This Week’s Headlines
DPI event a place for senators’ diplomacy
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
(April 28, 2015) There he was: Maryland Sen. Richard Madaleno, the Montgomery County Democrat, chatting with Jim Perdue.
The same Sen. Madaleno who had co-authored two of an armada of bills fired at the poultry industry in the 2015 General Assembly session.
Yes, Sen. Madaleno — apparently enjoying himself — at the recent annual Delmarva Poultry Industry Booster Banquet.
He had accepted an invitation from Sen. Addie Eckardt who, together with her colleagues in the Eastern Shore delegation, is making an all-out effort to introduce, if you will, the urban and suburban lawmakers from the Western Shore to the life and culture and the economic powerhouse that is the poultry industry on the Delmarva Peninsula.
The division of understanding and sentiment between lawmakers on the two sides of the Chesapeake Bay was never more evident than in this year’s three-month legislative session during which a bill, for example, proposed charging the poultry companies five cents for every bird they placed in a Maryland poultry house, a Madaleno offering.
Fortunately, the poultry assault wilted but it served to energize Eckardt and her colleagues to the task at hand.
Eckardt, reflecting on her invitation to Sen., Madaleno to the DPI banquet, where he could “interact with leaders of the industry,” he recalled. “In retrospect, there have been a number of activities the Eastern Shore legislators are involved in that make a difference,” she said. “We are small in number so our voice needs to be focused and consistent.”
Three years ago, Eckardt recalled, the comptroller held a summit at the Perdue School of Business in Salisbury to discuss the importance of agriculture to the Shore as an economic engine.
“The data was very clear; we all were reminded of the significant impact for sustainability and economic stability,” she said.
“We do grow food well and could grow the industry under the right conditions but have believed that we are under attack especially in light of the Hudson situation,” she said. “That day several of us stayed to plan how we could educate our Western Shore colleagues about family farms and the delicate balance present in the industry and the impact on the entire economy of the Shore and the peninsula.”
Eckardt said the group decided to sponsor an event called “Eastern Shore Chicken Day” to bring the farm families and the legislators together to share their experience.”
She said the event has been successful. The lawmakers and staff look forward to attending.
This year, Sen. Eckardt noted, the legislators submitting the chicken tax and farm tax bills were as usual invited, reminded to attend and indeed did attend.
“These relationships are essential,” the Eastern Shore lawmaker said.
She called Madelano‘s attendance at the poultry event “the highlight for the year.”
“We plan to follow up with a tour to include his Montgomery County delegation,” Eckardt said. “All have indicated interest.”
Getting Sen., Madaleno to the poultry booster banquet was a coup, of sorts, but the task continues. Commented Sen. Eckardt:
“I believe it is essential that all of us on the Shore continue to share information about our counties, to raise awareness of the unique culture of the Eastern Shore and farming in general, and promote understanding… Clear identification of the issues and problems facing the economy and livelihood of the Eastern Shore with corresponding solutions will be the focus in the next three years as we work with a new governor and administration and build alliances with the Western Shore legislators for a better Maryland.”