MFB delegates update wildlife management policy

Managing Editor

OCEAN CITY, Md. (Dec. 15, 2015) — Maryland Farm Bureau delegates discussed and set its policy for 2016 at its 100th annual convention last week.
New resolutions adopted varied widely with many getting approved without discussion.
Policy regarding wildlife saw several updates, with delegates voting in favor of support for more effective and innovative ways to control black bears in Maryland, creating a bear management permit system for controlling bears and change the bear hunt to give landowners more equitable access.
Delegates voted to support having feral hogs regulated as a varmint species and to create a five-year trial period that declares antlerless deer taken under the authority of a crop damage permit to be regulated as a varmint species.
They approved policy supporting the expanded use of sharpshooters for harvesting deer and support to have a previous crop insurance claims due to wildlife damage be sufficient enough to issue a Deer Management Permit by the state Department of Natural Resources.
The delegates also approved support for Sunday hunting for the first three hours after sunrise in counties where Sunday hunting does not already exist.
For better hunter safety, delegates approved policy supporting a state requirement that “anyone engaged in hunting activities in Maryland, including Regulated Shooting Areas, should demonstrate proficiency in safe hunting practices by completing a hunter safety course meeting the standards established by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.”
Regarding water appropriation, delegates approved policy that a farmer that uses less water than was allocated by a water withdrawal permit should not be penalized with a lower water allocation in the future.
Delegates also approved a resolution that people or groups that request a water appropriation permit hearing be required to attend the hearing or it is dismissed.
Delegates approved a resolution that permits use the term inches per acre instead of gallons per day.
New language on farm breweries and farm distilleries was combined with existing policy on the wine and grape industry giving similar support to all three enterprises and defining farm breweries and distilleries.
Other resolutions adopted as policy included:
• Encouraging the agriculture departments in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia to develop a unified poultry litter transport program for litter transported within or off the Delmarva Peninsula.
• Supporting the energy generation from poultry litter and livestock manure to be considered value-added production on the farm.
• Supporting an additional carve-out in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard for energy generation from poultry litter and livestock manure.
• Opposing any increase to the RPS if it causes an increase to the electric rates of the consumer.
• Opposing the state’s preemption of local and county land use policy for renewable energy generation projects.
• Stating “The entire Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries should be considered a no discharge zone in reference to marine vessels.”
• Urging Maryland public schools to remove skim milk from lunch menus and replace with no less than 2 percent.
• Making parents fully accountable and monetarily liable for destructive action of their children under 18;
• Stating that Area Extension Director positions in University of Maryland Extension be eliminated and replaced with the previous system of county Extension directors.
• Supporting the planting of pollinator habitat as long as the habitat is not a noxious or invasive species.
• Adding Palmer Amaranth to the list of plants MFB supports going on the state’s noxious weed list.
• Urging that MALPF remains under control of MDA and oppose any attempt to cap transfer tax funds used for agricultural land preservation programs.
• Supporting the allowance of tax credits to be sold through a broker system based on the current income tax subtraction modification for purchasing conservation equipment.
• Urging that the state Open Space Program continue to receive 0.5 percent of the state’s real estate transfer tax.
• Supporting an exemption from the Maryland capital gains tax on any profit realized from the sale of a perpetual conservation easement.
• Supporting that any expansion in gaming should benefit the equine industry and agricultural education programs and urging state legislators designate a portion of the education funds generated from slot machines to agriculture education programs and be administered by the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation.
• Recommending that at least one high school in each county and Baltimore City have an agricultural curriculum program and an FFA program.
• Supporting the expansion of the state’s tire fund collection program from once every four years to once every two years.
• Opposing the taking of additional rights of way to add bicycle lanes to county or state highways.
• Recommending that the State Highway Administration give at least six months notice to landowners whenever tree planting is proposed along SHA rights of way currently in agricultural production and encourage SHA to work with farmers to find other suitable sites for planting trees on adjacent land.