Joint Agriculture Committee Update-Part I

After my post this week on HB 282, I realized there’s nowhere to find Delaware Ag Committee minutes unless you actually attend the meetings. What farmer or agvocate has time to do that, especially in the spring, when planting is top priority? And none of our media outlets cover these meetings regularly. I don’t always have time to go either, but I’m usually attending some other committee, so occasionally I can slip in. Therefore, I’d like to share the minutes of two previous Ag Committee meetings in March. These convened as “Joint Agriculture Committee” meetings, meaning the individual House and Senate Committee members came together as one. I’ll give you a short summary in a two-part series.

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At the March 21 meeting, Secretary Kee seemed to lead the agenda (not the Chairs) and announced three pieces of legislation his department would like to implement in the near future:

  1. Replace one of the poultry representatives on the nutrient management commission with an equine industry representative (HB 282, which passed the House yesterday).
  2. Increase in the pesticide registration fee that manufacturers pay to the Dept. of Ag. (HB 321, just introduced Tuesday).
  3. Increase the fine for those who misuse pharmaceuticals in the thoroughbred industry. A second component to this would be an increase in license fees.

An update on the Young Farmers Program (YFP) was given. There are currently 10 young farmers with a total of 903 acres of land in the program. The State will loan up to $2.7 million at zero interest for them to buy their first farm. The farm will then remain in the Ag Lands Preservation Program (ALPP). In regards to this topic, the Secretary also mentioned the fact that the State has proposed to provide less funding to the ALPP, from $7 million to $1.5 million and to the YFP, from $3 million to $500,000.

In the poultry field, Secretary Kee gave an update on the Harim group, who bought Allen Family Foods. They have been operating profitably from week to week and may add another shift, which could provide more in state jobs. The Secretary then requested help to support the University of DE’s Lasher Lab in Georgetown, which is crucial to our state’s poultry industry because of its role in testing disease in Delmarva poultry flocks. They need $500,000 to continue their work. Several poultry representatives provided public comment to re-emphasize the needed support.

Legislators present were Chair Bunting (Senate) and Chair Atkins (House); Representatives Quinn Johnson, Harvey Kenton, Rebecca Walker, and Dave Wilson; Senators Bruce Ennis, Bob Venables, and Gary Simpson.

Who wasn’t there, but belongs on the committee? Representatives Bill Carson, Jack Peterman, Bobby Outten, Michael Mulrooney, and Senator Joe Booth.

Always interesting to see who attends and who doesn’t. Stay tuned for Part II soon……