Wicomico County Fair 2018 in pictures and text (part 1)

August 20, 2018 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · 2 Comments 

I don’t think I’ve spent this much time at the Wicomico County Fair in, well, ever. Once I get rolling, all the photos will get their own caption.

But the original reason I showed up was to see how my photos did in competition.

If you look closely, one of my winning photos is next to the large yellowish Best of Show, which was first in the category (mine was second.) Another is on the top left of the right-hand screen.

This is one of my winners I really liked, one that was computer-modified with a filter. The shot was taken at Luray Caverns in Virginia when we were there earlier this year.

I got four second-place photos, which is pretty decent for an amateur like me. Three of them were taken on the same vacation.

But I wasn’t the only one looking for a ribbon, or more. Hundreds and hundreds of exhibits of all sorts filled the Carriage House.

The local 4-H clubs were taking a lot of space this year.

Others in both adult and junior categories exhibited the best of agriculture and arts.

The prizes for those considered Best of Show.

This helps pay for the few dollars I’ll receive for having prize-winning entries.

But exhibits and judging weren’t just reserved for the Carriage House. There were an assortment of barnyard animals on display at the fair as well.

I’m not sure what constitutes a prize-winning cow, but these three were seeking that distinction.

My wife likes goats, so hopefully she saw this one.

Beyond whether this one has plenty of white meat or dark meat, it’s a striking bird.

Animals who were simply being judged on their cuteness factor to the young set were part of the petting zoo.

The kids had a petting zoo, which was probably a good idea with the animals on exhibit being judged.

And then you have another sort of exhibit and judging in one of my favorite sections of the event: Friday evening’s car show.

This car is the same age as me (a 1964 Ford Country Sedan station wagon) but probably in much better shape. I seem to recall my aunt and uncle had a slightly later version of this Ford product.

I could have added several more photos of old cars I liked, but I decided to be nice and spare you.

Friday also featured another sort of competition: the Maryland High School Rodeo. Yes, there is such a thing, and the Wicomico County Fair was the opener to its 2018-19 season.

This young flag-bearer got the Maryland High School Rodeo season underway.

I didn’t sit through all of the events, but there was plenty of barrel racing, roping, and even bull riding on the Friday night docket.

Adjacent to the rodeo going on was the shady main lane of the Fair.

They were still painting the barrels when I first arrived Friday afternoon. But this wasn’t the main entrance anymore, as I’ll explain in a bit.

A few businesses (and political candidates) had the good fortune to be in the shade most of the weekend.

There were also other regular staples of the WCF I ran across, too.

The Phillips Wharf Environmental Center always brings this setup to the fair for the kids to check out.

This was inside the Maryland Department of Agriculture mobile exhibit. Besides the information kids could learn, adults probably most enjoyed the very comfortable air conditioning.

I thought I had a picture of this mobile exhibit from the outside as well as the Bookmobile, but I guess not. Funny thing about the Maryland Department of Agriculture mobile exhibit: there are actually two such vehicles now. We got the newer one with the better air conditioning, Montgomery County got the older one this weekend. Serves ’em right.

But they try to hit as many fairs, festivals, etc. as they can. Makes sense as agriculture is the number 1 Maryland industry. (And here I thought it was dependence on the federal government. Nope, saving politics for part 2.)

This group hopes to keep it number one.

Another group I didn’t know existed. They had a skid steer competition over the weekend.

I was happy to see these folks do better, too. Explanation in moments.

Despite what you may see in this picture, which I actually took on Sunday, this train did a lot better business than it did last year in a different location.

I’m going to close out part 1 by giving my kudos to the WCF for the way it was set up. They finally figured out that most of us park at the parking lot by the Little League field so the county built a small footbridge over the swale next to that lot. Most people would thus come in by the Carriage House and work their way up toward the main part of the Fair. Not only did it help the train operators out, I thought it was a better flow than parking people in the lot off Old Ocean City Road because it allowed them to close Blue Ribbon Drive and put it to use, as I’ll illustrate to lead off part 2.

An evening (and day) at the Wicomico County Fair in pictures and text

August 22, 2017 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on An evening (and day) at the Wicomico County Fair in pictures and text 

While its root event, the former Wicomico Farm and Home Show, would have celebrated its 80th anniversary last year, the Wicomico County Fair officially celebrated its third edition in the county’s sesquicentennial year. As I sometimes do, this post will meander between photos and text to tell its story.

We actually attended all three days of the WCF, although Friday was just for a brief stop to see how our photos did.

Do you see the purple ribbon signifying Best in Show? One of mine is next to that on the left, just one of the also-rans. Kim had two of hers place in their categories, but that was about it between the three of us. I thought I had some nice photos, but I guess the judges liked others better.

So that was the extent of our Friday, although our daughter stayed to watch the concert (from local boy gone Nashville Jimmy Charles) and fireworks.

Now that we knew the fate of our entries, we came back on Saturday to see one of our favorite events at the WCF, Cowboy Mounted Shooting.

When the WCF became a fair in 2015, this was an event that was brought in. It’s probably the biggest draw they have as the bleachers are usually well-filled to watch this competition, which is one of a handful of fairs the local Mason Dixon Deputies group does around the region. Of the evening shots I took I thought this was the best.

Once the competition stage was over – each runs about an hour, give or take – I decided to get off my behind and walk around.

I did so only to find that a lot of the WCF was hidden across the road behind the rides.

I found several vendors and some other attractions not easily found by the casual visitor.

Because the Cowboy Mounted Shooting runs its own soundtrack (a surprising mix of country, classic rock, and a little bit of other stuff) I didn’t hear the bands until I was almost on top of them. This one was called Rip Tide, which played a few classic rock staples to close their act.

As we had a bite to eat from the (somewhat limited) selection of vendors back there, this group called Swamp Donkey took the stage as we ate. They were in the same vein as a number of albums I’ve reviewed over the last couple years – sort of a mix of country, Americana, and roots rock. The band sure put a spin on Pink Floyd, though.

This photo was just a cool shot that provides a transition break.

On Sunday we were there before noon in order to hear Pastor Oren Perdue preach, with a message gleaned from the Book of Amos. It’s not one of the more studied books, but he made the message interesting. (If your child attends the Summer Fun camp at Salisbury Baptist, you’ll know who Pastor Perdue is because he runs the Friday evening rodeo. That’s how Kim met him.)

Since we started from the side I’d seen the evening before, we made our way back. This train wasn’t doing much, nor had it the evening before.

I noticed the ride price had been changed to “free,” which helps make a point I’ll return to in a bit.

And if it’s a agricultural event in this county, you’ll see one company there almost every time.

I liked this truck better, though.

That blue-and-yellow Perdue label was found a lot, not to mention the orange and green of competing tractor companies, too.

The orange ones did more work, as their local outlet was a sponsor of the mounted shooting.

The state of Maryland even had its nose in with an agriculture RV.

Cops on one side, fish on the other: the state was well-represented.

You could even find a few non-native beasts.

And here’s a clash of cultures: a cowgirl on her smart phone.

Day 2 of the CMS competition was packing them in again. And I swear I didn’t touch the second shot, but I used it solely because that point of light was in a rather interesting place.

Yet the mounted shooters weren’t the only equestrians there, as much of the grounds were taken up for more traditional competition.

And I don’t think there’s much call to remove this plaque from their venue.

Nor would it be a fair without barnyard animals.

Look, I grew up in a rural county so I’m aware of the extent 4-H is still popular among the youth here. Inside the Carriage House was their competition field (as well as that for the rest of us) in arts, crafts, and yummy looking items from the gardens and kitchens of Wicomico County.

I was disappointed by the truck show, though. It wasn’t what I was expecting – these would have been nice additions to some classic old restored Big Three trucks and maybe a few Jeeps and imports. Not just a handful of work trucks.

And while it wasn’t unexpected, we arrived too late on Saturday to see LG Boyd Rutherford. In fact, I really didn’t see many candidates pressing the flesh at the WCF when I was there, even though the local GOP was in its usual place. Most of them participated in the Saturday afternoon parade, then skipped out to other events, I guess.

The only candidate with a regular presence there was Jamie Dykes, a Republican running for State’s Attorney. Granted, she was very diligent about being there and engaging voters.

Next year, however, the joint will be crawling with them. I wonder if they will resurrect the buffalo chip tossing I once participated in as someone on the ballot to be elected.

But if I were to make a suggestion for next year, it would be to somehow better tie in the two sides of the fair. Because of the lay of the land, the poor vendors on the east side of the road had hardly any foot traffic (and at least one I spoke to complained about the lack of it.) Maybe the rides need to go at the very end, with the beer garden and vendor row placed closer to the center. In fact, I was told by city councilman Muir Boda (who I did see there) that the dunking booth the Jaycees were sponsoring was vandalized overnight on Saturday. So something needs to be done about that issue.

Once they got through the sauna of Friday evening (and the monsoon that followed, luckily after the fair ended) though, the weather turned out near-perfect. It looked like they had great crowds, the likes of which I haven’t seen before at the Fair (or especially its predecessor Farm and Home Show, which was about on its last legs.) So if they can get the siting issue fixed for next year (a large map would definitely help!) they may have a strong event worthy of the county it represents.

Playing chicken with local industry

After controversy about the prospect of large poultry operations with multiple chicken houses (up to a baker’s dozen in one case) as well as concern over the paleochannel that runs near the Salisbury area, County Executive Bob Culver organized a public meeting held earlier this evening to discuss some of these concerns with a number of state officials. Ten representatives, mainly from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) but also representing the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), were made available to answer questions from a large audience of onlookers.

Culver assured the audience that there were “no predetermined outcomes from this forum,” stressing that the idea was to explore the impact these operations would have on groundwater and the paleochannel, along with the possibility of airborne toxins. Culver noted that a Daily Times editorial penned by local activist Judith Stribling called on us to be “determined to avoid polarization,” and the crowd inside complied.

Outside? Well, that was a different story.

I shared this on social media, noting the anti-poultry zealots had arrived. Yet that band of perhaps three dozen was no more than a fraction of those inside. And it’s a sure bet that many thousands more will be alerted to the results of this meeting on local media.

Needless to say, once moderator Greg Bassett of the Salisbury Independent opened up the questions, which were written by audience members and passed to the front of the room, we had a lot of queries about how the operations would affect the water supply as well as the disposition of the natural by-products of the poultry.

In fact, the first question out of the chute was on how the PMT regulations were affecting the capacity of the land to handle manure. Dave Mister of the Department of Agriculture told those gathered that “we feel there will be adequate land to apply manure.” One thing he didn’t add was that much of the lower Shore has reached its saturation point for phosphorus, so that waste would need to be transported.

But the main thrust of the questioners regarding the waste itself was the effects it would have on peoples’ health. There were no “cancer clusters” being caused by these operations, said Dr. Clifford Mitchell of DHMH. Asthma from airborne particulates could be an issue, but that depended more on the individual and poultry operations couldn’t be blamed as a blanket cause.

The only possible issue could be nitrates in the water supply, which is regulated by the federal EPA to prevent what’s called “blue baby syndrome.” There is no regulation for phosphorus, added John Grace of MDE.

Moreover, the panel agreed health or environmental issues shouldn’t be a problem as long as the operation is run according to permit requirements. The idea is “zero discharge,” said Gary Kelman of the MDE. “No discharge will occur…if the permit is adhered to,” Kelman added. We also learned that they inspect based on complaints, and “we have lots of eyes out there,” said Kelman. Operations are inspected every five years at the minimum, but more often if there are complaints.

This to me may be an Achilles heel for the industry, since those who want to stir up trouble can make it difficult for CAFOs (short for concentrated animal feeding operations) to survive a week without some inspection. (To be considered a CAFO, a grower has to deal with 37,500 or more birds.)

And while they couldn’t answer a question dealing with the carrying capacity of our local industry, Mister admitted the number of chickens being grown was probably increasing. “The industry is growing, and that’s a good thing,” said Mister. The industry has to expand to be successful.

It was interesting to me that one of the more asinine questions was what they would do to protect smaller farmers; a question that received a smattering of applause. Mister simply said that was “best answered by the industry.” But on a compliance basis, he noted that all farmers have issues yet they get “phenomenal” cooperation from growers when there are problems.

We went almost the first hour without getting a question about the paleochannel, but one finally came. And the consensus was that there was “little chance” the paleochannel would be affected by these operations because they were all under roof – even the mortality composters were protected from the elements. In the event of a catastrophic loss, there was also the option of using the manure storage shed. There seems to be a lot of redundancy in the operation as well as in the permitting process.

That process also was a concern of some questioners, who worried that there was an effort to “fast-track” approvals. But the idea was to process them as efficiently as possible, protested Hussein Alhija of MDE, who noted “my job is to improve the process.” Several different state entities have to work in conjunction to get these permits in order. It’s a “very complex process.” noted Mister, who added that education on permitting was important. Kelman chimed in by pointing out lenders need the permits in order to fund the operations.

Nor is the paleochannel in danger from the water usage required by these operations. Poultry growing uses “several orders of magnitude” less water than cropland operations, said Grace. In fact, there is “no declining water level” in the aquafers. “We’re okay as far as the water supply goes,” Grace assessed.

Yet while the answers seemed to be satisfactory regarding water quality and permitting, those who thought CAFOs could be eliminated from being adjacent to residential areas were likely disappointed. The only standard that applies as far as the state is concerned is that operations must be 1oo feet away from “waters of the state.” Otherwise, Kelman conceded that it “seems to be a local zoning issue.” Given that residential development is oftentimes adjacent to land zoned agricultural, that will be something the county would need to address.

And there will still be people who are aggravated, even with all the assurances from the state group.

Perhaps the creator of this sign is related to the late William Donald Schaefer, the onetime governor who called the Eastern Shore the “shithouse” of Maryland.

In about an hour and a half, though, we all got a little understanding about the permitting process prospective growers have to go through, and perhaps it’s the idea that dealing with one big farm and one permit rather than several operations that is making the large-scale farms the better business model.

In his introduction, Culver noted there are 2,300 employees of local poultry companies. That’s a decent percentage of the local workforce, and it doesn’t count the ancillary jobs created by the need for these employees to live their lives. If the supply chain of chicken dries up, there will be a significant impact to our local economy that low-impact tourism can’t replace.

Given the evidence that the state of Maryland is trying to be of assistance to growers in maintaining a clean environment, the only explanation for the opposition is that it’s being whipped up by Radical Green, with the paleochannel just an excuse to stop vital development. With the steps being taken to treat stormwater and precautions being taken to keep farm operations as environmentally friendly as possible, I think that chicken growers are trying to be the best neighbors they can – it’s the outside extremists who are trying to foul our economic nest.

MCAC and CBF to Hogan: drop dead

As I suspected, the slight bend toward agricultural interests that Governor Hogan made with the revised Phosphorus Management Tool regulations – now re-dubbed the Agriculture Phosphorus Initiative – was met with hostility from the environmental community. On Friday the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition and Chesapeake Bay Foundation released this joint statement:

We commend the Hogan Administration for taking the problem of phosphorus pollution seriously and are pleased that the Administration embraces the scientific evidence showing we must implement the Phosphorus Management Tool to better manage manure on oversaturated farm fields.

The environmental community was not involved in the drafting of Governor Hogan’s proposed regulations that were released on Tuesday, and we have gone over them carefully since. Unfortunately, the regulations do not provide the adequate protection or assurance we need, and as such, we must oppose them. Our concerns are detailed in the attached analysis.

The regulations include a significant loophole, referred to by the agricultural industry as a “safety net,” that makes it unclear if they would ever result in full implementation of this much-needed tool. We adamantly oppose this lack of a clear, enforceable end date for putting the Phosphorus Management Tool into place.

It is also unclear whether the proposed ban on phosphorus on fields with FIV over 500 would actually reduce the amount of manure being applied to farm fields or protect Maryland water quality. The Maryland Department of Agriculture has been unable to clarify this.

Additionally, the regulations add one more year of delay, and they include troublesome secrecy provisions.

We continue to whole-heartedly support legislation sponsored by Senator Pinsky and Delegate Lafferty (SB 257 / HB 381) to implement the Phosphorus Management Tool with a six-year phase-in. Given the difficulties we’ve had with the regulatory process over the past three years, we prefer having a strong statute in place.

Their statement is an expanded version of a statement I posted on Wednesday from the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition. The MCAC is an interesting group in that none of the 21 groups involved has a thing to do with farming; instead many of these are “riverkeeper” groups from around the state. These groups blame farmers for a disproportionate share of the problems with Chesapeake Bay, imagining they are just wantonly dumping manure into streams and creeks.

While the groups have done a comparison sheet (or “detailed analysis”) between the O’Malley and Hogan proposals, their chief complaint can be summed up in this paragraph:

The Hogan PMT provisions for an “evaluation” for assessing manure markets and transportation programs, available land acreage, etc., allow for this “evaluation” to stall movement of PMT implementation for a year while MDA conducts a re-evaluation. The result is the possibility of an endless year by year postponement and re-evaluation possibility. (Emphasis in original.)

The way I read this is that, whether the infrastructure is in place or not – and, to be honest, I’m dubious of whether it can be in place – the CBF wants to move ahead on the PMT issue. Even the large-scale concession of immediately stopping the application of manure to certain fields, which is a provision allegedly affecting 1 of every 5 farmers on the Lower Shore, isn’t satisfying to the environmental coalition. They demand the data on how this would affect farmers, but pooh-pooh the need for data on how these regulations might affect the rural Maryland economy through the actual on-site studies sought by the Hogan administration.

In short, the contempt for the agricultural community by these groups is palpable.

So Larry Hogan tried to walk the middle ground. In backing off his original dead-set opposition to the PMT as “mandating how (farmers) use their property” to implementing a slightly less onerous version he still alienated the environmental community as well as discouraging some of the farmers who will be most adversely affected.

This whole episode will hopefully be a lesson to the new administration: you won’t get the friendship or the votes of those who would just as soon see the Eastern Shore collapse economically thanks to the demise of the agricultural industry regardless of what you do. So stick to those issues you ran on: improving Maryland’s economy and lowering the tax and regulatory burden on its citizens. Remember, no amount of regulation is enough for liberals, so why cater to them in the first place?

A look ahead: 2015 in Maryland

While many of the fiscal issues that dogged the state in 2014 are still around – and have continued to worsen with each revelation of another revenue shortfall – the personnel in place to address the problem has undergone significant changes thanks to a wave election which pulled Maryland into its tide.

At this time in 2013 when I wrote the look at 2014, the election seemed to be the molehill Anthony Brown thought it would be as the Maryland GOP was divided and despondent. But Larry Hogan’s Change Maryland movement was enough to overcome the built-in advantage in Democrat voter registration; meanwhile, Brown ran a highly uninspiring campaign that led to the lowest Democrat turnout on record. The drag from the top of the ticket allowed Republicans to pick up seven House seats and two Senate seats despite the gerrymandered redistricting done by Democrats after the 2010 elections.

November was the easy part, though – now Hogan has to govern. Job one will be finding $420 million to squeeze from this year’s budget, while the gap for next year is an estimated $750 million. While that number is daunting, it should be pointed out that the FY2015 state budget was $1.886 billion higher than the FY2014 version. That’s a 5.1% increase, so being $420 million short equates to a 1.07% cut. Simply holding the line on the budget for FY2016 and keeping it under $40 billion (in essence, level funding) should cover a lot of the problem. In fact, holding the budget to $40 billion rather than another 5.1% increase to match last year’s would net a difference of $1.224 billion – more than enough to cover the shortfall.

I realize it’s not as easy as I make it sound, but the budget is in Larry Hogan’s hands. The other key is a bill normally introduced immediately after the operating and capital budgets each year called the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, or BRFA. This is where the mandated spending that makes up over 80 percent of the budget is tweaked, and this is the bill for which Larry Hogan will have to sharpen his pencil and will want to keep a close eye on. Generally it is introduced by the administration’s request in the body which considers the other budget items. Although a version goes to both the House and Senate, by tradition budget consideration alternates yearly and 2015 will be the House’s turn.

And starting it in the House is important because a significant number of members are freshman legislators, many of whom were elected by receiving the message that voters were looking for change and fiscal responsibility. Over half of the Republicans in the House are newly-elected, with at least one appointee as well to replace Delegate Kelly Schulz, who was tapped to lead the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. This process will be a sidebar story as two current members of the General Assembly have already been chosen for positions in the new administration (Schulz and Senator Joe Getty.)

On a local level, the entirety of Wicomico County will be, for the first time in memory, represented in the House by a delegation entirely made up by freshmen. A combined 83 years of experience among six members was wiped out by a combination of redistricting, retirements, promotions, and electoral losses, leaving the county with five freshman representatives – Christopher Adams, Carl Anderton, Jr., Mary Beth Carozza, Johnny Mautz, and Sheree Sample-Hughes all begin their tenures next week. It’s perhaps a situation unique to the state; fortunately, the combined legislative experience of the county’s Senators is 28 years (20 for Addie Eckardt in the House and 4 years apiece for Jim Mathias in the House and Senate.)

Yet the change in leadership in the state could make things easier on the counties as well, provided Hogan makes the right departmental selections. As I pointed out yesterday regarding Wicomico County, a change at the Department of Planning could make county-level tier maps become more suited for local needs rather than state mandates. (Certainly counties with approved maps should consider tweaking them to address perceived inequities.) Hogan has also promised steps to allow fracking in western Maryland, to consider a plan to clean the Bay by addressing the sediment trapped behind the Conowingo Dam, and will maintain strident opposition to phosphorus regulations which would affect poultry production on the Eastern Shore. All these endeavors can be assisted with prudent selections at the departments of Environment and Agriculture.

All through the state government there’s an exciting potential for reform – if the right choices are made. Hogan’s early picks have been of a bipartisan nature, which may frustrate GOP activists who saw the same practice help to undermine the Ehrlich administration, but could be argued to be necessary with the political reality that a lot of Democrat votes went to electing Hogan. (Statewide Democrats down the ticket, on the other hand, were selected by comfortable margins.) That also becomes the price to pay for having a majority-Democrat General Assembly.

Something else to watch in Maryland will be how much more Second Amendment erosion takes place under newly-elected Attorney General Brian Frosh. A gun grabber in the Maryland Senate, Frosh now takes a bigger role and it will be up to Hogan to prove his Second Amendment bona fides by championing the eventual repeal or overturn in court of the ill-considered Firearm Safety Act of 2013 – although the law may see its day in federal court first.

Another probable line of demarcation will be how to deal with the certainty of more illegal aliens thanks to Barack Obama’s policies of amnesty. With Maryland’s reputation as a sanctuary state, anything short of a localized get-tough approach will be a further drain on the budget and another headache for Hogan.

All this and I haven’t even touched on economic development or educational reform, which will also be items to watch in 2015 but currently have far too many known and unknown unknowns, to borrow a phrase. On the latter, Hogan has made it known he’ll work to strengthen charter schools but true reform is probably some years away.

The story of 2015 in Maryland will be the story of how Larry Hogan leads after he takes the oath of office January 21. By then we’ll have some idea of what the priorities of the General Assembly will be as they’ll have already put a week of session under their belts and the hearing process should be underway on the highest-priority items. Success may be as simple as plugging the financial hole by tightening the state’s fiscal belt and the faster that happens, the more of the conservative agenda could be debated.

GO Friday: a phosphorus follow-up

November 22, 2013 · Posted in GO Friday · 1 Comment 

Last Friday I told you about the delay in new phosphorus regulations granted by the state of Maryland, giving local farmers some temporary relief from further onerous mandates. In the wake of that piece, District 38C Delegate candidate Mary Beth Carozza sent me a copy of her communication with Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Earl “Buddy” Hance decrying the proposal and its effect on local agriculture. Rather than use it as a postscript to the original, I asked if I could reuse it as an opinion piece and she allowed me to do so.

**********

November 15, 2013

The Honorable Earl D. Hance
Secretary, Maryland Department of Agriculture
50 Harry S. Truman Parkway
Annapolis, Maryland 21841

Dear Secretary Hance:

As a candidate for the newly-created Maryland 38C legislative district, I am joining with our Eastern Shore farm families, members of the Delmarva Poultry Industry and Maryland Farm Bureau, and the local business community to request an immediate withdrawal of the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s proposed regulations related to the Phosphorous Management Tool (PMT) and to allow time for an economic evaluation, as well as, for an extended phase-in of any new PMT tool based on a cost analysis and sound science.

After listening to individual families on their farms and attending the MDA briefings in Salisbury and Easton with approximately 400 concerned citizens at each forum, I strongly oppose moving forward with the proposed PMT regulations. It is simply unacceptable for the Maryland Department of Agriculture and our state government to impose new regulations without knowing the costly economic impact of the proposed PMT regulations and without the science to support that these proposed regulations would even improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed through reduced phosphorous leaving a farm.

Further, the proposed regulations do not take into account the improvements and efforts made by our Maryland farmers since the 2005 phosphorous implementation date of the Water Quality Improvement Act of 1998. Through Best Management Practices, Maryland farmers are doing more than their fair share in meeting the Chesapeake Bay Watershed goals and have exceeded them by 130 percent. Put simply, Maryland agriculture is the only sector to reach the Environmental Protection Agency’s cleanup goals.

Also, since the EPA is considering changes to the current Chesapeake Bay Model before the critical time period of 2017, which means reassignments of pollution responsibility by state and by sector, it only makes sense for the State of Maryland to wait for accurate model updates before proposing a new Phosphorous Management Tool. The updated Chesapeake Bay Model may indicate that Maryland farmers have already met their phosphorous reduction goals without the need for a new PMT, or the updated research may point to a new approach based on sound science to meeting the Chesapeake Bay Watershed goals.

Even more disturbing is that you, Secretary Hance, may be considering even going further in regulating the Agriculture community if municipalities cannot achieve and/or afford their WIP (Watershed Implementation Plan) by the Year 2017. It is almost impossible to expect the Agriculture community to accept almost the entire burden of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration program.

I believe the members of our Maryland farm community have proven their commitment over the years to meeting our Chesapeake Bay Watershed goals. As we move forward, I respectfully request that the Maryland Department of Agriculture consider this past progress, the economic impact of all proposed regulations, and sound science to ensure that any proposed regulations will improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. I appreciate this opportunity to share my comments and look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,

Mary Beth Carozza
Candidate for State Delegate
Maryland District 38C

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Mary Beth added, “As way of background before writing the letter, I visited a couple local farms (Chesnik’s and Hudson’s), attended the Salisbury and Easton MDA briefings, one of the Tri-County meetings on this issue, and this week’s Salisbury Chamber of Commerce legislative meeting. Our farmers and AG business community really deserve credit for engaging and pushing back.”

It’s rare that the push back works, but sometimes we on the Shore catch a break.

It also should be pointed out that most, if not all, of the events she attended were outside Carozza’s district (although I believe the two farms are within the 38C district boundaries.)

While this piece more or less dropped into my lap, I could always use a Black Friday edition of GO Friday. No, I stay far away from the malls but would like to digest my Thanksgiving turkey without coming up with a new post. So have at it.

Staving off defeat

It was a Friday afternoon document dump on the state level, but today the Maryland Department of Agriculture dropped its phosphorus management tool regulations. A piece in the Daily Times by Jennifer Shutt reminded readers that area farmers had objected to these changes since the discussion began in 2012.

But before doing a victory lap, it should be noted the regulations aren’t going away:

As a result of concerns identified in the public meetings and public comment process, MDA is withdrawing the regulations. The department will consider all comments and critical issues raised by stakeholders, develop an approach that addresses concerns raised to date, and resubmit a new proposal to AELR in 2014 that includes a phased implementation schedule for the new tool.

Local reaction was pleased, but cautious. Delegate Mike McDermott, whose district covers much of the lower Shore, noted:

While this is great news for Marylanders and the lower shore specifically, we must remain vigilant in the coming year…they will not stop. Today, I pre-filed a bill that would require a thorough fiscal review and economic impact study on regulations brought before the AELR Committee by state departments. I will also be offering a bill that would remove the ability of the Executive Branch to implement a regulation if it is not approved by the AELR Committee. The General Assembly must stand up to the overreach by this or any future governor’s administration whey they attempt to bypass the legislative process. Today is akin to a ballgame being called on account of rain…rest assured, their will be a make up and we all need to be prepared!

Added local candidate Christopher Adams, who is seeking to represent another portion of the Lower Shore in Annapolis:

Governing to the brink of disaster is just bad public policy. While this is good short term news for the agricultural community, it is a shame that a reasoned approach was not contemplated from the beginning.

So what is a reasoned approach? Buddy Hance, the state’s Secretary of Agriculture, defended the idea behind the regulations:

The O’Malley-Brown Administration remains committed to adopting the PMT through rule making and developing an approach that further considers comments raised by policymakers and citizens alike. MDA is confident that the PMT science is sound, based on 20 years of evolving federal and state research to better understand soil phosphorus and managing risk of loss to our rivers and streams.

I guess the state was hoping to get this done before the election season heats up, but we on the Shore raised too much of a stink. (Pun intended.) Certainly the O’Malley minions in Annapolis are making the political calculation that the farmers on the Eastern Shore aren’t going to vote for them anyway, but such a proposal would please those who swoon at the thought of pristine wildlife corridors on the Eastern Shore and figure farmers are the sole source of pollution for the Bay because of that icky chicken manure.

Moreover, something tells me that research “evolved” in the direction of the wishes of those paying for the studies. Since both the federal and state governments are tightly clutched in Democratic hands, and that party is the home of those who tip the balance furthest away from coexistence between poultry production and acceptable water quality – forever chasing a goal of placing the Bay in the pristine condition it was in when just a few thousand native tribesmen lived here as opposed to the millions who now inhabit its watershed – it’s no surprise the research has suggested regulations local agricultural advocates reject.

But it’s like almost any other cherished liberal dream – like water eroding a large rock, cracks develop and eventually the obstacle is surmounted. Many of the initiatives our state is saddled with withered and died multiple times before the General Assembly finally relented. So it will be with this package of regulations: they didn’t get them this time, but in 2014 they’ll hope it flies under the radar with the looming election. If not, it might be an O’Malley parting gift at the dawn of 2015, daring a Republican successor to overturn it.

Or worse, it could be the stepping-off point for another Democratic governor to cite even more favorable and extreme “evolving research” and really clamp down on the Eastern Shore’s agricultural industry.

Poultry producers are getting it on all sides now: their feed costs continue to be well above average thanks to the ethanol mandates and their effect on corn prices, the value of their land is significantly and adversely affected by state-mandated tier maps which hinder opportunities for development on road frontage if desired, and now these new proposed regulations layered on top of hundreds of pages of existing state and federal mandates. Add to that competition from abroad, and one has to ponder how much more the major players will take.

If Perdue ever left our little corner of the world, the cherished Radical Green dream of wildlife corridors may follow. There won’t be a lot of point for many local farmers to stay in business.

Gubernatorial?

If you were handicapping the chances of Larry Hogan jumping into the race for governor, the odds may have shortened a little more based on the roadtrip he’s making this week. Change Maryland provides the details:

The O’Malley-Brown administration has submitted, for legislative approval, regulations that will have a sweeping effect on how Maryland’s already struggling farmers can manage their land. The proposed Phosphorus Management Tool is an intrusive regulation that will significantly impact how and when farmers can apply poultry manure fertilizer to their fields. Farmers have used poultry manure as fertilizer for years.

“It appears the O’Malley-Brown administration is not content with just restricting farmers’ property rights, but also insists on mandating how they use their property,” stated Larry Hogan, successful businessman and Change Maryland Founder.

Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance told a meeting of farmers last week that his department has no idea what the economic impact of the new regulations would be for farmers until it is up and running. “It’s Obamacare for farmers,” Hogan said, “we have to pass it in order to see what’s in it.”

According to a University of Maryland survey conducted by the designers of the Phosphorus Management Tool, 61 percent of the farms surveyed would be impacted by the new regulation. Virgil Shockley, a Democratic member of the Worcester County Board of Commissioners and a farmer himself, estimated the new regulations would cost the Lower Shore $120 million.

The Phosphorus Management Tool is part of the O’Malley-Brown Watershed Implementation Plan, which also foisted the onerous ‘rain tax’ on Maryland home and business owners.

“We all want a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay, not only for us but for our children and grandchildren,” said Hogan. “However, instead of focusing on workable solutions for all Marylanders, Governor O’Malley has chosen to pad his presidential resume by pandering to environmental special interest groups, and has placed burdensome regulations on our hard working farmers.”

Today and tomorrow, Hogan will be touring the Eastern Shore speaking to local farmers and local community leaders. The Eastern Shore is where the majority of Maryland’s farmland is located and where the proposed regulations will have the most devastating financial impact.

Most people who are in the real estate business aren’t going to make a farm tour of the Eastern Shore. But if you’re seeking the Republican nomination for governor, it’s certain you will be talking to your base and that number includes a heaping helping of Eastern Shore hospitality.

I would have to speculate that, for Hogan, this listening tour will give him ideas for the agricultural and environmental planks of his platform. For those who deride Larry as a clone of Bob Ehrlich, though, the tour may serve as a reminder that it was Bob who originally enacted the “flush tax” that Martin O’Malley has doubled.

But since Larry didn’t schedule a meeting with me – which is fine because I’ll be out working – a few other suggestions I have on the land use front may be helpful, and they go hand-in-hand with each other.

First of all, I think we should begin to wind down (or at least level-fund) Program Open Space, with the intent of having private entities such as land trusts purchase the property and, if they wish, donate it to the state. I’m not a fan of taking land off the tax rolls unnecessarily, for I have the belief the government controls too much land as it is.

Because of that belief, I think an idea Bob Ehrlich had should be expanded, and the Baltimore Sun and environmentalists can go pound sand. Now I wouldn’t do this until land values began to rebound, and certainly the sale can be a slow process of a few hundred acres at a time scattered around the state. I wouldn’t put an entire state park on the market, but non-contiguous areas around the margins would be good places to begin.

Finally, the idea of transferable development rights should be re-examined, with the intent being changing the terms from permanent to generational, or about 20 to 25 years. This way succeeding generations of a family can decide whether they would prefer development rights revert back to them or whether to accept further compensation from the governmental entity providing them.

Over the last few decades, the balance on property rights has shifted far too much to the government’s side. Egged on by environmentalists who dream of wildlife corridors without human interaction, the state is not only a huge property owner but sticks its nose into matters more properly conducted at the county level as well. It’s time to reverse that trend, and one key question in the upcoming campaign is who will have the stones to do it.

And now for something completely different:

I didn’t want to write a lot about this – at least not a full post, because I’m no expert on it – but I felt my friend, author Bob McCarty, hit a home run with his thoughts about the plausibility of explanations surrounding last year’s Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan; a crash which snuffed out the lives of thirty American servicemen, including many who served with Seal Team 6 and engaged Osama bin Laden in his last stand. It’s worth considering.

Maybe Hogan or McCarty should consider a GO Friday feature on their respective areas of expertise. I can always use a break.

2012 Delmarva Chicken Festival in pictures and text

We welcomed the event back to Salisbury after a four-year absence – oddly enough, it seems to come here during a Presidential election year. As I promised, here’s my accounting of the event.

If you’re wondering why I was there, well, as part of my Central Committee duties I coordinate our presence at particular events. They understand it’s a win-win situation as I help get the people there for their purposes and I have an excuse to roam around for mine. This was taken early on Friday with the first of my volunteers, Tom Hughes, manning the tent.

Tom (and many others) were kind enough to mind the store while I did my thing, particularly at the opening ceremony. It’s interesting that not one of these birds is really a chicken.

I talked about the politicians and their speeches yesterday, but I didn’t see any of the Maryland folks doing the chicken dance, did I?

I think some of those on the right-hand side of the photo (with their backs to the camera) were Delaware state legislators, though, so they weren’t as bashful.

The political types were quick to grab a piece of the ribbon, though, and officially kick off the 63rd Delmarva Chicken Festival.

One thing the DCF attempts to accomplish is educate those who are city slickers about the chicken cycle of life. First you have the incubator to help the newly hatched come into the world.

Then it’s perhaps the favorite part of the DCF in terms of the “awwwwwww” factor. These are the definition of “harmless lovable little fuzzballs.”

But then they grow to be decent-sized birds.

Fortunately, they don’t feature the chickens’ actual demise, but they come to what may be considered a glorious end in one of several ways. Some are barbecued to perfection.

Others are fried in the giant frying pan. For the curious, some of the facts and figures about this behemoth are below.

Still others are picked apart for cash prizes. Mountaire, which provides the chicken, also put up the money to the winners.

I found it interesting that the meat picked from the chickens goes to a local cat shelter. I gather that’s because of the non-sterile conditions the meat is prepared under, because there are no gloves on those hands.

The Chickin Pickin’ was one of many side events that went on, along with a full entertainment schedule and a car show on Saturday.

Whether it was to our benefit or not, our booth location was well away from the stage so we really didn’t get to hear the bands like alex&shiloh, pictured below. So, alas, I’ll have no Weekend of Local Rock post from this.

As I mentioned, there was a car show and I am definitely a sucker for car shows. But I don’t hold a candle to this owner’s love for The King of Rock n’ Roll.

I decided to feature a few other cars here for a purpose. Has it occurred to you how many venerable nameplates have disappeared over the last decade or so? Names like Oldsmobile…

…or Pontiac…

…or Mercury, just to name a few.

I’d love to find an AMC Javelin at one of these shows because I always thought those looked cool as well – yes, another nameplate that’s bitten the dust in my adult lifetime.

I added this one for a sentimental reason. My parents owned a 1964 Thunderbird when I was born. It wasn’t a convertible and it was baby blue instead of red, but you get the picture. And it gives me an excuse to symbolically wish my Dad a Happy Father’s Day. It’s symbolic in the sense that he never looks at a computer, fortunately he’s alive and well.

This car was worth showing for the board out front.

The board details some facts about 1967, when that Mustang was built.

And it provides a brilliant chance to illustrate a point about the next picture, for 1967 is also the year that this guy’s opponent was first sworn into public office. He’s been there ever since and politically Ben Cardin has not aged as well as that red Mustang.

On the other hand, Dan Bongino spent most of four solid hours meeting and speaking to voters, while his volunteers helped keep the GOP booth staffed. I also found out Dan likes the same wraps I do, since he grabbed a quick bite to eat (and no, I did not take a photo of it.) Oh, that guy who was sworn in back in 1967? Yeah, he was there long enough for a few sound bites but that was about it.

Bongino wasn’t the only politician who dropped by over the two days. Delegate Mike McDermott said hello, and here he’s pictured with our county GOP Chair Dave Parker, who’s on the left. (That doesn’t happen often.)

Andy Harris also came over with two of his kids on Friday, and I also have to point out State Senator Jim Mathias was kind enough to shake hands and say hello. He was the only Democrat to do so that I’m aware of.

By now most readers should know I seek out the political in almost everything, and the DCF was no exception because there were a number of agricultural-related lobby groups represented. Needless to say, Maryland’s Department of Agriculture was there, pushing an $18 million cover crop program.

The lady sitting there certainly looked bored. But other groups were less obvious as to what they stood for. Take the group Let’s Be Shore for an example. Their purpose was to, as they said, establish a dialogue about our watershed. But one has to ponder what gets the Maryland Humanities Council interested in agriculture?

They are planning public meetings for later this summer, and if I can I’ll have to show up. I definitely have some opinions on the Watershed Implementation Plans of which they speak.

Food safety was the mantra of CommonGround.

The little brochure they were handing out was intended to correct “common misconceptions” about the food industry, such as the impact of genetically modified food. “Farmers and gardeners have been creating plant hybrids for as long as they’ve been growing plants,” states one portion of their handout. “Biotechnology simply serves as a more technologically advanced method.”

To be honest, I really don’t have an informed opinion on what these multinational corporations do with plant research, but I did find it intriguing that the effort is sponsored by “America’s soybean and corn farmers and their checkoffs” and is aimed more toward the women who primarily are food buyers.

This group, though, hits closer to home.

As a group “raising awareness about the dire threat raised by environmental activists who sue first and ask questions later,” I can see them coming into conflict with some of the other groups represented. I find it strange, though, that environmentalist groups and their supporters tend to be from big cities and are probably the most likely to complain about the smell of the country.

Now when I smell the obvious by-product of raising chickens I joke that it “smells like Delaware.” But to farmers that’s also the smell of money and the odor of continuing the process by which people all over the world are fed – the chicken manure fertilizes the grain used for the feed which eventually once again creates the by-product. Those of us who understand how our region works appreciate the economic impact farmers create, but those who fly through it on the way to their beach homes simply complain when they drive by a newly fertilized field.

But they would complain more if that chicken they were planning on barbecuing wasn’t on the grocer’s shelf, wouldn’t they?

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