Author: Parker Welch

Maryland Farm Bureau Advocates for Farmers and Key Legislation in Capitol Hill Meetings

Sept. 22nd 2023Representatives of the Maryland Farm Bureau (MDFB) met with their Members of Congress and staff this week to advocate on behalf of a number of federal bills that will help Maryland farmers – including the 2023 Farm Bill. MDFB members emphasized the importance of policies that empower farmers to produce food efficiently while safeguarding our precious land, waterways, and air quality.

Maryland’s Senators meet with MDFB members (L to R: Senator Chris Van Hollen, Senator Ben Cardin, MDFB President Wayne Stafford)

“As Maryland’s largest commercial industry, it’s imperative that our federal representatives understand the issues currently facing Maryland farmers,” said MDFB President Wayne Stafford. “We greatly appreciate our Members of Congress and their staff for listening to the concerns of our members, and we remain optimistic that they will keep our farmers’ needs in mind when supporting legislation, like the 2023 Farm Bill.”

On Thursday afternoon, MDFB met with Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen. The day prior, MDFB met with staff members from the offices of Congressman David Trone, Congressman Jamie Raskin, Congressman Steny Hoyer, Congressman John Sarbanes, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, and Congressman Andy Harris.

MDFB Member Ian Reike speaks with Alex Chanock from Rep. Trone’s Office | MDFB Members pose in front of Rep. Harris’ office with staffer Travis Trejo

In addition to their advocacy for the 2023 Farm Bill, MDFB members highlighted several federal bills to significantly benefit Maryland’s farming community. These include:

  • H.R. 1437 – Black Vulture Relief Act

Introduced in the House by Rep. Rose (R-TN) & Rep. Soto (D-FL)

  • H.R. 5096, S. 2235 – Healthy Poultry and Indemnification Act

Introduced in the House by Rep. Blunt Rochester (D-DE) & Rep. Alford (R-MO)

Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Coons (D-DE) & Sen. Wicker (R-MS)

  • H.R. 4708 – H-2 Improvements to Relieve Employers Act

Introduced in the House by Rep. Gonzales (R-TX) & Rep. Cuellar (D-TX)

  • H.R. 1147, S. 1957 – Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act

Introduced in the House by Rep. Thompson (R-PA) & Rep. Schrier (D-WA)

Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Welsh (D-VT) & Sen. Marshall (R-KS)

  • H.R. 4721, S. 1706 – Main Street Tax Certainty Act

Introduced in the House by Rep. Smucker (R-PA) & Rep. Cuellar (D-TX)

Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Daines (R-MT)

As discussions surrounding federal appropriation bills continue throughout the year, MDFB is committed to maintaining active engagement through outreach campaigns that emphasize the 2023 Farm Bill’s significance. Both MDFB and the American Farm Bureau Federation unite in their advocacy for the swift passage of the Farm Bill this year, recognizing its importance for the agricultural community. Earlier this year, MDFB joined the Farm Bill for American Families initiative, a multi-state effort to promote the passage of the Farm Bill.

2022 Ag Ambassador Application Now Available

Parker Welch

Applications are now open for the 2022-2023 Maryland Farm Bureau Ambassador program, a scholarship and leadership development initiative for Maryland’s Farm Bureau member-families. After receiving entries from the county Farm Bureaus, the state Farm Bureau will choose one female and one male ambassador to represent Maryland Farm Bureau and the importance of agriculture’s role in the state from December 2022 – December 2023.

Winners will receive $1,500 over their tenure as the ambassador, representing Maryland Farm Bureau at such events as the Maryland State Fair and Day-in-Annapolis; reimbursements for public appearances; and an all-expense paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership conference in February.

Contestants must be between the ages of 17 and 21 (by Sept. 16, 2022), pursuing either a two- or four-year college degree. Each county Farm Bureau is eligible to nominate one female and one male nominee. Of those, a judging panel will evaluate contestants based on virtual interviews. From there, finalists will be called to take part in the final selection at Maryland Farm Bureau’s annual meeting on December 3 – 4. Contestants will share their prepared presentations and take part in a “Discussion Meet,” with the winner being announced at the annual meeting.

Please share this application with full details with any individual you feel would make a great representative for Maryland Farm Bureau. Student membership nominees are also welcome. Applications are due by 5:00 PM on September 16, 2022. Previous finalists are unable to compete.

Please contact Parker Welch, director of organization, for more information.

Prevailing Wage and Practices – Agricultural Employment Surveys

Prevailing Wage and Practices – Agricultural Employment Surveys

Sarah Everhart and Margaret Todd

Sarah Everhart and Margaret Todd

University of Maryland, Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI)

The Maryland Department of Labor (MDOL) has started conducting the 2021 Agricultural Employment Surveys (AES), beginning May 17th and continuing until early October. The results will provide an inside look at Maryland’s prevailing wages and employment practices for agricultural jobs within the state by sector – useful information for those employers preparing agricultural job offers.

Agricultural employment is a complex undertaking that requires employers to consider not only which wage to offer, but also to factor in other services, such as providing transportation and housing, using farm labor contractors, etc. Access to prevailing wage and practice data can help farm employers competitively recruit and retain the best workers.  Likewise, producers who are looking to expand their operation or diversify can benefit from reviewing survey reports to understand the regional employment trends they will need to conform with to provide attractive employment opportunities.

The AES are normally done in-person through farm visits by Maryland Department of Labor (MDOL) representatives, however, social distancing measures over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to changes in survey administration. MDOL has switched to a phone and mailing campaign. The surveys for wage and practices are two separate forms that ask for information by sector (crop) and state region. Maryland is divided into three regions: Central, Eastern Shore, and Western. Farmers will receive copies of the survey via mail that can be filled out and mailed back to the MDOL. Options to send responses back via e-mail, fax and telephone are also available this year.

To date, MDOL plans to begin phone surveys for the following crops and regions during the dates in the table.

Agricultural Area Crop Activity Estimated Dates of Crop Activity Date of Survey Period
Central Nursery Mar 2 – Dec 15 May 17 – May 21
Eastern Shore Nursery Mar 2 – Dec 15 May 17 – May 21
Statewide Turf Mar 2 – Nov 15 June 7 – June 11
Statewide Christmas Tree Mar 16 – Dec 18 June 21 – July 2
Central Diversified Crops June 1 – Aug 31 Aug 2 – Aug 6
Eastern Shore Sweet Corn Harvest June 22 – July 31 July 12 – July 16
Eastern Shore Cantaloupe Harvest June 30 – July 31 July 12 – July 16
Eastern Shore Tomato Harvest July 27 – Aug 31 July 12 – July 16
Eastern Shore Watermelon July 1 – Aug 15 July 12 – July 16
Southern MD Vegetable Aug 1 – Sept 15 Aug 16 – Aug 20
Statewide Grape Aug 14 – Oct 1 Sept 6 – Sept 24
Statewide Horse Farm Mar 2 – Nov 16 Sept 13 – Sept 17
Western MD Fall Apple Harvest Aug 31 – Oct 30 Sept 27 – Oct 01

The state-run AES help establish prevailing wages and prevailing, or normal and common, practices in agriculture by asking for information about the number of U.S. and H-2A workers; average productivity and earnings of piece rate workers; variables affecting rates and hiring practices; experience standards, and more. Prevailing wages can be piece rates or hourly wages. Prevailing practices are those practices engaged in by employers, that fifty percent or more of employers in an area and for an occupation engage in the practice or offer the benefit, which can include the provision of family housing, frequency of wage payments, providing advance transportation, and the utilization of labor contractors.

Farm employers seeking certification to employ H-2A workers must offer and pay the higher of the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), the prevailing wage in the area, or the federal or state minimum wage. The AEWR is usually the highest of these wages and covers a range of farm jobs in a state or multistate region, however, employers should still check the prevailing wage applicable to their particular operation and location.

State results are submitted and assessed by the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) to decide whether they can make a prevailing wage determination. Anonymized reports with previous year data for wage can be found online in the Agricultural Online Wage Library (AWOL) ( and for practices in the Agricultural Employment Practice Survey Library (

States often struggle to get farmers to participate, and a decreasing number of states continue to conduct prevailing wage and practices surveys. For many commodities, there is “no finding” because the state workforce agency did not conduct surveys or did not obtain data from a sufficient number of employers and workers. However, when there is sufficient participation the results can offer producers meaningful insight into what their regional hiring trends are and help them know when a job order, wage, and position requirements will be acceptable under the Foreign Labor Certification program requirements.

Successful survey efforts depend on farmer participation; the greater the participation, the better the integrity of the results. According to Norton Pereira, the State Rural Services Coordinator at the MDOL, “Maryland has a solid reputation in not only doing them every year but also getting meaningful results.  We would like to continue that tradition with farmers’ help.”

For more information or to submit questions about the Maryland surveys, contact Norton Pereira at or by phone at (301) 326-6006.

Maryland Farm Bureau Awards 2021 Scholarships

Maryland Farm Bureau Awards 2021 Scholarships

Maryland Farm Bureau is proud to announce the scholarships for 2021. Three scholarships were awarded to students pursuing academic degrees in food, agriculture and/or natural resources disciplines, and two scholarships were awarded to students pursuing degrees in other academic disciplines or are minoring in food, agriculture, and/or natural resources.

The five scholarships, each valued at $2,000, were awarded to Makenzie Hereth of Woodbine, Mackenize Ridenour of Hagerstown, Marissa Roberts of Taneytown, Courtney Schrader of Earleville, and Lynne Thomas of Fallston.

Applicants were required to write an essay answering the following question: The increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters creates additional risk for farmers and ranchers. What tools and production practices can be engaged to reduce climate and weather risks?

Recipients or their parents/guardians are members of Maryland Farm Bureau. Selection was made by a scholarship committee designated by Maryland Farm Bureau.

Makenize Hereth of Howard County Farm Bureau is a freshman at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, IL. She is majoring in Agriculture Communications.

Mackenzie Ridenour of Washington County Farm Bureau is a freshman at Hagerstown Community College in Hagerstown, MD. She is majoring in Veterinarian Medicine.

Marissa Roberts of Carroll County Farm Bureau is a sophomore at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD. She is majoring in Sports Management.

Courtney Schrader of Cecil County Farm Bureau is a sophomore at Salisbury University in Salisbury, MD. She is majoring in Business Management and Communications.

Lynne Thomas of Baltimore County Farm Bureau is a sophomore at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. She is majoring in Agricultural and Extension Education.

For more information about the scholarship program at Maryland Farm Bureau and within the county Farm Bureaus please visit

Cost-Share Funding Now Available to Assist Farmers with Poultry Manure Storage

Cost-Share Funding Now Available to Assist Farmers with Poultry Manure Storage

New Incentive to Help Farmers Boost Soil Health

ANNAPOLIS, MD (April 28, 2021) — The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has announced new cost-share assistance for the installation of satellite storage facilities on farms using poultry manure to improve soil health for crop production. Beginning May 1, 2021, Maryland farmers receiving manure from producers in qualifying areas can apply for grants to cover up to 87.5% of construction costs. 

“Covered storage structures preserve the nutrient content of poultry manure, which is shown to improve soil health when applied in accordance with a nutrient management plan,” said Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “We are pleased to offer this important incentive to farmers as part of our ongoing commitment to promote sustainable, regenerative agriculture practices.”

In 2017, Governor Larry Hogan signed legislation establishing Maryland’s Healthy Soils Program. The program, administered by MDA’s Office of Resource Conservation, encourages farmers to adopt conservation practices that will improve soil productivity. Manure, when properly managed, supplies essential nutrients and micronutrients that plants need to grow and returns organic matter to the soil to feed microbes, build carbon, and increase water and nutrient retention. 

Cost-share funding is provided by the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program. Farmers who can demonstrate their eligibility and capacity to receive manure should contact their local soil conservation district to apply. Additional financial assistance to transport manure is available through the department’s Manure Transport Program. Applicants must be in good standing with the MACS Program and in compliance with Maryland’s nutrient management regulations.  

For more information on Maryland’s Soil Health Program, please visit the website.

Prioritizing cybersecurity on farms

Prioritizing cybersecurity on farms

The following information is provided by Nationwide®, the #1 farm and ranch insurer in the U.S.*

There’s a proverbial snake in the grass when it comes to the security of high-value farm-level data generated by today’s precision agriculture technology. Prioritize cybersecurity to help secure your data from theft so it’s only used for intended purposes.

Recognize your data’s value

With the advancement of data-driven precision ag tools, vulnerability to cyberattacks is on the rise. The good news is cybersecurity capabilities also continue to advance. Protect your data by first recognizing its value, then work in secure hardware and systems.

There’s a value exchange in using any digital platform. Free services typically come with a caveat. Google is one example; when using its free services, users grant the company permission to use that data in different ways. That may mean your email data is used to enable partner companies to target ads based on interests expressed in your messages. The paid version of G Suite can cost as little as $5/month, but it includes stronger data protection.

Work with secure tech partners

Start securing your data with a look at your technology providers. Many companies are investing considerably in data security. Ask questions of your machinery and precision ag partners to confirm the security of your data on their platforms.

Steps you can take on your farm

According to a report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), these steps can help shore up potential vulnerabilities in your data security at the farm level:

  • Be proactive and actively manage data. Be proactive with and accountable for the steps you can take to keep your data secure. Perform recommended software updates, frequently change account passwords and regularly check application and platform security settings to help ensure you’re equipping yourself with the latest security tools.
  • Choose the right platforms. Research your options for managing your farm data. Consider paying even a small monthly fee for stronger security settings. The right decision is a balance between expense and your data security expectations.
  • Store your data right. Where and how you store your data is important to its security from potential cyberattacks. If stored in the cloud, make sure the platform has adequate security protocols. If doing so locally, use a storage device with firewalls in place that’s not connected to the internet.
  • Involve your whole team. Create processes to manage the increasing volume of data gleaned by today’s precision ag tools. Staying up-to-date with the latest and most effective data security tools and platforms is not easy for everyone. Meet with employees and other farm stakeholders regularly to ensure everyone is on the same page to keep your data secure.


Get the right cyber liability insurance

Consult with a trusted advisor to ensure you have the right cyber liability coverage for your farm should a cyber theft or data compromise occur. Cybercrime and identity theft can be complicated and costly. Cyber liability coverage from Nationwide can help offset the devastating effects hacking, data theft and identity fraud can have on your business from a financial and reputation standpoint.    

For more tips and information to help you maintain safety on your farm, visit


*A.M. Best Market Share Report 2019. Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle, and Nationwide is on your side are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2021 Nationwide.

Maryland Moves to Appeal Court Decision on Air Emissions from Animal Feeding Operations

DAVIDSONVILLE, MD – On April 12, 2021, the Attorney General of Maryland formally filed an appeal to the March 11, 2021 Assateague Costal Trust v. The Maryland Department of the Environment ruling from the circuit court for Montgomery County. 

Maryland Farm Bureau, in cooperation with the Delmarva Chicken Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation, will be following the case carefully through the Court of Special Appeals. We will pursue all available options to present to the Court scientifically sound information related to how Maryland farmers have and continue to implement the best management practices that protect waters of the state and waters of the U.S. In addition, we look to inform the Court on a more clear understanding of the intent, scope, and application of the federal Clean Water Act. 

On behalf of the many Maryland farm families whose livelihood depends on raising livestock in a safe, sustainable, and responsible way—we thank the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Attorney General for filing the appeal.

Maryland Farm Bureau thanks Governor Hogan for 2021 Rural Broadband and Infrastructure Budget

Maryland Farm Bureau thanks Governor Hogan for 2021 Rural Broadband and Infrastructure Budget

On behalf of our more than 12,000 members, Maryland Farm Bureau thanks Governor Hogan and his administration—Speaker Adrienne Jones, Senate President Bill Ferguson and their leadership team—for prioritizing broadband infrastructure investment in this year’s budget agreement. In 2020, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have clearly shown that rural broadband access continues to be severely limited in our state. Nearly 25% of Maryland’s rural citizens have limited to no internet service. 

We encourage the Governor and the General Assembly to prioritize infrastructure in rural communities across Maryland. As precision agriculture expands in the farming landscape, the need for internet service is critical. Utilizing GPS technology, both on-board computer updates and green-seeker in-field crop analysis have become valuable tools that farmers use to control over-application of nutrients and crop protectants; this helps reduce runoff and improve water quality. In addition, access to telemedicine and telehealth services for rural residents is essential for those who do not live close to cities and towns where in-person medical services are easier to access than in rural parts of the state. Furthermore, the need to provide online education to children living in rural areas where broadband access is sparce continues to put our rural youth at a learning disadvantage.

Expanding the broadband infrastructure into our rural communities not only helps Maryland’s farm families but all rural citizens in our state. We look forward to working with state leaders to bring internet connectivity to every corner of Maryland. 

Second Cyberag Symposium Takes Deep Dive into Cybersecurity Issues Affecting Agriculture and Aquaculture

Second CyberAg Symposium Takes Deep Dive into Cybersecurity Issues Affecting Agriculture and Aquaculture

EASTON, MD (March 19, 2021) To help address the ever-increasing threat of cyberattacks against the U.S. food industry, the second CyberAg Symposium on April 14 will bring together experts from the agriculture and cybersecurity sectors to discuss and discover solutions to security problems. Registration is free and the symposium will be held virtually.

“Advancements in American agriculture technology have broad security implications for the country, making data security a top concern,” said Mike Thielke, executive director of the Eastern Shore Entrepreneur Center (ESEC), organizer of the symposium. “This second symposium will further build awareness about how data protection can be leveraged to protect the agriculture and aquaculture sectors.”

While the agricultural industry has historically had little demand for cybersecurity, new innovation and advancements have left the sector in dire need of safeguarding from exploitation and hacking from outside influences. According to a recent survey by Farm Journal Pulse, less than 20% of farmers feel confident in their data security.

The symposium also provides the opportunity for members of the cybersecurity community to become aware of the problems facing the agricultural community. This will provide access to new markets for cyber firms to offer their existing solutions as well as for developing novel solutions for ongoing and newly-developed problems in the agriculture-aquaculture world.

This second symposium will feature speakers from Skyward Apps (Columbia, Maryland), Rantizo (Iowa City, Iowa), AgLaunch (Memphis, Tennessee), Corteva’s Granular Division (San Francisco, California), and the FBI (Washington, DC). The symposium is sponsored by Rantizo; the Maryland Department of Commerce; MidAtlantic Farm Credit; the Maryland Farm Bureau; Cybersecurity Association of Maryland, Inc. (CAMI); and F3Tech, an ESEC initiative.

Registration is now open at


A session from the first CyberAg Symposium – Data Security from an Agriculture Perspective, which was held last December – can be viewed at by clicking on the video on the right side of the page. The ongoing conversation can be joined through social media at #cyberag.

About ESEC: The Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, based in Easton on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, with a mission to educate and support entrepreneurs. Its initiatives include F3 Tech, a program that focuses bringing technology solutions to the Farm, Fish, and Food industries.

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