38th annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

Once again, thousands came to Crisfield and heeded this advice.

Somers Cove Marina was set up a little differently this year, but the real difference was that the attendees didn’t soak through their clothes this year – instead, the day was cloudy but relatively comfortable, with only a small touch of humidity. Most years this setup – by a local engineering firm, naturally – would be oh so handy. But not so much this year.

One key difference in the arrangement this year was the prominence of this tent.

Annapolis lobbyist Bruce Bereano always has a crowded party, and it’s a bipartisan affair.

The GOP tent this time was set up behind Bruce’s, and it was a hub of activity for the Republican side. A lot of local and state hopefuls were there at some point.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan decided to have his own space, which ended up by the side entrance.

On the other side of the Republican tent and just around the corner, the Democrats were set up close to their usual rear location along the waterfront. Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton was holding court there. (He’s in the white at the center, in shades.)

By and large, though, most of those in attendance were interested in one thing. See the light blue lean-to to the left of the Sysco trailers in the photo below? That’s where the crabs were being served, and the line indeed stretched that far back 15 minutes before the announced noon opening – they really start serving about 11:30 or so.

I think the longest wait I had was about 10 minutes for the Boardwalk fries. As it turns out, I’m not a crab eater – but I like the fried clams and the fish sandwiches. Oh, and there’s a few politicians there too, but I’ll get to that in due course because I can find the political in a lot of things – except perhaps this.

The hosts of a locally-produced show called “Outdoors Delmarva” always seem to find time to tape a segment here.

Another local business I always find at Tawes made a very classy, and apolitical, gesture this year.

But I do find the irony in some things. For example, those of you familiar with the Hudson case may appreciate some here.

It seems to me the UM law school was on the other side of the fence before, as opposed to this group, part of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, which tends to take agriculture’s side as well as that of local government.

One other thing worth pointing out is the media frenzy this event creates. Here’s Delegate (and Senate candidate) Mike McDermott being interviewed. Wonder how much they actually used?

Most of the excitement occurs when the top members of the respective tickets arrive. Hogan had the tent but didn’t come until the event was well underway. His entrance was rather modest.

Oh, did I tell you pretty much everyone in the tent was waiting for him?

Naturally, everyone wanted to get their quote from him – perhaps even the tracker from the Brown campaign. I’m told Hogan has one.

While I’ve been critical of the Hogan campaign throughout, the way their team handled today was outstanding. This was the first stop I noticed him making after all the interviews were through.

In case you can’t read the sign above, it’s the tent of the Somerset County Economic Development Commission. To me, that was the perfect place to be seen.

They took a little time to meet and greet; they being both Hogan and running mate Boyd Rutherford. But the point was that I didn’t see them walking around much – instead they were engaging voters.

As I noted earlier, there were a number of other politicos there, but the statewide Democrats were not well-represented. I did see their AG nominee Brian Frosh. He’s the small guy in the center, violating the Don Murphy rule about not wearing white.

Notably absent, though, was the top of their ticket, Anthony Brown. It’s odd because he’s been here a few times.

One guy who wouldn’t dare miss this is local Delegate Charles Otto (center.) His Democratic opponent is the just-replaced former mayor of Crisfield, which certainly made for interesting retail politics for them.

A guy who lost his primary, Muir Boda (left) was out supporting those who won – and yes, Johnny Mautz was in the house. Muir’s with Democratic Wicomico County Council candidate Josh Hastings (right.)

All told, there were a lot of people there. I took this panoramic shot about quarter to three, which is just before those who had their fill begin to trickle out.

One other difference was not seeing all the Red Maryland crew there, although I did speak to Duane Keenan, who does a radio show on their network. Another media guy trying to drum up business was Phil Tran, who you couldn’t help but notice.

The other new media people I saw there were Jackie Wellfonder – although she hasn’t blogged about her experiences yet, she did burn up Twitter – and Jonathan Taylor of Lower Eastern Shore News, who has his own photo spread.

But as the event came to an end, we know that by week’s end Somers Cove will be back to normal.

In 2015 the Tawes event should be good for sizing up the lone statewide race in 2016. While Barbara Mikulski has given no indication on whether she will retire, the soon-to-be 78-year-old senior Maryland Senator may not like being in the minority come next year and could decide to call it a career. We should know by next July.

A battle won in the ‘War on Rural Maryland’

There was some good news for a change for farmers and those involved in the local agricultural industry yesterday. This was celebrated by the advocacy group Save Farm Families in a release:

A federal judge in Baltimore, Md., has ruled against out-of-state environmental activists in a case against fourth generation family farmers brought by the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance, alleging their chicken farm violated the Clean Water Act. SaveFarmFamilies.org applauds the judge’s decision, and calls on Judge Nickerson to award legal costs to the Hudsons and to Perdue Farms, which was also named in the suit. In addition, the Assateague Coastal Trust, Waterkeeper Alliance, and the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic should publicly apologize to the Hudsons and to the Maryland taxpayers who unwillingly funded this wasteful lawsuit.

The Hudsons’ nightmare began three years ago when they acquired biosolids from the town of Ocean City for eventual use on their farm. Whether intentionally or not, the pile was originally placed in a position where its runoff washed into a waterway which flowed into the Pocomoke River and eventually to Chesapeake Bay. The matter was resolved by the Hudsons agreeing with the Maryland Department of the Environment to relocate the biosolid pile to a different location on their farm for usage prior to the next growing season; in addition, the Hudsons were assessed a $4,000 penalty which was overturned on appeal.

Enter the Waterkeepers’ Alliance, which with the other plaintiffs were basically pining for a fight and found the perfect scapegoat when they assumed the manure piled on the Hudson farm came from the chickens they grew for Perdue. It was Radical Green’s wet dream: an eeeeeeevil factory farm controlled by a large poultry producer willfully piling up chicken manure in order to spew pollution directly to Chesapeake Bay. If they didn’t know better, one would believe the raw chicken waste was being piped directly from the chicken houses to the Chesapeake to achieve maximum effect!

Needless to say, their narrative developed holes rather quickly when the pollution data from downstream was inconclusive to whether it came from the biosolid waste pile originally thought to be chicken manure. Undaunted, the Waterkeepers plodded on with the help of Maryland taxpayers. This was because the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic, in the name of giving its students “trial experience,” piled on to help the radical environmentalists. (The Hudson farm case is just one of several they’ve worked over the last few years.)

But the judge ruled in the Hudsons’ favor, and to press on further would be “money after bad money,” said Perdue Farms Chairman Jim Perdue. Even Governor Martin O’Malley, who rarely meets a Radical Green proposal he can’t embrace, called the lawsuit a possible misuse of state funds.

Given the deep pockets behind the Waterkeepers’ Alliance, though, I’ll bet they indeed appeal. They couldn’t care less about the Hudson family; to them these rural farmers are just collateral damage in their jihad against “mega-meat” producer Perdue, one of several meat processing companies that Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter calls “the biggest threat to family farming in the United States and around the world.” (Then again, she thinks the waste in question came from Perdue when, as it was conclusively shown, it was biosolids from Ocean City – so what does she know? The D.C. lobbyist may well have contributed to it if she vacationed here.)

And while Hauter snivels that agriculture is but a tiny part of Maryland’s GDP, she conveniently forgets that there are other industrial categories which depend on farm products to bolster their share. While she bashes these farms for what she considers an pollution problem outstripping their actual economic impact, she would do well to remember that urban sewage plant malfunctions are far more of a Bay problem than agricultural runoff ever dreamed of being.

The trouble with all these Radical Green groups is that they seem to believe the food which is placed on their table just magically appears at their local market. Yet a prudent farmer knows how and when to fertilize his crops and to do so releases some amount of pollutants to the watershed. I jokingly say it “smells like Delaware” during those early spring months I drive by a freshly ripe farm field but I realize it’s a small price to pay for the harvest which feeds us, whether directly through corn-, wheat-, or soy-based foodstuffs or indirectly through the chicken most of us enjoy a couple times a week. The Radical Greenies seem to think the Whole Foods store fairy creates the food they eat, but that’s not how those of us who enjoy life happen to live.

So best of luck to the Hudsons. They’ve won this battle, but I fear the war isn’t over for them – or for the rest of us.

Relenting, but briefly

A small Worcester County farm has been the subject of an environmentalist maelstrom over the last few years, but recent developments suggest the state is pulling back its full-court press against the Hudson farm outside Berlin. The farm made news when it was sued by the Waterkeepers Alliance based on a spill of chicken waste which reached the watershed. It was later learned that bacteria in the body of water wasn’t linked to the stored sludge on the farm – which also could have been Class A sludge from the Ocean City waste water treatment plant – but the MDE still fined the operators $4,000.

Needless to say, the Waterkeepers Alliance is no friend of farmers. As their staff attorney sneered in a 2009 news release announcing the suit, “If you want to find out why the Chesapeake watershed is so polluted, then you don’t need to look any further than this facility and others like it around the Eastern Shore.” So it has nothing to do with the leaking municipal sewage plants or anything which happens upstream in Pennsylvania or New York – it’s just greedy agribusiness and corporate farms wantonly polluting the landscape (read: farmers trying to make a living.)

But besides the obvious concern about the farm the Maryland Department of the Environment,which was apparently resolved to their satisfaction in the 2010 decision to fine the operator, the most recent controversy arose from the fact that law students from the University of Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic are representing the Waterkeepers Alliance in the suit. In short, the state of Maryland is complicit in trying to run this Perdue grower out of business – hence O’Malley’s concern about the law school’s role in a “state-sponsored injustice and misuse of taxpayer resources.”

My question is much simpler, though. Why does the Waterkeepers Alliance, an organization which collected over $3 million in FY2010 and $16 million over a five-year period (see part 2 of Schedule A), need a group of college law students to help, anyway? Has the Kennedy family fortune melted away that quickly? I doubt it.

Others have also weighed in on the issue, and backed O’Malley’s suddenly stiffened spine. Kim Burns of Maryland Business for Responsive Government added, “the precedent the law school’s action sets for land use policy and economic development all over Maryland is horrendous. The law clinic’s action has already caused serious damage to the viability of the farm, the use of the land, and to an industry critical to Maryland, to operate lawfully and without unwarranted government intrusion…Governor O’Malley is correct to hold the clinic accountable.”

Meanwhile, Congressman Andy Harris chimed in by stating “tactics like this, especially when they are backed financially by the state, will destroy the poultry industry. Governor O’Malley was absolutely right to question whether this is an appropriate use of state resources.”

It’s understandable that a law school needs to have some method of showing prospective students the ropes. But this particular case seems to smell about as much as the manure pile, and since the MDE had already resolved the issue to its satisfaction perhaps the Waterkeepers Alliance should have sued the MDE on their own instead of trying to pick on a small family business.

Instead, the radical greenies choose to take a stance against an industry that’s the lifeblood of this area. All the better to create wildlife corridors and “greenways,” I suppose. If this attack on farming keeps up, someday the environmentalists may get their wish – a depopulated Eastern Shore littered with the ruins of a once-thriving agricultural industry. Like sunken ships made into artificial reefs, the remnants of chicken houses, family farms, and industry will slowly be taken over by nature and become habitat for Gaia’s creatures. Too bad no one will be around to enjoy it.

Trust me, this is only a temporary pullback in the War on Rural Maryland. I didn’t hear of any pledge by the Governor to defund the Environmental Law Clinic because of this transgression, so once the controversy blows over it will be back to business as usual.

WCRC meeting – September 2011

September 27, 2011 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – September 2011 

Have you ever felt like something was deja vu all over again? Well, that was the sense I got in hearing State Senator Rich Colburn speak at last night’s Wicomico County Republican Club meeting.

Once we got through the usual business of the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, introduction of guests, reading of the minutes, and treasurer’s report, we got to hear Senator Colburn deliver the bad news: everything old is new again with both the Special Session and what’s likely on tap for 2012.

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