Most of Wednesday’s House Ag Committee meeting was devoted to housekeeping of harness racing regulations. But at the end, two preliminary-but very optimistic-ideas surfaced. Here are the highlights:
- Rep. John Atkins, Chair, called the meeting to order at 12:05pm and immediately turned the floor over to Secretary Ed Kee. Representative’s in attendance were Peterman, Outten, Kenton, Wilson, Spiegelman, Q. Johnson. Other guests were lobbyists-Scott & Rebecca Kidner and Debbie Hamilton, Hettie Brown-HSUS State Director, Mark Davis-DDA, Austin Short-DDA.
- The Secretary went straight into draft legislation related to harness racing such as jockey welfare, harness racing fines, and investigations related to illegal substances.
- Related to Ag Lands Preservation, the Secretary said he is requesting $2 million for the program in the Governor’s budget, which will be presented this week on Jan. 24. See updated info on Ag Lands here.
- The Secretary announced that DDA, the Nutrient Management Commission, DNREC, USDA, and the Conservation Districts are exploring the use of an “Ag Certainty” program related to those with a nutrient management plan. Here is the draft review circulated in committee:
It looks to be an incentive program for farmers to implement best management practices (BMP’s), which other states have adopted (Florida, Louisiana, and Michigan). I also found a blog post by Lara Moody, a promoter of nutrient stewardship in D.C., which cites the discussion of Ag Certainty related to the Chesapeake Bay back in Nov. 2011.
- Last but not least, Rep. Atkins mentioned that he and the Secretary have been working on a “Right to Farm” bill draft, similar to the North Dakota model, which was the first state to adopt modern language as a Constitutional amendment in 2012. This could be a huge plus for DE farmers as I’m guessing our state needs to update any regulations on the books to reflect “modern farming practices”. Here’s the language from the ND model:
“The right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices”.
Legislative counsel in DE may also suggest this be a Constitutional amendment, which could be a lengthy process because it must pass both chambers (House & Senate), not once, but two years in a row. As soon as I heard this, my mind went straight to Rich Barczewski’s “Pig Tales” column in the Jan.15th Delmarva Farmer. He mentions right-to-farm laws in his column titled “Agriculture Under Fire”. The article is impossible to find on the web so I’m posting it below. Awesome article.
It’s your turn! Which do you think should be implemented to help Delaware farmers in 2013? Answer the poll below!