We must recognize right to farm
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.