Capital, in more ways than one (Editorial)

(Aug. 5, 2014) “The road to Annapolis is paved with cash.”
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The annual Maryland Commodity Classic attracted its usual 250-300 farmers to the Queen Anne’s County 4-H Park late last month.
The event was born 16 years ago when the Maryland Grain Producers Association invited Maryland soybean growers to join them at their annual July business meeting.
It’s a time for farmers to spend an afternoon and evening talking to farmers.
And that’s valuable time spent in these often troubling times.
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Kevin Anderson, who, with his dad, owns Wimberly Farms near Princess Anne, is president of MGPA, and as such, he draws the top spot on the podium at the business meeting which gathers the crowd in and around the show pavilion at the county’s fairgrounds.
It was young Kevin who rallied the troops, so to speak, taking the leadership in forging the opposition earlier this year to the planned implementation of the state’s proposed Phosphorous Management Tool.
Urging attendance at two public hearings on the PMT, he and others, managed to send PMT back to the Maryland Department of Agriculture with the demand that its economic impact be assessed before it is again considered for implementation.
And that is happening.
The PMT, which would minimize the use of poultry manure on the farms on the Lower Shore, is under intense economic scrutiny at the school of business at Salisbury University.
Anderson is back at it, warning that the PMT battle is far from over and urging the farm community to get off its hands and join the squabble. “We need help in Annapolis,” Anderson told the Commodity Classic crowd.
“A quick 101 on Maryland politics,” he said, outlining: “There are 141 delegates and 47 senators; the more of these legislators you have as your friends or who understand your business the better off you will be.
“Maryland’s districts are determined by population; urban areas have more people — and therefore more votes. Now the crucial point, this is an election year. I would like to encourage you to get involved, support those candidates that we want to bring back into office — and that includes those outside of your own districts, those in the urban areas who have taken the time to learn about farming and our important role in providing food, feed and fuel while supporting efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
“If there are candidates who you would like to see out of office, support their opponents. This is the way the system works.”
Anderson said it would cost him about $150,000 a year if he was not allowed to use poultry litter at Wimberly Farms.
The Eastern Shore delegates, Anderson said, “worked very hard on our behalf last year and Delegate Conway, in his capacity as chairman of the important Appropriations Committee, got language placed into the budget bill calling for an economic study on the Phosphorus Management Tool.
“As I understand it, the outcome is going to be what is called a dashboard, essentially an assessment tool into which someone plugs in different scenarios to determine the potential outcomes and can use it to establish the preferred or least cost alternative.”
What will emerge from the study? Farmers hoped for “an extensive evaluation of the cost implementing the PMT sufficient to halt the process.”
At this point, said Anderson, “we are in a wait-and-see mode.”
A year ago, PMT was a done deal. Those two meetings in September “are the reason we don’t have PMT now,” said Anderson.
The voice of the Maryland farmer has never been stronger than it is today.
Let’s keep it that way, he said.
“The road to Annapolis is paved with cash.”