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(Posted by Roy Hoagland.)
When farmers talk, legislators listen. And when a farmer talks in support of new farming regulations, legislators really listen.
Two Maryland farmers recently told a committee of their state legislators that they wanted to see stricter and better controls on farms. In particular, they supported new proposals that included halting the spreading of manure on farm fields during the winter.
These two farmers are traditional farmers in every sense of the word: They graze their cows. They harvest their eggs from chicken coops. One of their farms dates from the 1700s.
This new breed of traditional farmers is a far cry from the corporate agribusinesses that support the American Farm Bureau Federation and lobby legislators. And they are speaking out for better management of farms and a better environment.
But when a farmer is not clothed in the garb of the organized farm lobby like the Farm Bureau, legislators can be dismissive. That is what one legislator sought to do when these two farmers spoke. They were not “feeding the nation” like other farmers, the legislator said. Yet these two farmers raise poultry and beef, eggs and vegetables, providing commercially available food for the public and restaurants.
They are part of the new breed of traditional farmers that is growing in America. A breed that argues for farming as we know it: farming that has a tie to the land and the community it inhabits, farming that looks to profitable outcomes as well as a healthier environment.
Let’s hope more of their voices are heard more often. And let’s hope legislators really listen.
Roy A. Hoagland, the principal/owner of HOPE Impacts, partners with nonprofits, foundations, and government agencies on Chesapeake Bay restoration matters. An environmental attorney, he is a former vice president for policy and advocacy with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.