Monday, December 17, 2012

Howard County legislators debate whether to seek Sunday hunting

From the Equiery:

Maryland trail riding forums, hotlines, chat rooms and social media sites have lit up with the latest localized attempt to expand Sunday hunting in Maryland.

On Wed. Dec. 19, the Howard County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly will debate whether or not to submit a bill during the 2013 legislative session that will add Howard County to the list of counties that allow, under certain provisions and conditions, deer hunting on private properties on Sundays.  The counties in which Sunday hunting on private property under certain circumstances is allowed include Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Carroll, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, St. Mary’s, Somerset, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico and Worcester.  The bill being debated is sponsored by Delegate Gail Bates and is currently titled 
HO.CO. 07-13 (LR 766) .

The meeting, which will be chaired by Delegate Guy Guzzone and Senator James Robey, will be Wed. Dec. 19, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. in the Banneker Room, George Howard Building 
3430 Courthouse Drive in Ellicott City. The Maryland legislative session will begin January 9, 2013.

For further information, contact Dylan Goldberg at the Howard County Delegation Office at 410-841-3360 or or one of the following Howard County senators (for Howard County delegates, please visit the website for the Maryland General Assembly).


Sen. Allan H. Kittleman (R), District 9

James Senate Office Building, Room 423

11 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401

(410) 841-3671



Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer (D), District 12

Miller Senate Office Building, 3 West Wing

11 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401

(410) 841-3653



Sen. James N. Robey (D), District 13

James Senate Office Building, Room 120

11 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401

(410) 841-3572


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

WSSC Trail Use Study Released.

The WSSC presented the study at their meeting on November 19. Here's a report from Barbara Sollner-Webb:

"First was a video they made on public use of their watershed land and water, which I felt was very positive (starting with Terry Ledley by the Terry Ledley equestrian trail sign, and also showing Ron MacNab and other users).  Later in the meeting, they presented a PowerPoint description of the study recently completed by their contractor (EA Engineering), which again sounded very positive and conciliatory.  It seems that EA quite accurately reported the Access Road (aka "Firebreak" or "Jeep Trail") is substantially more of a problem than the equestrian use, and totally banning equestrian was not discussed.  They said they will be having more public input meetings, soon, and then decide on a plan.  They mentioned several possibilities for a future plan, some positive for equestrians (including even the chance of re-opening riding on the Access Road at the Tridelphia!) and some quite worrisome (increasing user fees to offset their expected increased costs; limiting the number of riders; only allowing organized group rides, not individual riders).  We have to stay on top, and testify at those upcoming meetings , whenever they are announced!
   EA Engineering's report and and WSSC's new video were just posted on WSSC homepage <>.  Under the tab "Our Watershed and You" is "Watershed Study", and within it, click "independent study" to get the introductory video (it can also be accessed on and to get EA's full report (downloadable, as PDF).   Also, click "Read more", and under it click "Study Finding and Recommendations" to the PowerPoint presentation from Gary Gumm from this morning; or uner "Read more", click "Next Steps" to get a PowerPoint we were not shown, but basically Jay Price's part of the presentation this morning.  His slide #10 summarizes the worrisome possibilities they are already suggesting.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WSSC to release watershed use (including horseback riding trails) report on Monday

According to the Gazette, "The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission plans to release a report Monday detailing a consultant’s recommendations on how the utility should manage the watershed around WSSC reservoirs to best protect the drinking water of 1.8 million customers.

Commissioners are expected to discuss the report at their Nov. 19 meeting at WSSC headquarters in Laurel.

The report looks at short-, medium- and long-term changes that could be made to protect the watershed, WSSC spokesman Jim Neustadt said.

“There are major recommendations about security, access roads and patrolling the area,” he said.

Last year, the water and sewer utility cut back the hours and months that horseback riders and boaters could access WSSC reservoir areas as a means to reduce erosion and keep pollutants from running into the reservoir.

Horseback riders, who were upset that they received little notice and that they were rerouted from long-used, designated trails to poorly maintained access roads, gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition asking the utility to let them return to the old trails.

The restrictions have remained in place while consultants for the WSSC evaluated land-management practices that are needed to foster a healthy watershed and water source.

Neustadt said the utility did not consider closing the watershed to all recreation — as WSSC General Manager Jerry N. Johnson also said in a commentary piece appearing in this edition of The Gazette — but that the utility cannot put the interest of any group over that of customers who drink WSSC water.

Letters are being sent to stakeholders and meetings are being scheduled with environmental, community, civic and recreational groups, Neustadt said.

Those meetings will be followed by a public forum, but the utility already has gotten a lot of information from stakeholders, he said.

The utility wants to make sure that regulations are in place in time for opening the watershed to public use in the spring 2013, Neustadt said."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to eliminate or restrict horseback riding at the North Track in Laurel

The Fish and Wildlife Surface is seeking public comments on three alternative proposals that will affect riding at North Track for the next fifteen years.  One alternative would eliminate horseback riding at North Track in Laurel (near Fort Meade).  The other would require use of a horse diaper or dismounting and removing manure from the trail.  It also prohibits trotting and cantering.

Fish and Wildlife is seeking public input.  
Two public meetings are scheduled for this Monday and Tuesday.  

TONIGHT, Oct. 22nd @ 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
National Wildlife Visitor Center
10901 Scarlet Tanger Loop 
Laurel, MD 20708
TOMORROW, Oct. 23rd @ 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Chesapeake Bay Field Office
177 Admiral Cochrane Drive
Annapolis, MD 21401
It is important that trail riders attend in numbers to present a unified point of view.  I do not believe that Fish and Wildlife is anti-horse.  I do believe they do not understand the burden of these requirements nor the miniscule benefits to be obtained.

Comments can be sent (until November 26) to:

Bill Perry, Natural Resource Planner
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  |  300 Westgate Center Drive  |  Hadley, MA 0103
(write "Patuxent CCP" in the subject line)
For details on the alternative plans, visit the following links:

Chapter 3 page 97
Appendix C pages 48-56
Here are the comments submitted by MHC:
Bill Perry
Natural Resource Planner
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035

Re: Patuxent CCP 

Dear Mr. Perry:
I am the Vice President of the Maryland Horse Council, which is the trade association representing Maryland's equestrian farms, businesses, interest associations and enthusiasts. Together, our membership represents over 30,000 Marylanders, many of whom ride at North Track on the Patuxent Research Refuge.

In the just released draft Patuxent Comprehensive Conservation Plan, FWS makes numerous findings that the North Track trails are well-suited to horseback riding, that the use of the trails by horses has had no significant negative effect and, in fact, advances the purposes and priorities of the Refuge. Yet, inexplicably, the Service recommends new restrictions on horseback riding that are impracticable, potentially unsafe, and will have the effect of severely curtailing the availability of these trails for use by horses.

For example, there is a recommendation that horses should not be permitted to travel faster than a normal walking gait. [App. C, p.55] It is hard to see why such a requirement should be necessary. The trails were originally constructed to support heavy military equipment and there is no documented evidence of erosion or damage from equestrian use. [App. C, pp. 50, 52] There is sufficient viewing distance for riders to detect the approach of other users and accommodate them. [App. C, p. 50] There have been few documented complaints from other members of the public. [App. C, p. 51] There have been no speed restrictions imposed on hikers, bikers or cross- country skiers. It is difficult to understand why horseback riders are being singled out.

Particularly onerous is the requirement horse manure be cleaned up from trails and roads, and packed out. [App, C, p. 55] A requirement that manure be removed from parking lots and the grounds adjacent to the check-in station is reasonable and we would support that. However, the requirement that manure be removed from the trail and packed out is difficult and potentially dangerous. Dismounting on the trail places an undue burden on trail riders, many of whom cannot remount without use of a mounting block. Moreover, horses are much more controllable from the saddle in the event they are startled or spooked. Requiring riders to dismount increases the chance that a horse could get away from a rider and become loose on the trail, while the rider is engaged in collecting and bagging manure and attempting to remount while managing this bag of manure. Furthermore, the requirement may be difficult to enforce as a practical matter. Experienced trail horses often drop manure while walking without any indication to the rider.

Chapter 3 page 97 suggests the use of horse diapers. Although horse diapers are used in urban settings by commercial licensed carriage drivers, they are not generally available to the public at horse tack shops or most online tack suppliers. They are difficult and time consuming to put on and remove. It takes significant time and training for horses to accept a bag suspended beneath their tail. Requiring use of diapers would have the effect of eliminating horseback riding from the refuge.

The Maryland Horse Council strongly urges the FWS to adopt Alternative A, which makes no changes to the current policy for use by horseback riders. As the Service itself points out, horseback riders have been using these trails since 1991 with no ill effect. There is no justification for imposing a more onerous policy now.

Respectfully submitted, 
Jane Seigler
Vice President 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Maryland Ballot Question 7 - how will it affect the MD horse industry?

Quite a number of Marylanders have been asking about the impact of Ballot Question 7 on the horse industry. Ballot question 7 asks "Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education to authorize video lottery operation licensees to operate “table games” as defined by law; to increase from 15,000 to 16,500 the maximum number of video lottery terminals that may be operated in the State; and to increase from 5 to 6 the maximum number of video lottery operation licenses that may be awarded in the State and allow a video lottery facility to operate in Prince George’s County?"

Folks want to know what the impact of a yes or no vote will be. The short answer is "not much." The 70 page Senate Bill 1, which was enacted during the special legislative session last summer, does contain some revisions to the amount and timing of video lottery (slots) proceeds to the racetracks. But  it appears that those provisions are included in sections of the bill that are not subject to the referendum. Of course, the overall amounts of those proceeds will likely be affected (in hard to predict ways) by changes in the number and location of slots facilities that are subject to the referendum. The legislation does not appear to provide for distribution of any of the proceeds of table gaming to the tracks. Knowledgeable sources inside the racing industry say that the outcome of the referendum will not affect the horse industry much either way. If you'd like to spend a lazy afternoon reading Senate Bill 1, click here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Summary of new manure management requirements

Here's a brief summary of the new manure management requirements, which take effect on October 15, 2012.

Nutrient management changes in a nutshell:

Rules apply only to those who have must have Nutrient Management Plans (8 or more animal units for livestock operations; $2500 or more gross annual income for crop operations)

Manure spreading:
Manure can be spread on hay and pasture land from March 1 through November 15 through 2015. After July 1, 2016, manure can be spread March 1 through November 1 east of the Bay, and through November 15 west of the Bay. Note gap between December 31, 2015 and July 1, 2016.

No spreading in winter (from above Fall end dates through February 28. Does not apply to manure deposited by livestock.

Dairy or livestock operations with less than 50 animal units have until February 28, 2020 to comply with winter application ban.

Horse manure may be stacked in fields temporarily, subject to certain requirements. Note no definition of “temporary;” previous limit of 120 days of stockpiling has been removed.

For pastures and hayfields - 10 foot setback from surface water and streams. No manure may be spread of deposited by livestock.
For sacrifice lots (less than 75% vegetative cover)- 35 foot setback.

Stream fencing or other plan developed with Soil Conservation that includes BMP’s such as stream crossings, alternative watering facilities, pasture management or other BMP’s that are equally protective of water quality.
Stream crossings must have sediment and erosion control.
Stream crossing wider than 12 feet must be gated. Livestock may be allowed controlled access to streams for watering.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

MD Dept. Of Agriculture finalizes proposed changes to Manure Management Regulations - to take effect October 15

ANNAPOLIS, MD (October 5, 2012) – The Maryland Department of
Agriculture (MDA) announced that the Final Notice to Adopt its revised
nutrient management regulations is published in the October 5, 2012,
issue of the Maryland Register. The regulations will go take effect
October 15, 2012.  They are designed to achieve consistency in the way
all sources of nutrients are managed and help Maryland meet nitrogen
and phosphorus reduction goals spelled out in its Watershed
Implementation Plan (WIP) to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay.

The final regulations include one technical, non-substantive change in
the provision that refers to nutrient application setbacks and the
department’s consideration of new practices developed by the USDA’s
National Resources Conservation Service and the University of
Maryland. MDA revised the provision to add “and other land grant

To read the Final Notice to Adopt, visit the Maryland Register.
A copy of the final regulations is available on MDA’s website.
A Frequently Asked Questions document is available online.

The Nutrient Management Advisory Committee has been working on the
revised regulations for nearly two years.  The new rules were
originally introduced last October; however, due to overwhelming
feedback, Governor Martin O’Malley asked that the proposed regulations
be placed on hold to provide an additional opportunity for
stakeholders to further discuss the proposal as well as input from his
BayStat Scientific Panel. The regulations were revised and published
in the Maryland Register on June 29. MDA then held a series of four
public meetings across the state in July to provide information to
farmers, environmental interests, local governments and other
stakeholders on the proposed changes to Maryland’s Nutrient Management
Regulations and offer an opportunity for public comment.

Established in 1998 to develop and refine regulations and requirements
for Maryland's Nutrient Management Program, the 16-member Nutrient
Management Advisory Committee includes representatives from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, MDA, University of Maryland, Maryland
Department of the Environment, Maryland Department of Natural
Resources, Maryland Farm Bureau, Delaware-Maryland Agribusiness
Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, commercial lawn care
companies, the biosolids industry, as well as local governments and
the state legislature.

For more information, see previous blogposts on July 10 and August 20, 2012.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Possible change to Maryland's legal standard in negligence cases

On September 10, 2012, Maryland's highest court, the Maryland Court of Appeals, heard oral arguments on whether the court should overturn Maryland's contributory negligence standard for negligence cases, which provides that a defendant cannot be held liable for damages if the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to any degree to his injuries.  In the case of James K. Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia, et al., the Court considered whether contributory negligence should continue to be the law in this state, or whether the state should switch to a comparative negligence standard.

In the Coleman case, the plaintiff was injured when the soccer goal he jumped on and attempted to swing from, but which was not properly secured, fell over on him.  The jury in Howard County found that the Soccer Association of Columbia, which maintained the goal, was negligent.  However, the jury also found that Mr. Coleman was contributorily negligent, or partially at fault (because he was using the goal improperly), and therefore, Mr. Coleman was barred from recovery.

Contributory negligence is a principle that completely bars a plaintiff’s recovery if the plaintiff's actions in any way contributed to his injury, even if those actions were only a minor cause of the injury. The contributory negligence standard is an historic legal principle that remains in effect in only five jurisdictions in the United States: Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, and Alabama.

Most states have adopted the "more modern" comparative negligence standard in which in any case alleging negligence the fault of all parties is compared.  These states employ varying schemes but in general, the plaintiff's recovery is not blocked by a finding of his own negligence, but that finding is taken into account in determining how much he can recover.

The Court of Appeals heard arguments from the parties, as well as several national groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Medical Association and American Insurance Association.  A Washington Post article about the case suggests that the court may be willing to overturn the current standard and adopt comparative negligence. In that event there would most likely be legislative initiatives in Annapolis to overturn the court's ruling and return to the contributory negligence standard. The Maryland legislature has never supported any legislative attempts to install the comparative negligence standard.

The Maryland Horse Council supports continuing the contributory negligence standard, which historically has provided good protection for horse owners and horse business owners against claims of negligence. Switching to a comparative negligence standard would result in more awards of damages, which would in turn likely cause insurance premiums to rise.

The Court of Appeals decision is pending. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 20, 2012

MHC Official Comments on Proposed Changes to the Nutrient Management Regulations

Our last post (July 10, 2012) described the latest proposal from the MD Department of Agriculture (MDA) to change regulations governing manure management and stream fencing, among other things. Posted here are the official comments filed with the MDA by MHC. MDA will now consider all the comments filed during the official comment period, which closed August 13, and will either revise its proposal in response to the comments, or will let the new regulations go into effect.

To learn more about the proposed changes to the manure and nutrient management laws, attend the Maryland Horse Council meeting tomorrow night, Tuesday, August 21st at the New Market Grange Hall at 
14 South Alley
(South Alley & 7th Alley)
New Market, MD 21774. Refreshments will be served at 
6 p.m., the meeting starts at 7 p.m. Sen. David Brinkley and a representative of MDA will be in attendance to address this topic. The meeting is free and open. MHC membership is not required.

Comments on 15.20.07 Agricultural Operation Nutrient Management Plan Requirements

The Maryland Horse Council represents the 40,000 Maryland citizens who are part of the state’s horse industry. Our Farm Stewardship Committee is an effort by horse farm owners to better understand the impact of their farms on the environment, improve environmental practices, and demonstrate to the public that well managed horse farms and the pastures and hay fields that support them make a positive contribution to efforts to reduce nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.
It was an honor to be asked by Governor O’Malley to participate as one of the five representatives of agriculture in his staff’s attempt to forge a consensus on these regulations with five representatives of environmental organizations. While that effort did not change opinions on the regulations at hand, our hope is that it helped to forge relationships that will be the foundation for future cooperation.
The state’s 79,100 horses reside on 16,040 separate properties that total 587,000 acres. While these regulations are primarily an attempt to address nutrient runoff from large livestock and grain operations, the largest number of individuals who will have to comply are small horse farm owners who rarely fertilize and whose manure piles consist primarily of hay and straw.
Many horse farms owners have not yet come into compliance with existing nutrient management requirements. Small horse farm operators do not often participate in government farm programs of any kind, and convincing them that a nutrient management plan is a useful tool that can improve their pastures was difficult before the proposed changes. If the new regulations take effect the incentive for farms to stay outside the program will be much greater.

Limitations on winter spreading of straw or shavings mixed with horse manure
We believe that the ban on spreading horse manure mixed with bedding on fields during the winter months is not only a burden on farms that have no appropriate stacking sites, but also is a threat to our waterways.
Horse farm owners have been told for years that harrowing their pastures spreads manure piles so that the nutrients can benefit the soil. Likewise, they have been taught that the mix of manure with straw or shavings that is evenly and lightly spread across pastures by their manure spreaders is good for soil and better for our streams than stockpiling the manure and creating rivers of brown water during heavy rains.
These new regulations tell us that we can no longer use our manure spreaders during the winter months that our animals are kept in barns and our pastures turn to mud. We are allowed to keep our horses outside, where they destroy the roots of our pastures and deposit their manure, but we are not allowed to keep them in stalls and put that same manure mixed with straw or shavings evenly across the ground
with spreaders where it can soak into the soil under light winter rains and melting snow and improve soil quality for spring and summer pasture growth. The heavier manure spreading that farmers would do in early spring in order to dispose of the full winter’s manure stockpile is an environmental threat when heavy spring rains wash the manure into adjacent streams.
For the majority of small horse farms that do not have appropriate places to stockpile a winters’ worth of manure, the new version of the Nutrient Management Program is a threat to the viability of their operations. The cost of transporting manure by trucks to off-site composting facilities is prohibitive for most farms and the impact to the environment is negative.
Nobody in the scientific or environmental community has shown that leaving horses out during the winter is better for water quality in adjacent streams than spreading the bedding and manure that comes form those same animals when kept off the fields in barns. Water quality testing in years when manure is spread in winter months could easily be compared to water quality tests from years when manure is not spread in winter months. Until such comparative testing has shown a negative impact from the manure spreading we believe that forcing horse farm owners to truck or stockpile their manure is bad public policy. Horse farm owners should be allowed to spread manure year-round with reasonable limitations on spreading rates.

Fencing Horses Out of Streams
Horses do not wallow in streams any more than deer or other wildlife. Any trail rider will swear to the fact that horses hate putting their feet in mud.
A number of horse farm owners have calculated the cost of separating their horses from streams that run through their pastures but that they never enter. These tend to be the large farms with the best pastures. These are the farms that fertilize the least and are an asset to the waterways that run through them. Nobody believes that fencing these streams out of the pastures will make the water in them any cleaner, but the proposed regulations would force these farm owners to do just that at $8 per foot. One of the best managed farms in our state had an estimate of $60,000 to fence out its streams, and others in the same county came in at over $100,000.
Soil Conservation District staff can tell when animals are causing erosion problems in streams and affecting water quality. We support efforts to address those problems. We do not, however, support a regulation such as the one proposed that arbitrarily states that every farm that has a stream running through a pasture is outside the law.

We understand that politics drives policy, and that non-farmers have made an argument that farm animals are polluting our waterways. Those well-meaning advocates are demanding that laws be passed to criminalize farm practices that have not been shown to have a negative impact on the environment.
We applaud Governor O’Malley’s defense of farmers when we are blamed for pollution and we applaud his work to preserve both farmland and the Chesapeake Bay. We are working hard to sell the Nutrient Management Plan as an effective pasture management tool for horse farm owners. We understand that horses can create erosion and that overgrazing is the real issue that horse farm owners must address if we seek to shrink our environmental footprint.
Forcing us to fence out streams that our horses never step in and stockpile or truck manure that could improve the quality of our soils are both expensive and pointless exercises that discourage farm owners from working with their soil conservation districts and investing in the kinds of best management practices that are known to prevent erosion and sediment loss.

We join Maryland Farm Bureau and others in the agricultural community in asking that the state of Maryland continue its present efforts to bring farmers into compliance with the more reasonable Nutrient Management Plan regulations already in effect and work with the MHC Farm Stewardship Committee to promote BMPs on horse farms and thereby improve our chances of meeting the goals set in all of our county Watershed Implementation Plans.
Please call on the Maryland Horse Council for input on these and other issues that affect horse farms. We are working hard to preserve the land and the jobs that the horse industry maintains in Maryland, and will continue to advocate in good faith with our partners in state government toward that end.

Steuart Pittman
President, Maryland Horse Council

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

MDA once again proposes changes to rules governing manure management and stream fencing

In 2011, the Maryland Department of Agriculture proposed changes to its Nutrient Management Regulations that were intended to help the state meet its court mandated goals for improving the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay. These proposals primarily concerned, as far as horse people are concerned, manure spreading and stream fencing. After a hue and cry by farmers, who thought they were too strict, and environmentalists, who thought they weren't strict enough, MDA went back to the drawing board. (For a more complete description of the 2011 proposal, see our blogpost of Tuesday, december 6, 2011.)
MDA has now reissued the proposal, after hearing and considering the concerns of various stake holders. Below is a summary of the provisions of most interest to horse owners. MDA will hold public meetings in four locations around the state in July, to accept public comment.  All meetings will be held from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. For more information, contact the Nutrient Management Program at 410-841-5959.

North Central Maryland                     Western Maryland                
Tuesday, July 10, 2012                      Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Harford Community College              Washington County Agricultural Education Center
Amoss Center                                     7313 Sharpsburg Place
401 Thomas Run Road                       Boonsboro, MD 21733
Bel Air, MD  21015

Eastern Shore                                      Southern Maryland
Monday, July 23, 2012                       Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Talbot Community Center                  Calvert County Fairgrounds
10028 Ocean Gateway                       140 Calvert Fair Drive
Easton, MD 21601                              Prince Frederick, MD 20610

The draft regulations were published in the Maryland Register on June 29, 2012.  To read the proposed regulations online visit the Maryland Register at:  or MDA’s website:

Written comments may be sent to:
Jo A. Mercer, Ed.D.
Program Manager
MDA’s Nutrient Management Program
Maryland Department of Agriculture
50 Harry S. Truman Parkway
Annapolis, MD 21401,

or email, or fax to (410) 841-5950.

Comments will be accepted through August 13, 2012

Now here is the summary:

The proposed changes to the Nutrient Management regulations concerning manure management and stream fencing include the following:

1. Changes to timing and rates of manure spreading and winter application ban
·         Spring and Summer (March 1 - September 9) application of organic nutrients must be injected or incorporated within 48 hours of application unless one of the following conditions apply:
            a. Livestock manures deposited directly by animals.
            b. Permanent pastures.
            c. Land used for hay production.
           [This is unchanged from the previous draft.]

·         New [as compared to previous draft] definition of “fall” for application purposes –
            a. For the years 2012 through 2015, nutrients applied from September 10 through November 15.
            b. After July 1, 2016, nutrients applied in counties east of the Chesapeake Bay and the Susquehanna River from September 10 through November 1.
            c. After July 1, 2016, nutrient applied in counties west of the Chesapeake Bay and the Susquehanna River from September 10 through November 15.
[Note that there is an unregulated gap between January 1 and July 1, 2016.]

·         Organic fertilizers in the fall – Except poultry litter, organic nutrient sources may be used in the fall for an existing crop or one to be planted in the fall or the following spring (before June 1) using rate restrictions outlined in Section 1-B of the Manual.
·         The same incorporation/injection provisions and exceptions apply for organic nutrient application in the fall as were outlined in the spring/summer section above.
·         Emergency applications in the event of an imminent overflow of a storage facility shall be managed in consultation with MDA.
[For Fall applications, the new version makes clear that manure can be spread on hay and pasture land. There is no mention of the “only if inadequate storage” requirement that was in the previous version.]

·         “Winter” as defined for application of nutrients is November 16th through February 28th, but beginning July 1, 2016 the definition will be November 2nd through February 28th east of the Bay.
·         The regulations ban the application of organic material in the winter.
·         The winter application ban does not apply to manure deposited by livestock.
·         After July 1, 2016 there is a ban on organic application in the winter except for a dairy or livestock operation with less than 50 animal units (fewer than 130 dairies in MD) or a municipal wastewater treatment plant with flow capacity of less than 0.5 million gallons per day (9 towns in MD).  These operations have until February 28, 2020 to observe the winter application ban.
[The winter provisions are unchanged from the prior version, except for the extension to 2020 for operations with fewer than 50 animal units.]

2.  Requirements for storage and handling of organic nutrient sources (manures, litter & sewage sludge)
·         Field storage – Stackable (including horse) manures (less than 60% moisture content) may be stored in fields temporarily when no other storage option is available .
·         Conditions for field storage include:
    Storage must be at least 35 feet from surface water and any irrigation or treatment ditch with vegetated buffer or at least 100 feet with no buffer; at least 100 feet from wells, springs or wetlands - but, if the well is down gradient, the distance must be at least 300 feet; 200 feet from any residence other than the property owner; outside flood prone areas subject to ponding; and if located on more than a 3% slope with no diversion installed, no farther than 150 feet from the top of the slope.
·         Poultry litter and other material must be stacked 6 feet high and peaked, and staged in a manner to prevent runoff.
·         Temporary storage for future piles should stay in the same place.
·         All nutrients in temporary stockpiling must be removed completely and the ground scraped and reseeded if necessary to restore to original condition.
[There appear to be no changes in the field storage provision from the previous version, except that the reference to the limit of 120 days of stockpiling has been removed.]

3.  Setbacks for the application of nutrients by machine and livestock - Effective January 1, 2014
·         For pastures and hayfields: 10-foot setback from surface water, perennial streams and intermittent streams (defined as a stream or the reach of a stream that is below the water table for at least some part of the year, and obtains its flow from surface runoff and ground water discharge). No manure may be spread or deposited by livestock. Ephemeral streams (flow only in direct response to precipitation in the immediate watershed and have a channel bottom that is always above the local water table) and irrigation and treatment ditches are exempt.
·         10-foot setback may not include plants that would be considered part of the crop grown in the field, except perennial forage for hay or pasture.
·         Stream fencing at least 10-feet from the stream bank is required to keep livestock out of streams, unless a farmer works with the Soil Conservation District to develop and implement a Soil Conservation and Water Quality Plan that includes BMPs such as stream crossings, alternative watering facilities, pasture management and other MDA-approved BMPs that are equally protective of water quality and stream health.  Operators are required to gate crossing areas wider than 12-feet.  Operators may allow livestock controlled access to streams for watering in accordance with NRCS standards.
·         Stream Crossings for movement of livestock – Operators are responsible for sediment and erosion control of stream crossing areas.  Operators are required to move livestock from one side of a stream to the other only through stream crossings designed to prevent erosion and sediment loss.
·         Alternatives to the nutrient application setback may be approved by MDA if they are equally protective of water quality and stream health.
·         35-foot setback on sacrifice lots (less than 75% grass or grass legume mix)
[The opportunity to work out alternatives to stream fencing and setbacks with the Soil Conservation District is new to this draft.

EPA has proposed a new draft guidance on the scope of the Clean Water Act

EPA has proposed a new draft guidance on the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA): f
Although they do not have the force of law, guidances help the field offices apply the law. This draft guidance interprets several recent court decisions, especially as to how to decide if bodies of water are covered by the CWA. It discusses "navigable and interstate waters," but also discusses whether and how other wet areas (e.g., wetlands, tributaries, etc.) might be considered to be covered by the CWA, and therefore subject to regulation by EPA. See page 5 of the document for a summary of key points.
EPA has stated its intent to finalize the documents based on comments received, and then to begin a rule making to incorporate it into EPA regulations. Comments can be submitted directly to the EPA and/or to US Senators and Representatives.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Letter to the WSSC's Patuxent Watershed Trails Study Team

Here is the letter we submitted for one of the two upcoming public meetings (June 18 at Laurel Library; June 19 at the Izaak Walton League in Mt. Airy; both meetings start at 7:00 pm - try to attend!)

Patuxent Watershed Study
c/o EA Engineering, Science and Technology
15 Loveton Circle
Sparks, MD 21152

To: Patuxent Study Team:

I am the Vice President of the Maryland Horse Council, which is the trade association representing Maryland's equestrian farms, businesses, interest associations and enthusiasts. Together, our membership represents over 30,000 Marylanders, many of whom live, own property and/or ride in the Patuxent Watershed.

We are aware of the recent actions taken by the WSSC to restrict public access to its watershed lands. We are very interested in your study and welcome the opportunity to express our views on its scope and conduct, as well as on the historic importance of the watershed to equestrian users - and, we would argue, on the importance of equestrian users to the watershed.

Horse back riders and other recreational users have had access to these lands for generations. They have in many cases taken on the role of volunteer stewards of the land and water, and it can be said that their routine presence as eyes and ears “on the ground” has contributed vastly to the security of the water, the land and the public at large.

In this time when citizen confidence in government and public institutions is at historic lows, it is imperative that the conduct of this study be transparent, objective and grounded in observable fact and provable data. If adverse impact by recreational users including horseback riders cannot be proven by clear and verifiable facts, the recently imposed restrictions should not continue.


Jane Seigler

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

MDA re-proposes changes to Nutrient Management regulations

Yesterday, the Maryland Department of Agriculture issued a press release, announcing that it has re-issued proposed changes to the Nutrient Management regulations, which will affect things like manure spreading and stream fencing. Here is the press release, which outlines the changes and explains the next steps in the process:

ANNAPOLIS, MD (May 22, 2012) – Proposed changes to Maryland’s Nutrient Management Regulations were submitted to the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review (AELR) for review today, announced Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. Following months of negotiations with stakeholder groups, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has finalized its new rules for the use of manure, biosolids and other organic nutrient sources on crop fields. The goal of the process is to achieve consistency in the way all sources of nutrients are managed. Once the proposed changes are published in the Maryland Register, MDA will provide public notice and offer a 45-day public comment period.

In crafting the nutrient management regulations, Maryland has considered recommendations of Governor Martin O’Malley’s BayStat Science Panel as well as concerns raised by environmental, agricultural and municipal stakeholders.

“The revised regulations strike a balance between maximizing water quality benefits, addressing the practical needs of implementing requirements in the field, and assuring economic impacts are manageable,” said Secretary Hance. “When taken as a whole, the revised regulations will advance agricultural water quality management far beyond any efforts existing in other jurisdictions.”

Ultimately, the new regulations are designed to help Maryland meet nitrogen and phosphorus reduction goals spelled out in its Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay. Once approved, the proposed changes will be included in MDA’s Nutrient Management Manual. Following are key features of the new regulations:

Beginning July 1, 2016, nutrient applications will be prohibited between November 1 and March 1 for Eastern Shore farmers and between November 15 and March 1 for Western Shore farmers.  
Organic nutrients will need to be incorporated into the soil within 48 hours of application.
Farmers will be required to plant cover crops when they use organic nutrient sources in the fall.
Beginning 2014, farmers will be required to establish a 10 to 35 foot “no fertilizer application zone” adjacent to surface water and streams.
Beginning 2014, farmers will be required to protect streams from livestock traffic by providing fencing or approved alternative best management practices.
Fall fertilizer applications for small grains will be limited.
Guidance and clarification is provided on the use of soil amendments and soil conditioners.
“The implementation schedule addresses a major stakeholder concern and should provide farmers and local governments with adequate time to comply with the new regulations and to apply for cost-share funding to install additional best management practices,” said Secretary Hance. “The O’Malley Administration is committed to providing farmers with the critical financial resources necessary to meet our shared environmental goals.”

The Nutrient Management Advisory Committee has been working on the revised regulations for more than a year.  The new rules were originally introduced last fall; however, due to overwhelming feedback Governor O’Malley asked that the proposed regulations be placed on hold to provide an additional opportunity for stakeholders to further discuss the proposal.

If the AELR Committee approves the proposed regulatory changes, they will be published in the Maryland Register for a 45-day public comment period. After the comment period closes, MDA will review any comments. If MDA makes substantive changes as a result of the public comment, the revised regulations will be resubmitted to the AELR and the Maryland Register.

Established in 1998 to develop and refine regulations and requirements for Maryland's Nutrient Management Program, the 16-member Nutrient Management Advisory Committee includes representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, MDA, University of Maryland, Maryland departments of the Environment and Natural Resources, Maryland Farm Bureau, Delaware-Maryland Agribusiness Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, commercial lawn care companies, the biosolids industry, as well as local governments and the state legislature.

A summary of the MDA’s proposed changes submitted to AELR is available online at

Thursday, April 19, 2012

US Dept of Labor finalizes changes to H-2B visa rules

Via the American Horse Council:

On February 21, 2012 the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule concerning the H-2B temporary guest worker program. This new rule, which will go into effect on April 23, 2012, will make significant changes to the way the H-2B program operates for all employers including those in the horse industry.

“Anyone in the horse industry who uses the H-2B program needs to be aware of this new rule. It makes major changes to the responsibilities of employers using the program and if the new guidelines aren’t followed employers could be fined and barred from using the program,” said AHC President Jay Hickey.

The H-2B program is used by members of the horse industry, principally horse trainers and owners who cannot find American workers to fill semi-skilled jobs at racetracks, horse shows, fairs and in similar non-agricultural activities.

The AHC believes the new rule will make the H-2B program more costly and burdensome for employers who are forced to use the program and has opposed the new rule. “It is unfortunate the DOL decide to finalize this rule,” said AHC Legislative Director Ben Pendergrass. “This rule will make it difficult for trainers and others in the horse industry to use the program and could impact American jobs. The current rule was working well for the industry and included many protections for foreign and American workers.”

The final rule, among other things, will:

  • Require an employer to pay most inbound and outbound travel expenses for H-2B workers.
  • Extend H-2B program benefits, such as reimbursement of transportation cost, to American “corresponding workers” that work alongside H-2B workers and perform substantially the same work.
  • Require employers to provide documentation that they have taken appropriate steps to recruit U.S. workers, rather than permitting employers to attest to such compliance.
  • Increase the amount of time employers must try to recruit U.S. workers.
  • Prohibit job contractors from using the program.
  • Define temporary need as 9 months, previously it was 10 months.
  • Define full time employment as 35 hours a week, previously it was 30 hours.

“This final rule is complex and has many new provisions and changes. If you are an employer who uses the program you should review the new guidelines and contact the lawyer or agent you use to process H-2B applications to ensure you are in compliance with the new rule when it goes into effect on April 23,” said Pendergrass.

DOL guidance and the complete rule can be found here on DOL’s website.

“Many Members of Congress are also displeased with this new rule and believe it could hurt industries in their states. The AHC is going to continue to work with those Members to try and roll back this new rule. Unfortunately, gridlock in Washington will prevent any quick action by Congress and the horse industry will have to comply with the new rule for the foreseeable future,” said Hickey.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Limited liability for Maryland owners who permit recreational use of their land

Did you know that Maryland landowners who permit others to use their land for recreational purposes (such as horseback riding), according to Maryland law do NOT:

(1) Extend any assurance that the premises are safe for any purpose;
(2) Confer upon the person the legal status of an invitee or licensee to whom a duty of care is owed; or
(3) Assume responsibility for or incur liability as a result of any injury to the person or property caused by an act of omission of the person.

- as long as the landowner does not charge for the use.

Good news for trail riders, and the kind landowners who host them!

For the full text of the law, click here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

General Assembly regular session ends with no budget agreement

At midnight on April 9, the Maryland General Assembly ended its 2012 session - without enacting an apparent compromise that would have balanced the budget through both spending cuts and revenue increases. This means that the so-called "Doomsday Budget," which is balanced through deep cuts in expenditures, will go into effect on July 1, unless a special session of the General Assembly is convened to try again. A Special Session is a virtual certainty, but as of this writing, when it will convene and whether it will be confined to just budget issues is still up in the air.

In any event, the legislature did manage to dispose of a number of legislative issues of interest to the Maryland equine community. Here's a summary of the outcomes of several proposed pieces of legislation that we have been following. For a more complete description of these bills, see the MD Horse Council's legislative Blogpost of March 6.

SB 108 (making clarifying changes to the stable license law) and HB 680 (requiring the state to incorporate education about sustainable ag into science curricula) passed both houses of the General Assembly.
In addition, Sunday hunting bills in Dorchester and Caroline (SB 105/HB 114 & SB 390/HB 129), Harford (SB 346/HB 321), Cecil(HB 877), and Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties(HB 1431) passed. Only the PG County bill (HB 809) failed to move.

On the racing side, SB 49 (making certain changes to the Maryland-Bred Race Fund) and SB 794/HB947 (eliminating the restriction on the use of Purse Dedication Account funds for operating expenses at Ocean Downs and Rosecroft through 2015) were passed by both houses.

Bills that failed to emerge successfully include HB 912 (changing "owner" to "guardian" in certain laws applying to dogs); SB 445/HB 336 and SB 203/HB 484 (giving courts the power to order transfer of ownership of confiscated animals, and requiring original owners to pay costs in removing and caring for confiscated animals after conviction of certain crimes of abuse, neglect or cruelty; HB 376 (redirecting slots revenue away from racing industry and to school construction); SB 15 (requiring a study of the mission and operations of the Show Place Arena at the PG Equestrian Center); SB 301/HB 1020 (establishment of a registry of convicted animal abusers).

A number of changes to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation program (MALPF) - SB 129 (easements), SB 148 (lot releases), SB 112 (appraisals) were enacted.

A number of bills related to manure management regulations and the Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration were unsuccessful: SB 330 (prohibited new regulations to mandate action on farms until other watershed states equal Maryland's performance so far); SB 594 (prohibiting winter application of animal manure and biosolids); SB 822/HB 487 (prohibiting watershed implementation mandates on local jurisdictions unless funding from state or federal sources would support); SB 823/ HB 486 (requiring the state to develop and rank a list of best management practices for watershed implementation).
However, SB 118 (allowing the state to add sediment to its existing nutrient credit program) passed both houses.

Of general interest: the Governor's Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act (SB 236/HB 445) (related to the implementation of PlanMaryland) was enacted with amendments that leave final control in the hands of the local jurisdictions. The Family Farm Preservation Act of 2012 (SB 294/HB 444) was also enacted. This exempts up to $5 million dollars of the value of a farm from the state estate tax when it will remain in agricultural use for at least 10 years. It also reduces the rate for property exceeding $5 million from the current 16% to 5%.

The "Flush Tax" was doubled from $30 to $60, but only for users who discharge into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. But the proposed increase in the Gas Tax (SB 971/ HB 1302) failed.

Finally, a few bills of interest that were filed after our March 6 summary deserve mention: HB 1303 (doubles from $100,000 to $200,000 per practice the maximum amount of state cost sharing for water pollution control projects such as manure storage structures, steam fencing and crossings, etc.) passed both houses. This will be especially helpful as farmers are asked to install more best management practices to meet Watershed Implementation Plan goals. HB 1404 was enacted, moving the Animal Waste Technology Fund from the Dept. of Business and Economic Development to the Dept. of Agriculture. This fund is intended to research, develop and market projects to reduce the amount of nutrients in animal waste, or develop alternative waste management strategies. Unfortunately, SB 976/HB 1309, which would have expanded the list of tax deductible equipment purchases under the subtraction modification law to include manure spreaders and other nutrient application equipment failed to pass.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Trail Riding News

Ron MacNab, MHC Executive Committee member, Maryland Horse Industry Board Trail and Recreational Riding Representative, and President of Trail Riders of Today has been working with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to identify all DNR properties that permit horseback riding.
They found that there are lots of places to ride that were not indicated on the park/forest websites.
DNR has now corrected this and horseback riding is indicated on those sites wherever it is allowed!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A House-Senate conference committee will meet very soon to work out a final budget for Maryland through June 2013.

Via Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute and Maryland Association of Non-profits: "The Senate and House have each now settled on their respective budget packages. Both versions include budget cuts, progressive revenue measures, and a shift of a portion of the cost of teachers’ retirement to local government budgets. . . .

[T]he Senate has a larger revenue package, which would leave a smaller revenue shortfall in the 2013 and future sessions. The Senate package also leaves a larger fund balance at year end. In the event that Maryland’s finances are affected by an economic downturn or federal budget cuts, we are less likely to need mid-year budget cuts under the Senate proposal.

The Senate scheduled the teacher retirement shift evenly over four years. The House version does it in just three years, and it’s “front-loaded:” passing ½ of the cost to counties in the first year.

Both versions increase the tax on cigars to be more comparable with the tax on cigarettes. The House version includes a significant tax increase on chewing tobacco, whereas the Senate version increases chewing tobacco taxes only slightly."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Annapolis update!

The legislative session is now more than half over, and the deadlines for entering new proposed bills (except for extraordinary measures), have now passed. The House of Delegates is considering over 1500 bills; the Senate has over 1000. Whatever is not passed by midnight April 9 will have to wait until next year.

Here's a summary of what we've been watching - with thanks to the MD Farm Bureau for their helpful summaries! To see the full text of any of these bills, or to find out their current status, go to This site is updated every night.

SB 445/HB336 - Criminal Law - Animal Cruelty - Assignment and Costs of Animal, Senators Colburn and Mathias/Delegates Haddaway-Riccio, Conway, Eckardt, McDermott, and Otto: Requiring a court to order a defendant convicted of a specified charge of animal cruelty, as a condition of sentencing, to assign ownership of a specified animal to the agency or organization that confiscated the animal for disposal at the discretion of that agency or organization and to pay, in addition to any other fines and costs, all reasonable costs incurred in removing, feeding, housing, treating, or euthanizing an animal confiscated from the defendant. - Support

SB 108 -Maryland Horse Industry Board - Licensing, By Request - Departmental - Agriculture: housekeeping revisions to stable license bill; making clear what facilities must be licensed - support

HB 912 - Domestic Animals - Pet and Animal Guardians, Delegates Kach and Olszewski: Changing variations of the term "own" to variations of the term "guardian" in specified provisions of law relating to dogs - oppose

HB 722 - Montgomery County - Real Property - Enforceability of Recorded Covenants and Restrictions - Agricultural Activities and Structures MC 16-12, Montgomery County Delegation: Montgomery County right to farm legislation (making HOA restrictive covenants that prohibit agriculture in the ag reserve unenforceable) - support; oppose Barkley amendment

HB 376 - Video Lottery Terminal Proceeds - School Construction, Delegates Simmons, Anderson, Arora, Barkley, Burns, Cane, Cluster, Conaway, Cullison, Dwyer, Gilchrist, Glenn, Gutierrez, Hough, Hucker, K. Kelly, Kramer, McConkey, McMillan, Myers, Parrott, B. Robinson, Serafini, Tarrant, Washington, and Wilson: Redirecting slots revenue currently designated for the MD racing industry to school construction instead - oppose

HB 680 - Education - Development of Guidelines to Incorporate Sustainable Agricultural Education, Delegate Rosenberg, Luedtke & Washington: Requires the State Board of Education and the University of Maryland Extension to jointly develop guidelines to incorporate education about sustainable agriculture into the existing science curricula. The bill requires consultation with local Board of Education, the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation (MAEF), and other organizations that promote education about sustainable agriculture. The bill does not define “sustainable agriculture.” - support

In addition to these bills, we are also watching:
SB 301/HB 1020, which would create a "registry" for animal abusers, similar to sex offender registries.

Seven bills related to the proposals from MDA to change the Nutrient Management regulations:
SB 330- prohibits Maryland state agencies (MDA, DNR, MDE) from adopting new regulations to mandate actions on farms to meet WIP goals until surrounding Bay Watershed states (PA, VA, WV, NY and DC) achieve or exceed the percentage reduction of nitrogen and phosphorous attributed to their agricultural sectors as Maryland farmers have achieved since 2009. [Unfavorable report EHEA] [Note: crossfiled with HB 464, which was withdrawn after unfavorable report from Environmental Matters]
SB 594 - Codifies the manure and sewage sludge application restrictions that are being debated as part of the current MDA regulatory process. The bill prohibits the application of animal manure or biosolids to agricultural land between November 1st and March 1st, unless it is injected into the soil with greater than 90% remaining below the soil surface. For the remainder of the year (March 1-November 1) the bill mandates that all animal manure or biosolids be injected or incorporated within 24 hours. Beginning July 1, 2017, the bill prohibits the use of fertilizer to agricultural land that has a phosphorus fertility index value that is greater than 150. After July 1, 2020, the bill prohibits MDA from authorizing the application of animal manure or biosolids to agricultural land between September 10 and November 15, even if there is a lack of storage capacity.
SB 118 - Gives MDA the authority to add sediment credits to its existing agricultural nutrient credit certification program.
SB 822/487 - Provides that a local jurisdiction may not be required to implement a WIP activity or strategy unless funding sufficient to pay for the activity or strategy is provided by the state or federal government. [HB 487 has received unfavorable report from Environmental Matters]
SB 823/486 - Requires the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) to develop a list of Best Management Practices (BMPs) that a county may use under a Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) to implement the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) by October 1, 2012.

Five bills related to racing and slots:
SB 26 - Authorizing the holder of a video lottery operation license to offer table games in the State, subject to referendum Nov 2012.
SB 155 - Requiring the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission to conduct a study of financial impact of table games.
SB 49 - Authorizing the Maryland Racing Commission to allocate a portion of the Maryland–Bred Race Fund for horses conceived, but not necessarily foaled, in Maryland; altering the amount of the Fund the Commission may allocate for certain horse races; requiring the Commission to set the amount of certain breeder awards for races in the State and outside the State.
SB 794/HB 947 - Eliminating the specific year restriction on the use of Purse Dedication Account funds for operating expenses.

Twelve bills related to land use and zoning, including MALPF and PlanMaryland:
SB 129; SB 148; SB 112 - MALPF bills re: appraisals, easements and lot releases.
HB 23 - Constitutional amendment to provide that dedicated state funds may be used only for the specific purpose that are set forth in the law.
HB 36 - Requiring the Secretary of Planning to submit the State Development Plan and any substantial part or revision of the Plan to the General Assembly; prohibiting the Plan from being finalized until it is approved by an Act of the General Assembly; authorizing the General Assembly to modify the Plan as submitted by the Secretary; requiring the Governor to file with the Secretary of State the Plan, part of the Plan, or a revision to the Plan, together with specified comments, after enactment of a law that approves or modifies the Plan.
HB 253 - Prohibits the Department of Planning from adopting any regulation or taking any action that would restrict the planning and land use powers of any local government or regional planning agency.
SB 532/HB 1201 - Prohibits the use of PlanMaryland, the Governor’s statewide development plan, to create or establish a new cause to deny a state permit, project, or approval. It would also prohibit the Plan’s use to deny state funding that is mandated by statute, regulation, or in the state’s operating or capital budgets. Provisions in the bill would require conflicts between the Plan and counties or municipalities to be negotiated in good faith, but if no resolution of the conflict can be had, a local government’s comp plan, zoning laws, and local ordinances take precedence.
SB 236/HB 445 - Creates a new state level approval process for development, including septic restrictions on new subdivisions.
HB 931 - Requires General Assembly approval prior to finalizing the State Development Plan, PlanMD.
HB 932 - Prohibits the use of PlanMaryland, the Governor’s statewide development plan, to create or establish a new cause to deny a permit, project, or approval. It would also prohibit the Plan’s use to deny state funding that is mandated by statute, regulation, or in the state’s operating or capital budgets.

Seven bills related to taxes and fees, including estate taxes:
SB 294/HB 444 - Exempts the value of a farm from the state estate tax when the farm stays in agricultural use for the next 10 years.
SB 324/HB 154 - similar to SB 294, except this bill recaptures the estate tax that would have been due if the property ceases to be used for farming purposes during the life of the qualified recipient.
SB 410 - Excludes the full value of qualified agricultural property from the gross value of an estate for the purposes of the Maryland estate tax.
SB 240/HB 446 - an increase to the current "flush tax."

Saturday, March 3, 2012

US Dept. of Labor to re-post proposed change to Farm Child Labor Rule

The US Department of Labor announced in February that it will:
"re-propose the portion of its regulation on child labor in agriculture interpreting the 'parental exemption.' The decision to re-propose is in part a response to requests from the public and members of Congress that the agency allow an opportunity for more input on this aspect of the rule. . . .
The parental exemption allows children of any age who are employed by their parent, or a person standing in the place of a parent, to perform any job on a farm owned or operated by their parent or such person standing in the place of a parent. Congress created the parental exemption in 1966 when it expanded protections for children employed in agriculture and prohibited their employment in jobs the Department of Labor declared particularly hazardous for children under the age of 16 to perform.
The department recognizes the unique attributes of farm families and rural communities. The re-proposal process will seek comments and inputs as to how the department can comply with statutory requirements to protect children, while respecting rural traditions. The re-proposed portion of the rule is expected to be published for public comment by early summer. The department will continue to review the comments received regarding the remaining portions of the proposed rule for inclusion in a final rule."
Click here for the full text of USDOL's press release.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Testimony of MHC in support of HB 680 - Development of Guidelines to Incorporate Sustainable Agriculture Education

Testimony of the Maryland Horse Council

before the Maryland House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee

in Support of House Bill 680

Education-Development of Guidelines to Incorporate Sustainable Agriculture Education

The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is the umbrella trade association of the entire horse industry in Maryland. Our membership includes horse farms, horse related businesses, individual enthusiasts and breed, interest and discipline associations. As such, we represent over 30,000 Marylanders who make their living with horses, or just own and love them.

MHC, through its work uniting, educating and speaking for the Maryland horse industry is very aware that today’s youth is increasingly divorced from and unaware of the natural world, how it works, and the role that it plays in our lives. We believe that children really need to learn how food, fiber and livestock, and the agricultural land that nurtures and sustains them, are grown, cared for, maintained and harvested in a way that preserves these resources for generations to come.

MHC supports HB 680 Education-Development of Guidelines to Incorporate Sustainable Agriculture Education, and urges the Committee to report it favorably.

Respectfully submitted,

Jane Seigler

Vice President

Sunday Hunting in Prince Georges County - bill has been tabled

We have received reports that HB 809, the bill that would have allowed some Sunday hunting in Prince Georges County, has been tabled. We will post more details as they become available.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Update on WSSC trail closure controversy

As you may recall, there has been a continuing controversy centered around WSSC's (the water and sewer authority for Montgomery and PG County) decision to severely restrict equestrian use of the trails surrounding its reservoir. Ron MacNab, the President of TROT has recently received the following update from WSSC:
Mr. MacNab –
I wanted to update you on the status of the effort to engage a consultant to provide input and advice on protecting the Rocky Gorge and Triadelphia watershed area. We recently issued a Task Order to EA Engineering, Science & Technology, Inc., for the Patuxent Watershed Protection Study. This is intended to be a broad-based review that will support the entire community’s interest in protecting source water (Rocky Gorge and Triadelphia Reservoirs) and the surrounding property. As you know, we want to focus the engagement on how we can work toward a more robust watershed management and protection strategy, while considering the concerns of all the various stakeholders who have traditionally been granted limited access to the property.
The effort will include data assessment using materials provided by organizations that manage or regulate source water and watershed properties, including best management practices, water quality data, etc.., as well as data provided by stakeholder groups like people who fish on the property, TROT, hunters, boaters and others. Elements of the project include GIS mapping, analysis of soil erosion potential and field visits/reconnaissance of the reservoir properties. Please rest assured that the consultants also plan to meet with stakeholder groups to understand their concerns as part of this process. WSSC sought a broad-based approach to this review, so the review will continue in phases, depending on the outcome of the consultant’s initial work.
I hope this information is useful to you, and please feel free to share it with any interested parties.
Johnnie R. Hemphill, Jr.
Chief of Staff
Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Friday, February 17, 2012

House of Delegates considering changing language in some current law from animal "owners" to animal "guardians"

Via the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association: The Maryland House of Delegates' Environmental Matters Committee is currently considering legislation, HB 912, that would change terminology referring to the relationship between humans and domestic animals from animal and "owner" to animal and "guardian." Both the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association strongly oppose this legislation.

"Guardian" is a legal term that has significant legal implications and repercussions, including giving animal legal standing as "wards" rather than property. MVMA and AVMA have authored a joint statement on HB 912 listing the adverse affects of "guardianship" on animal owners, service providers, society and animals. They will also testify before the Environmental Matters Committee at its hearing on the bill on March 1.

Click here to see the MVMA/AVMA Joint Statement on HB 912

Click here to see the full text of HB 912

Click here to see the roster of Environmental Matters Committee members

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bills propose new penalties for animal cruelty convictions

Maryland House Bill 336, crossfiled as Senate Bill 445 would require a court to order a defendant convicted of a certain charges of animal cruelty, as a condition of sentencing, to assign ownership of a the animal(s) to the agency or organization that confiscated the animal(s), for disposal, at the discretion of that agency or organization and to pay, in addition to any other fines and costs, all reasonable costs incurred in removing, feeding, housing, treating, or euthanizing an animal confiscated from the defendant.
This bill would allow the rescues and animal welfare agencies who have custody of confiscated animals to move forward with adopting out these animals, if possible, or to euthanize them, if necessary.
The House bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, which held a hearing on February 9. On the Senate side, it has been assigned to the Senate Judicial proceeding Committee, which will hold a hearing on February 22. Click here for the full text of the bill.

Here is the House Committee roster:

Chair: Joseph F. Vallario, Jr. Vice Chair: Kathleen M. Dumais

Tiffany S. Alston, Curt Anderson, Sam Arora, Jill P. Carter, Luke H. Clippinger, Jr., John W. E. Cluster, Jr., Frank M. Conaway, Jr., Don Dwyer, Jr., Michael J. Hough, Kevin Kelly, Susan C. Lee, Susan K. McComas ,Michael A. McDermott, Keiffer J. Mitchell, Jr., Neil C. Parrott, Luiz R. S. Simmons, Michael D. Smigiel, Sr., Kris Valderrama, Geraldine Valentino-Smith, Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher

Here is the Senate Committee roster:

Chair: Brian E. Frosh Vice Chair: Lisa A. Gladden

James Brochin, Joseph M. Getty, Jennie M. Forehand, Nancy Jacobs, Victor Ramirez, Jamie Raskin, Christopher B. Shank, Norman R. Stone, Jr. Bobby Zirkin

If you are in any of these legislator's districts, be sure to let them know that. Click here to find out who your legislators are.ind out who your legislators are.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Montgomery County right to farm legislation to be considered on 2/16

Via the Montgomery Countryside Alliance: the MoCo delegation Land Use and Transportation Subcommittee has once again placed important right to farm legislation on its agenda for its meeting this Thursday 2/16. This bill would nullify restrictive covenants that prohibit farming on certain parcels in the ag reserve (see our post of 2/1/2012).
Contact the legislators listed in the 2/1/2012 post and tell them to VOTE FOR MC 16-12 (HB 722). Tell them also to VOTE AGAINST the Barkley amendment that would allow already existing restrictive covenants to remain in place. Phone calls are most effective, but emails are great, too. Contact info is in the 2/1/2012 post.

Friday, February 3, 2012

SB 15 to be killed – victory for grassroots effort!

On behalf of the Maryland Equestrian Foundation and the Maryland Horse Council, Dorothy Troutman and Sandra Crow (both of Upper Marlboro) met with Senate President Mike Miller regarding Senate Bill 15, (the bill would have created a commission to study the future of the Show Place Arena at Prince Georges Equestrian Center) and they are pleased to report that Senator Miller has agreed to kill the bill! To learn more about this bill, see our post from Wednesday, January 25, 2012.

Thanks to everyone who contacted the legislators!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bill proposes switching slots revenues from racetracks to schools

The Ways and Means Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates is considering a bill sponsored by Delegates Simmons, Anderson, Arora, Barkley, Burns, Cane, Cluster, Conaway, Cullison, Dwyer, Gilchrist, Glenn, Gutierrez, Hough, Hucker, K. Kelly, Kramer, McConkey, McMillan, Myers, Parrott, B. Robinson, Serafini, Tarrant, Washington, and Wilson, that would change Maryland's current law that allocates revenues from slot machines. The portion of slots revenues (currently 7%) that goes to racetracks and purses, would be increased to 9.5%, but ENTIRELY diverted to school construction. Under this bill, race tracks and racing interests would no longer get any portion of slots revenue.
Here is the full text of the bill:
Here is a list of the members of the Ways & Means Committee:
Chair: Sheila E. Hixson Vice Chair: Samuel I. Rosenberg
Kathryn L. Afzali, Kumar P. Barve, Joseph C. Boteler III, Talmadge Branch. Jon S. Cardin,
Mark N. Fisher, C. William Frick, Ron George, Glen Glass, Carolyn J. B. Howard, Jolene Ivey,
Anne R. Kaiser, Eric G. Luedtke, Aruna Miller, LeRoy E. Myers, Jr., Justin D. oss, Andrew A. Serafini, Melvin L. Stukes, Michael Summers, Frank S. Turner, Jay Walker
For contact info for these Committee members, see:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Montgomery County Legislators seek to protect farmers in the Ag Reserve from Homeowners Covenants that restrict or prohibit farming

This bill was brought about in response to recent cases in which residential homeowners in the Ag Reserve have created covenants that would restrict or outright prohibit farming, even on land currently being used for farming. The Bill number is currently MC 16-12. You can see the entire text at:
The bill is on the agenda for the T&LU Committee meeting tomorrow (2/2/12). Here are names and contact info for committee members:
Democrat, District 18,
Montgomery County
(410) 841-3130, (301) 858-3130
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3130 (toll free)
Democrat, District 14, Montgomery County
(410) 841-3380, (301) 858-3380
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3380 (toll free)
Democrat, District 20, Montgomery County
(410) 841-3493, (301) 858-3493
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3493 (toll free)

Democrat, District 19, Montgomery County
(410) 841-3528, (301) 858-3528
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3528 (toll free)

Democrat, District 39, Montgomery County
(410) 841-3001, (301) 858-3001
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3001 (toll free)

Democrat, District 17,
Montgomery County
(410) 841-3464, (301) 858-3464
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3464 (toll free)

Democrat, District 16, Montgomery County
(410) 841-3649, (301) 858-3649
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3649 (toll free)

Democrat, District 15, Montgomery County
(410) 841-3090, (301) 858-3090
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3090 (toll free)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Important Alert! Action needed NOW to safeguard the Prince George's Equestrian Center! OPPOSE SB 15!

The Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee of the Maryland State Senate is currently considering a bill (SB 15) that poses a serious threat to the future of the Prince George's Equestrian Center. This bill calls for a commission to study "how to protect and enhance the competitive position of The Show Place Arena in the public assembly marketplace," as well as a study of its current operations and management. There are numerous problems with this bill, the most significant of which is it separates the Show Place arena out as the subject of the study, and does not consider it as part of the entire Equestrian center. This will inevitably skew the results of the study in a way that does not accurately represent the important role the entire equestrian center, Show Place Arena plus the other arenas, barns, parking, etc., plays in Maryland equestrian life. It is significant that the bill's preamble refers to the Show Place Arena as "a multipurpose arena in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, which is used for concerts, sporting events, trade shows, and other events," and does not specifically refer to equestrian uses. Another problem is that the bill provides for only one representative of the equine industry on the 14 member commission.

As stated by Dorothy Troutman, President of the Maryland Equestrian Foundation and former Co-chair of the Prince Georges Equine Industry Task Force:
"Our Park and Planning Commission has already requested that the Stadium Authority conduct two studies—one to evaluate the economic fiscal market and impact of the entire facility and the other to review and evaluate the operation and managerial structure. These studies would be for the Show Place Arena and the surrounding Prince George’s Equestrian Center—the existing show rings and barns, parking areas, and the abandoned Marlboro Race Track and infield. The Commission is also in the process of developing a Master Plan to utilize the entire area for equestrian and other purposes and is arranging a drainage system for the infield."
So this bill is unnecessary and potentially very harmful.

Here is the full text of the bill:

Please write TODAY to the committee members, expressing your OPPOSITION to SB 15.

Here is contact info:
Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee (EHE)
2 West, Miller Senate Building, Annapolis, MD 21401 (410-841-3661 Annapolis/Baltimore or 301-858-3661 Washington, D.C.)
Chair: Joan Carter Conway
Vice Chair: Roy P. Dyson
Joanne Benson SB 15's sponsor

Be sure to include any personal information you can about your use/enjoyment of this facility as an equestrian, and if you are in any of these legislator's districts, be sure to let them know that, too! You can find out who your legislators are at:

For more information, contact Jane Seigler at