Agriculture is Maryland's largest industry, with more than 12,000 farms covering more than 2 million acres. They produce $1.3 billion of agricultural products annually and employ 350,000 workers. Maryland farms are small by national standards, averaging just 160 acres. Success in this industry requires a unique blend of federal and state programs that help farmers manage risk, careful stewardship of every acre, and opportunities to market their products close to home.
I led the effort in the Senate to include the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative in the 2008 Farm Bill. This unprecedented effort set aside millions of dollars to help Chesapeake farmers implement effective conservation practices on their lands. These specially-tailored programs help assure the financial viability of our family farms while also protecting the Chesapeake Bay from nutrient and sediment pollution.
- Maryland’s top three agricultural products are: 1) poultry, 2) nursery grown plants, flowers, trees, and shrubbery for landscaping, and 3) dairy.
- There are 90 organic farms on 7,100 certified acres in Maryland.
- Supported by federal funding, Maryland Department of Agriculture has one of the country’s most robust “Buy Local Food” programs in the nation, helping Maryland consumers connect with and support Maryland farmers.
- As weather patterns change, some of our productive farming areas are experiencing droughts while other areas are being hit by new pests that ruin crops. What can be done to help farmers survive in a rapidly changing world?
- Plant scientists are working overtime to understand these new challenges and address them. That’s why I helped to secure more than $15.8 million in funding this year for the Beltsville (MD) Agriculture Research Center, America's premier agriculture facility.
- We love local produce and like supporting our local farmers. What can be done to help local farmers get their fresh crops to local markets?
- I successfully worked to add new programs in the Farm bill that direct funding away from industrial farming operations and instead support small vegetable and fruit farmers, particularly those who provide fresh produce to local school lunch programs.
- What can be done to make sure that farms and farmers are not unfairly lumped in with other businesses when government rules and regulations are being developed?
- Because of concerns that terrorists would target large propane tanks used by business and industrial operations, the Department of Homeland Security developed draft regulations to better manage these potentially vulnerable targets. But many of our farmers use large propane tanks on their farms, where they pose no threat to population centers. I worked with the Department to revise the rules so that our Maryland farmers would be exempt.