Cutting off a nose to spite a face (Editorial)

(March 10, 2015) There’s a war going on in Maryland. It is being fought on several fronts and it’s getting more intense.
Urban liberals have partnered with unyielding factions within the environmental activist community to strangle and crush agriculture in the state’s watershed of the Chesapeake Bay.
A principal target, of course, is chickens: They poop.
The litter disposal, as fertilizer for the crops which feed the chickens, allegedly is a major despoiler of the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
How do you get rid of the litter? You get rid of the chickens.
That’s also how you get rid of the backbone of the Maryland economy.
The agricultural industry which, through a network of related support industries, grows the chickens and feeds them, provides an estimsted 85 percent of the economy of the Delmarva Peninsula, and coupled with farming in Central; and Western Maryland, makes agriculture the state’s No. 1 industry.
Where does all of that get lost in the minds of our neighbors in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore city?
An assault of anti-agriculture bills has begun to march its way through the Maryland General Assembly, finding first sponsorship and then support in the urban and solidly Democratic partisan core of the state.
Here’s a quick look.
SB 257 and its companion bill in the House, HB 381, the so-called Manure Solution Bill, would codify the original PMT regulations as drafted by the O’Malley administration, and negate a compromise Agricultural Management Initiative advanced by Gov. Larry Hogan.
Farmers claim the original PMT regs could put them out of business.
SB 533 and HB 866, the Bay Tax Equity Act, would impose a five-cent per bird tax on every chicken placed in Maryland.
SB 532 and HB 1019, The Farmers’ Right Act would require new and controversial arrangements between farmers and integrators.
The bill would introduce new bureaucratic control of the poultry industry and is simply unnecessary, ag officials maintain.
HB 928, the Sales Tax and Use Bill, would impose the state’s six percent sales tax on the purchase of anything — equipment, service, you name it — involved in the operation of a farm.
Culturally, we are embedded in the Age of Agricultural Ignorance.
There is no more telling evidence of that than the content of these bills which, by the way, may very well pass the General Assembly which remains under Democrat control.
And the battle to preserve a viable agricultural industry in Maryland cannot be left to the farm community alone. Agriculture needs some help.
Rural residents of the state, who may have chosen their way of life because of what the farmers created for them, and moved here from their former homes (in Montgomery, Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City?) need to shoulder arms as well.