Just two legislators participate in MDA tour

Associate Editor

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Jan. 19, 2016) — State ag officials scolded legislators last week who skipped a tour of the department of agriculture, saying their attendance is key to helping them cast informed votes on farming issues.
Two delegates — Benjamin T. Brooks, D-Baltimore County, and Tony Knotts, D-Prince George’s — attended the Jan. 11 tour of the department’s lab facilities, said Jason Schellhardt, a department spokesperson. The department invited the entire General Assembly, the Anne Arundel County Council and the county executive.
Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, D-Dorchester and Wicomico counties, and Anne Arundel County Councilman Michael Peroutka sent representatives, he said, and Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh has said he will reschedule.
But state agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder said he was “disappointed” more elected officials missed a chance to see “the inner workings of MDA.” Farming industry representatives have routinely said legislator tours are key to building relationships and fighting legislation harmful to the industry.
“By educating them, hopefully that helps them make the right decision (when voting) and not just a political decision,” Bartenfelder said to the Maryland Agriculture Commission at its monthly meeting Jan. 13.
Several other commission members, including organics representative Marian Fry, also expressed disappointment with the turnout.