Promote the Ag Tag in Maryland (Editorial)

(March 28, 2017) A bill in the Maryland House of Delegates had the Maryland Agriculture Education Foundation in a tough spot.
House Bill 1401 seeks to require the Motor Vehicle Administration to develop a specially-designed Background Scene license plate honoring the U.S. Armed Forces and directs the money from $20 initial and renewal registration fees to the Maryland Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans.
The bill appears to be stalled in committee and unlikely to receive a floor vote this session but with 30 sponsors in the House, the effort to develop a unique veterans plate, which has come up in recent past sessions, has perhaps more momentum than ever.
It’s a reminder for all agriculture supporters to promote the Ag Tag, reaching out to their dealerships, title companies and their fellow drivers.
MAEF’s concern over the bill is that another Background Scene plate option for motorists will pull away funds from the foundation and the Chesapeake Bay Trust which reaps revenue from the state’s only other Background Scene plate, known as the “Bay Plate” which sales fund the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
During the last three months of 2016, sales of The Bay Plate and the Ag Tag were impacted dramatically by the state’s introduction of the new standard Maryland license plate. MAEF’s revenue from Ag Tags was down $30,000 for that period compared the same months in 2015.
The Chesapeake Bay Trust’s budget was down $250,000 in 2016 and the organization is forecasting a much larger $450,000 budget shortfall this year.
Maryland already has exemptions from registration fees for veterans with certain disabilities and existing organizational license plates for Disabled American Veterans and its DAV Auxilliary.
The organization sets the price and receives the balance after the registration cost is taken by MVA. Anyone, veteran, disabled or otherwise can purchase one of the organizational plates.
The bill’s initial sponsor, Del. C.T. Wilson, D-Dist. 28, and chairman of the House’s Maryland Veterans Caucus, called the idea that a new plate would siphon money from the other tags a misnomer in the bill’s hearing with the House Environmental and Transportation Committee.
“Our veterans deserve a lot more than we’re giving,” Wilson said to the committee. “We don’t give them much, I think we need to do a much better job.”
According to Wilson, there are 414,000 military veterans in Maryland and about 1,000 of them are homeless.
The unemployment rate for veterans is double that of the whole state’s rate.
MAEF has been clear that it does not oppose Disabled American Veterans or its need for more funding. We do not either.
Our veterans, disabled or not, protect the freedoms we all hold dear and too often take for granted.
The issues of helping veterans, saving the Bay and educating citizens on where food comes from are much too important individually to link them all together to the same pot of money.