HB152 – Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) – Urban Agriculture Grant Fund
Bill sponsors: Delegate Melissa Wells.
This bill expands the purpose and scope of the Urban Agriculture Grant Program and the Urban Agriculture Grant Fund, expanding the scope to apply to agricultural producers in an urban area, including but not limited to Baltimore City, and provides grants to qualified applicants, including but not limited to nonprofit organizations in Baltimore City. The governor must include in his annual budget bill an appropriation of at least $100,000 to the fund.
HB253/SB262 – Environment – On-Farm Composting Facilities – Permit – Exemption
Bill sponsors: Delegate Emily Shetty and Senator Jason Gallion.
This bill, among other things, requires the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to establish an exemption from the permitting requirements under the Code of Maryland Regulations for an operator of an on-farm composting facility that (1) uses 10,000 square feet of area or less for active food scrap composting; (2) composts only one or more of a specified list of feedstocks; (3) records the amount and source of specified source-separated organics composted, and other necessary records, provided to MDE and (4) meets any other conditions specified in regulations.
HB389/SB34 – MDA – State Specialist for Value-Added Agriculture
Bill sponsors: Delegate Todd Morgan and Senator Katie Fry-Hester.
This bill establishes a State Specialist for Value-Added Agriculture as a position within MDA.
HB378/SB310 – Natural Resources – Black Bear Conflict Reduction and Damage Reimbursement Fund – Uses
Bill sponsors: Delegate Sara Love and Senator Chris West.
This bill alters the Black Bear Damage Reimbursement Fund to authorize grants from the fund to be made for projects that reduce conflicts between black bears and humans. It renames the past fund and increases maximum amount of reimbursement per person annually from $3,000 to $5,000. The governor must allocate $50,000 annually.
HB983/SB327 – Hunting, Wildlife Conservation, and Outdoor Recreation – Funding, Promotion, Management, Licenses, Permits, and Stamps
Bill sponsors: Delegate Nick Allen and Senator Sarah Elfreth.
This comprehensive wildlife management and hunting bill cleans up the landowner liability language to ensure a landowner has proper liability coverage if they allow hunters to hunt on their land; establishes the Wildlife Conservation, Education, and Outreach Program to provide outreach and foster an interest in outdoor recreation and stewardship; and increases fees (unchanged for 36 years) for many hunting licenses and stamps, to generate the needed funding for Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to qualify for the available USDA matching funds to address food habitats and farmer conservation cost-share, among other things.
HB200 – Budget Bill (Fiscal Year 2024)
Bill sponsors: Speaker Adrienne Jones on behalf of Governor Wes Moore.
This bill is the only bill constitutionally required to be passed as a balanced budget during the 2023 legislative session. The bill appropriates full funding for critical ag programs in key state agencies and departments. MDFB requested four additional programs to be funded; however, only two were included: 1) $825,000 to MDA’s budget to fund the Maryland Agricultural Fair Board to promote state and county ag fairs and exhibits; and 2) $150,000 to DNR’s budget to fund the Venison Donation Grant Fund that is currently unfunded. This fund has been used in the past to grant funds to Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH).
MDFB will be prioritizing new versions of the following bills in 2024. MDFB-supported bills that didn’t pass:
HB592/SB418 – Property Tax – Agricultural Land and Improvements – Assessment
Bill sponsors: Delegate Courtney Watson and Senator Sarah Elfreth.
This bill outlines that value-added ag activities are a farm or ag use of land for assessment purposes. It defines value-added ag activities as: (I) Agricultural Alcohol Production; (II) Agritourism; (III) Equine Activities; (IV) Value-added ag products processing from products derived from the farm; (V) Roadside Stands; (VI) other ag uses that are permissible under local zoning; and (VII) other activities as determined by the secretary of agriculture. This bill defines barns and structures used in value-added farms as ag structures and required to be assessed as such. The bills remained stagnant this year with concerns on the impact to property tax revenues. Therefore, the senator has agreed to craft a bill that satisfies the stakeholders, Maryland Association of Counties and the Department of Assessment and Taxation.
HB678/SB640 – Sales and Use Tax – Electricity for Agricultural Purposes – Exemption
Bill sponsors: Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes and Senator Michael Jackson.
This bill adds to the existing ag sales and use tax exemption on electricity that is used for ag purposes, such as raising livestock and poultry, irrigation, or crop production and grain harvest. Currently, only farm electricity use tied to the house meter is tax exempt. Unfortunately, just like last year, this bill was held up in the House due to potential fiscal impact.
Bills opposed by Maryland Farm Bureau as drafted:
HB230/SB224 – MDE – Zero-Emission Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles – Regulations (Clean Trucks Act of 2023)
Bill sponsors: Delegate Sara Love and Senator Malcolm Augustine.
This bill requires MDE, by December 1, 2023, to adopt regulations that, among other things, (1) establish requirements for the sale of new zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in the state; (2) update existing regulations and incorporate by reference the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) regulations, as revised and updated; and (3) take effect starting with model year 2027 (unless delayed by stipulation), among other things. Because a needs assessment and deployment plan was amended into the bill, MDFB removed its opposition.
HB319/SB158 – Pesticide Registration – PFAS Testing – Requirement
Bill sponsors: Delegate Dana Stein and Senator Shelly Hettleman.
As drafted, this bill, beginning January 1, 2024, would prohibit the secretary of agriculture from registering a pesticide for use against mosquitoes in the state unless the distributor of the pesticide submits to the department test results indicating the pesticide has passed the PFAS test and an affidavit attesting to the legitimacy of the PFAS test results. Because the bill was amended to instead become a study, MDFB removed its opposition.
MDFB followed 141 bills that were introduced and testified on 69 of them. Of the 57 bills supported, 24 passed and should be signed into law by the governor this spring. Of the 12 bills MDFB opposed, all 12 were either defeated or amended to remove our opposition. With a new term, so many new legislators and a new governor, MDFB worked diligently to ensure that the voices of our members were heard during this legislative session to protect and grow Maryland agriculture.
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MARYLAND FARM BUREAU®, INC. is a 501(c)(5) federation that serves as the united voice of Maryland farm families. Our organizational strength comes from the active participation of over 9,500 individual and family members who belong to the state’s 23 local county Farm Bureau organizations. Since 1915, Maryland Farm Bureau has been committed to protecting and growing agriculture and preserving rural life. Maryland Farm Bureau is a proud member of the American Farm Bureau® Federation. For more information, visit MarylandFB.org.
Amber Pearson | Maryland Farm Bureau, Inc. (TSN Communications)