Raw milk, marijuana stir debate; no changes

Managing Editor

OCEAN CITY, Md. (Dec. 16, 2014) — While Maryland Farm Bureau delegates voted on more than 40 policy changes at their annual convention, two topics — raw milk and growing medical marijuana — received considerable debate.
By the end of the convention, however, no new policy on either topic was adopted.
On selling raw milk, a resolution proposed by Baltimore, Garrett, Harford and Kent counties proposed the support of a pilot program with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene licensing five dairy farms that were also Grade A milk shippers to sell raw milk.
The resolution also restated opposition to cattle-share or farm-share agreements as a means to circumvent existing laws against raw milk sales.
Debate on the issue, at times heated, put farmers who see selling raw milk as too great a risk in food safety against farmers who see a new revenue source on their farms and view the matter as a consumer choice.
“I don’t believe it is the role of government to protect us from everything,” said Tom Mason a dairy farmer and Kent County delegate. “Their role is to attempt to make it safe with reasonable regulations and this policy does that.” Mason added the resolution was developed with input from state dairy groups and the health department and is similar to pilot program for raw milk cheese that Farm Bureau supported years ago.
But other dairy farmers said the risk in making people sick is too great and it would tarnish the whole dairy industry.
“We’re talking about putting people in the hospital, we’re talking about making people sick,” said Barbara Crum, a Frederick County dairy farmer. “Why do we want a pilot program that does this?”
A voice vote on the resolution was too close to call and after counting a hand vote, the proposal failed by 11 votes. The topic came up again on the closing day of the convention after all other resolution were considered, with Jo-Ann Chason of Baltimore County proposing to strike all of Farm Bureau’s policy on raw milk sales and take a neutral position.
That led to still more discussion and eventually Crum proposed that current policy be kept and the matter postponed indefinitely so farmers on both sides of the issue can talk and possibly reach an agreement.
That measure also went to a hand vote and was approved by a margin of more than 100 votes.
Between the two raw milk discussions, a proposed resolution to support “the production of medical marijuana on agland” was considered.
Proponents argued with the state allowing use of medical marijuana, Farm Bureau should support farmers’ opportunity to grow it. Harry Moreland of Caroline County rose in opposition saying the risks of growing the crop would far exceed the benefits to the farmer and production will be controlled by a select group of companies giving farmers little advantage.
Once legislators see the money that’s made on medical marijuana, they’ll push for full legalization, Moreland said which will lead to more problems.
After paying millions of dollars to all but end tobacco production in Maryland, Moreland asked, “why in the world would we turn around and go down that same road?”
The resolution failed and the delegates next approved, without debate, a resolution to “oppose the production and sale of recreational marijuana.”