Delaware’s Grassroots Ag Champion

Every cause longs for a well-spoken, trusted advocate and they aren’t easy to find. There’s no doubt about it, Delaware agriculture has a champion in Rep. Dave Wilson. Only second to his constituents, Delaware agriculture is Rep. Wilson’s #1 priority. His commitment to securing farm land preservation state funds is critical to securing the future of Delaware farmers; not to mention its relation to preserving open space for all Delaware citizens. He pushed through House Bill 124 this past legislative session to fight for realty transfer tax dollars that were originally earmarked for ag land preservation. Needless to say, Delaware’s ag land preservation fund has only received a small fracture of these funds. Keep in mind, this bill would change our state Constitution, which requires 2/3 passing vote by each house in two consecutive general assemblies. This is a tough feat, for any cause. Rep. Wilson even told me that a prominent agricultural leader discouraged him from pursuing it because of budget constraints. But Rep. Wilson pursued it anyway. Why? Because that’s exactly what champions do! They aren’t afraid to be the underdog and in the process, they bring positive media attention and education about land preservation to those who have no clue that agriculture is Delaware’s #1 economic industry. The bill did not pass the first leg but it was close! He garnered 20 yes votes from his colleagues and he promises to try again.

More recently, his primary opponent brought attention to Rep. Wilson’s own participation in the ag preservation program (all public information on the DDA website). While I understand and appreciate the transparency, I believe most of the agricultural community know the history. You see, if Rep. Wilson wanted to get in when the “getting was good”, he would’ve taken advantage of the program in its earlier inception years when the average collective discount was well below 50%. If you really care to dig more on this issue, then let’s just mention the two former sitting legislators who DID take advantage early on: Rep. Wallace Caulk (Round 1, 1996, 27% collective discount, total over $770,000) and Rep. George Carey (1997, 33% collective discount, total over a million dollars). And guess what? Neither are public champions for the program nor currently advocate for funding such as Rep. Wilson.

Let me try explaining another way. Farmers who participate in this program, sell their development rights back to the state at a fracture of what they’re worth. It can never be sold for development or non-agricultural use.  You may only see large dollar sign totals but again, this is a fracture of what the land is appraised. For the state, it provides open space preservation for the future and ensures funding to our #1 economic industry. For farmers, it is a funding source that gives them some value for their property without selling out and can ensure their future relatives remain in farming practice. Let’s face it, they’re basically doing the state a favor by promising to never develop their land for minimal cost.

In other words, Rep. Wilson has nothing more to gain. All of his land is being preserved, which tells me he believes and trusts in the program enough to participate and wants to garner more funds for his fellow farming colleagues. Most probably know he was a farmer, horse breeder, and auctioneer first and our only active farmer in Delaware’s legislative body. Even better than an advocate is an advocate who has been on the ground, actively involved in the work, known as “grassroots”. There is NO other current Delaware legislator that can say his or her priority is Delaware agriculture. Based on this, I believe Delaware agriculture has a “grassroots” champion in Rep. Dave Wilson. We need to keep him in our legislature to preserve ag lands and our future in farming!

For more information, click here. To get involved in Rep. Wilson’s campaign, click here.

Response to “Shame on Carney for GMO food vote”

In response to the Delaware State News article, “Shame on Carney for GMO food vote”on July 29, I would like to set the record straight regarding GMO food and labeling.

First of all, there are only eight crops commercially available from GMO seed in the United States. They are corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, and squash. I have seen many non-GMO labels in the grocery store already, such as on blueberries. This is unnecessary and confusing because blueberries have never been a GMO food. The same goes for canned pineapple and popcorn.

Furthermore, leading scientists and world health organization’s agree that GMO foods are safe to eat. Before GM crops can be released to the market, they are tested in ways that conventional and organic crops are not. If a study were ever to yield a result that raised any food safety concern, it is required by law that the information be presented to the FDA. Not a single case of ill health has originated from the consumption of these products for the past 20 years.

In reality, GMO labeling isn’t about a nutrition, health, or food safety issue. It’s about marketing. It’s a ploy where food companies try to capture your attention and separate their product from competitors on grocery shelves. It’s about capturing “fad” food preferences as well. For example, only 1% of the United States population suffers from celiac disease, which requires a gluten-free diet. However, gluten-free labels are everywhere. Food marketers have a history of taking advantage of consumer confusion.

Last but not least, it’s important to know for every dollar we spend on food, only about 16 cents goes to the farmer. Requiring labeling would pass a huge expense down to the farmer and even the consumer. So THANK YOU, Rep. Carney, for standing for science and Delaware’s #1 industry…….Agriculture.

For more information, please visit the links embedded in the article or go here and talk to a real farmer: http://findourcommonground.com/

Update on House Bill 63 – “Right to Farm”

Representative John Atkins and Senator Bruce Ennis have filed House Bill 63 in the Delaware General Assembly. As mentioned in a previous post, it’s modeled off North Dakota’s Right to Farm bill. It was released from the House agricultural committee on March 27 and heads to the House Agenda. No telling when it will actually appear on the agenda but I’ll be watching. More to come.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

147th GENERAL ASSEMBLY

HOUSE BILL NO. 63

 AN ACT PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO ARTICLE I OF THE CONSTITUTION RELATING TO AGRICULTURE. 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE (Two-thirds of all members elected to each house thereof concurring therein):

Section 1. Amend Article I of the Constitution of the State of Delaware by making insertions as shown by underlining as follows:

§21. Right to engage in agriculture.

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.

SYNOPSIS

                This bill is the first leg of a constitutional amendment that forever guarantees the right of farmers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices.

It’s considered a “constitutional amendment”, which means it takes longer to pass.

Article XVI defines the paths by which the Delaware Constitution can be amended:

  • The Delaware General Assembly can amend the constitution. Unlike in any other state, the state legislature can amend the constitution without a vote of the people. For the legislature to amend the constitution:
  • Two-thirds of all the members elected to each chamber can vote in favor of a proposed amendment.
  • The Delaware Secretary of State then must publish the proposed amendment(s) three months prior to the next general election in at least three newspapers in each county.
  • The subsequent General Assembly then votes again on the proposed amendment(s) and if an amendment receives the two-thirds approval of all members of each chamber, it becomes part of the constitution.

2012 DE Ag Industry Dinner: “Spreading the Gospel of Agriculture”

It was a nice night. The Dover Downs venue makes this annual occasion very formal. And thanks to the impending election year, it was well attended (or crowded, however you want to look at it). There  were politicians everywhere, both state officials and our 3 U.S. Congressmen. The food was good and yes, of course, Delmarva chicken was on the menu! It was a very late night since every Congressman gave welcoming comments and the featured guest, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture-Tom Vilsack, was last to give the key-note address. His speech gave indebtedness to farmers; thanking them for their efficiency (production crops) and innovation (biofuel) and most of all, for providing Americans food security.

This year the Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service to Agriculture went to two prominent names in the Delaware agriculture community: Bruce Hotchkiss and Michael Scuse. The latter is a former DE Secretary of Agriculture and currently an Under Secretary for the USDA. But most importantly, he is a farmer from Smyrna, DE. The first is the founder of the widespread Delmarva Farmer; a voice for farmers across the Mid-Atlantic. He is from a NJ dairy farm but spent 57 years as a reporter. Of the entire night, I enjoyed Mr. Hotchkiss’s words the most. He broadcasted the fact that agriculture across the country is under assault from organization’s such as the Water Keeper’s Alliance and the EPA.  But he also publicized that organizations are blossoming up everywhere, to reeducate the public on the gospel of agriculture. He encouraged the crowd with two very small words: JOIN THEM!

This week I travel to my second CommonGround Conference. I hope to learn more media training so I can effectively advocate for farmers. I joined CommonGroundto spread the gospel of agriculture.

L to R: Mr. Bruce Hotchkiss and Mr. Michael Scuse- Both 2012 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Awardees