to set an example for the rest of your fellow citizens to follow. Last fall – we can announce tonight – Maryland’s farmers planted more cover crops than ever before in Maryland’s history – more than 429,000 acres. That’s more than 20% higher than the goal we set. Give yourselves a round of applause.
You are also leading the way on conservation. Last year, Maryland farmers pledged $1 million to match more than $23.2 million in State MACS grants, which allowed us to install 2,200 conservation projects on farms throughout the State. We thank you for your partnership and hard work with us to restore the Bay.
Last August, I had the chance to visit the Layton Family Farm on the Eastern Shore – one of our Agriculture Hall of Fame inductees last year. The Laytons are leading the way in adopting innovative new technology with an eye toward conservation. On family farms across our State, Marylanders like the Laytons are leading the way toward a stronger future for agriculture – focusing on farming the land in a more balanced way, in a way that’s restoring and regenerating, that preserves and protects this way of life for the next generation.
No matter what, our support of our family farms will always remain strong. Maryland’s economy depends on Maryland agriculture. We must therefore protect the profitability of Maryland’s family farms – and farming jobs. We must protect contiguous tracts of agricultural lands. We must protect farmers when the legal process overreaches and threatens your farmland. And we must work to make sure that no farmer loses his or her farm because of the death of a loved one.
Maryland is only as strong as its family farms, and Maryland is only as strong as rural Maryland. And that is why over these past five years, compared to the previous administration, in rural counties we have invested on average 43% more per year in public education,… 24% more per year in school construction,… 37% more per year in community colleges,… and 10% more per year in transportation infrastructure.
SUPPORTING FAMILY FARMS
Since we began our Buy Local campaign five years ago, we’ve made great progress to get the word out about the benefits of local products from local farmers,… and we’ve reached 800,000 Marylanders with our message. We’ve connected more Marylanders with Maryland-grown products, and we’ve brought Buy Local into our schools with a farm-to-school initiative. Thanks in large part to our work together, demand for locally-grown farm products has increased statewide by 37% over five years.
To protect more of our open spaces and farmland for future generations, we are fully funding our Open Space fund, rather than raiding it – even while making $7.5 billion in spending cuts since 2007. In the last five years, we have preserved more than 90,000 acres of our most critical lands through Program Open Space, MALPF and our Rural Legacy initiative.
This legislative session, we’re proposing to do even more.
I am happy to announce we are creating a new initiative called the Governor’s Master Farmer initiative to recognize farmers who, simply through their day-to-day farming practices, are providing outstanding stewardship of our natural resources. You are some of our strongest partners for restoring the Bay, and we want to recognize you for your hard work.
We’re working to make sure that no family farmer loses his or her farm after the death of a loved one. So we are strongly supporting President Miller’s proposal to exempt working farms from the estate tax.
We’re proposing to invest $1.6 million to add 23 field staff for local soil conservation districts, which will help with technical assistance for family farms that are working to meet the requirements of the WIP and other regulations.
We are proposing an investment of $5 million from our 2010 Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund for projects in our agricultural communities. These projects will help our family farmers install best management practices to meet water quality goals. And the way this investment is possible is by taking another look at the structure of our “flush tax” … a tax that my Republican predecessor called one of his most important accomplishments while in office. By allowing us to make green upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, we have greatly reduced the pollution flowing into our Bay.
The fee, however, was never sufficient to cover the work that has to be done. While others have suggested tripling the flush tax, I believe that the fairest way forward is doubling the yield by switching most households to a fee structure based on consumption – whereby, the less you use, the less you pay. This will double the amount of work we are able to do for the Bay, and allow us to fund important projects in your communities.
I know that many of you had concerns about the legislation we introduced last year to curb the growing problem of septic pollution from large-scale housing developments. We listened to your feedback, and this year’s legislation incorporates all of the recommendations from the Task Force’s agriculture working group. The moderate, reasonable, and tiered approach that the Task Force crafted is patterned on what several rural counties are already doing to protect their farmland and protect the waters of the Bay.
Along with President Miller’s proposal to exempt working farms from the estate tax, this measure will much better protect the agricultural lands upon which family farming depends; it will better protect the waters of the Bay; and it will save all of us a huge amount of money in remediation costs down the road
Lastly, we also heard your concerns about the proposed changes to our Nutrient Management Regulations. So late last year, I asked Secretary Hance to pull the regulations so we could address your concerns. Since then, we have met with stakeholder groups and are working through changes that will make the regulations both more effective at protecting water quality and easier to implement. Our goal is to create a better regulatory package for you, and with your help, we continue to move toward that goal.
We cannot have a sustainable future for our State unless we have a sustainable future for farming. In other words, we create a better future for all of Maryland if we do what it takes to make farming more profitable and more sustainable. And you are on the front lines of that.
One of the great things about our State is in our state seal. We have a plowman and a fisherman together, and not on flip sides of the coin. They’re on that seal together – a sign of the fact that we’re all in this together, and we need each other if we want to move forward.
In our fight to make agriculture stronger in Maryland, there is no reason why our best days cannot be in front of us, if we choose to make it so. Thank you again for all you do, and we look forward to working with you to accomplish even more.