We must rec­og­nize right to farm

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Com­mu­nity Voice FROM: CE­CIL COUNTY FARM BUREAU

The farm fam­i­lies of Ce­cil County work hard to pro­vide whole­some, healthy and cost-ef­fec­tive food for our neigh­bors here and across the country. When a farmer makes the de­ci­sion to ad­just his or her op­er­a­tion to pro­duce a new prod­uct such as poul­try, im­pact on the com­mu­nity, the en­vi­ron­ment and the farm busi­ness are al­ways con­sid­ered.

Farm­ers work with gov- ern­ment agen­cies such as the USDA Nat­u­ral Re­source Con­ser­va­tion Ser­vice and Farm Ser­vice Agency, the Mary­land Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment, their lo­cal Plan­ning and Zon­ing and Health Depart­ment of­fices, the Mary­land Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and the UMD Ex­ten­sion when they make changes to their farms. They must make sound de­ci­sions on the lo­ca­tion of poul­try houses, ma­nure stor­age struc­tures, mor­tal­ity com­post fa­cil­i­ties and buf­fer plant­ings of trees and grasses.

We are all work­ing to make our com­mu­nity a bet­ter place to live, work and go to school. We re­mem­ber the days be­fore lo­cal farm­ers were able to di­ver­sify their farm op­er­a­tions. A sum­mer drought could de­stroy grain crops and po­ten­tially put us out of busi­ness be­cause there was no al­ter­nate source of in­come. Agri­tourism, di­rect mar­ket­ing of meat, ice cream stands and poul­try pro­duc­tion al­low us to di­ver­sify our busi­nesses to en­sure con­tin­ued op­er­a­tion from one year to the next.

The ben­e­fits of poul­try pro­duc­tion have been vis­i­ble across the shore, with in­creased per­sonal in­come, more jobs, more money to spend at restau­rants and re­tail shops, more tax rev­enue and bet­ter schools. We must keep the ben­e­fits of diver­si­fi­ca­tion in mind as we work to bal­ance the fu­ture growth of res­i­den­tial and farm op­er­a­tions in our county.

Ce­cil County Farm Bureau asks ev­ery­one to re­mem­ber that most of our farm­land was des­ig­nated by state law­mak­ers sev­eral years ago as Tier 4 for the pur­poses of de­vel­op­ment. This means we can­not build houses or com­mer­cial busi­nesses. All we can do is build more ef­fec­tive farm busi­nesses. Ce­cil County’s strong “right to farm” law means farm­ing — in all its forms — is pro­tected.

When farm­ers con­struct new fa­cil­i­ties, we know that one-size-fits-all op­tions can- not work for all sit­u­a­tions. Cer­tainly, farm­ers should use dis­cre­tion and de­sign their new poul­try houses in a way that will lead to good neigh­bor re­la­tions. We highly rec­om­mend the plant­ing of veg­e­ta­tive buf­fers and site lo­ca­tions that are least im­pact­ful on neigh­bors.

We urge our non-farm­ing neigh­bors — those who have been here a life­time and those who are new to the com­mu­nity — to un­der­stand that farm fam­i­lies are also work­ing to meet wa­ter and air qual­ity goals. Farm­ers are do­ing more, spend­ing more and achiev­ing more to clean up the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay than any other sec­tor. In fact we are do­ing more than our fair share since urban ar­eas have been slow to make the nec­es­sary changes.

Mar­ket de­mand and com­mu­nity needs are at the fore­front of what we do on our farms. But at the end of the day, farm­ers must be al­lowed to ad­just their op­er­a­tions to in­clude new tech­nol­ogy, new Ag prod­ucts, new meth­ods and new an­i­mal health prac­tices — which is of­ten es­sen­tial to im­proved en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship to fur­ther pro­tect our nat­u­ral re­sources. Our county zon­ing poli­cies make this pos­si­ble. We must con­tinue to rec­og­nize the right to farm in Ce­cil County.

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