Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Excellent article on how a regulation becomes law in Maryland

Courtesy of the University of Maryland Agricultural Risk Management Blog, here is an explanation of how - once a law is passed - the regulations that implement it are created and become law. Click here to read the article.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Update on the federal Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has become the 60th senator to co-sponsor the PAST Act. Here is a review of the current status, via Keith Dane of the Humane Society.

"We have to hope that a) Sen. Reid will decide to make this a priority and agree to move the bill in the few remaining days of the lame duck (and we, Sen. Warner’s office and others are urging him to do that) b) all the Republican Senate cosponsors stick with us and show up and vote for the bill if/when it comes up, and don’t’ succumb to pressure from Mitch McConnell to abandon ship (pressure which he’ll likely apply, especially since he’s going to be their majority leader in January) and c) all the senators who are cosponsors but are retiring or did not win their elections will still come back to Washington and stay until the lame duck is over.

Getting the bill to the floor is largely out of our hands, beyond what has already been done – but contacting Senate cosponsors and urging them to help get it to the floor and vote for it is a worthwhile endeavor at this point.  I don’t think bugging Reid or Warner directly will be effective – they already know how badly we want this to pass."

Both Maryland Senators (Mikulski and Cardin) have signed on as co-sponsors. Contact then to urge them to help get the bill to the floor!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014

New Overview of Maryland's fencing laws now available

Via the University of Maryland's agricultural law blog:

 "There is an old adage on good fences and neighbors.  This is especially true in agriculture.  A good fence can keep livestock in the pasture, can keep livestock off your property, or can act as a barrier to potentially detour trespassers/unwanted visitors.  But what exactly is the fencing laws in Maryland?  Like many states in the East, Maryland does not have a specific state statute defining what a fence is and the duties for two neighboring landowners in erecting a fence.  Instead, Maryland’s fencing law is based on county ordinances (where available) and previous court decisions."

Click here for more info, including how to get a copy of a new "publication, Understanding Agricultural Liability: Maryland Fencing Law (2014, EB-419), provides a general overview of previous court decisions related to fencing in agriculture and examples of county ordinances that impact fencing duties.  For example, counties potentially have ordinances that impact the maintenance and construction of fences, specify how costs should be split between neighboring landowners, and liens to force non-paying landowners to pay their share of the costs."

Want to see what Governor-elect Hogan says about issues facing horse people?

Click here to see how Larry Hogan's campaign responded to questions put to him by the Maryland Horse Council.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Horse Council Comments on Expanded Sunday Hunting in Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties

November 3, 2014

Peter Jayne
Associate Director
Wildlife and Heritage Service Department of Natural Resources P.O. Box 68
Wye Mills, MD 21679 peter.jayne@maryland.gov

RE: Comments on Proposed Action [14-280-P], 41:19 Md. R (September 19, 2014)

Dear Mr. Jayne:

The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is a membership-based, 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 is pleased to submit the following comments regarding the above referenced regulation that is being proposed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The Maryland Horse Council objects to Proposed Action [14-280-P], which proposes to amend Regulation .01 under COMAR 08.03.03: Open Seasons, Bag Limits for Game Birds and Game Animals. This proposed regulation is unnecessary and counterproductive to DNR’s own analysis and stated goals, as well as contrary to public policy.

DNR has stated repeatedly in legislative hearings and elsewhere that it needs Sunday hunting as one of its most important and effective tools to help reduce burgeoning deer herd populations by increasing the harvest of deer by hunters. DNR’s own white-tailed deer harvest data however, demonstrate that deer harvest numbers have declined, instead of increased, since the introduction of Sunday hunting.

DNR acknowledges this in its “Wildlife and Heritage Service Stakeholders Bi- Annual Review of Regulations,” stating that the “Harvest in Region A has been stable, or declining since 2004.”

It is no surprise, therefore, that according to DNR’s “Final Selection of HUNTING AND TRAPPING REGULATION PROPOSALS for 2014-2015 and 2015-2016,” “Many hunters remain dissatisfied with the current deer population levels in Region A and think they should be higher.”

Thus, According to DNR’s own documents and its stated interest in stabilizing and even growing the deer population in the western counties, expanding deer hunting on Sundays in western Maryland makes no sense.

The proposal states that there is no economic impact or small business impact as a result of the increased days of hunting. The law requires that an agency must make an accurate and realistic analysis of the impact of a proposed regulation. DNR’s statement of “no impact” clearly violates this requirement, since it ignores the effect of the proposed regulation on such things as crop damage, contribution to the local economy by visiting hunters vs by other users of hunting lands, etc.

Furthermore, DNR’s own research demonstrates that the majority of Maryland residents oppose deer hunting on Sundays. According to DNR’s “Maryland White-tailed Deer Plan 2009-2018:” “Opposition exceeds support for deer hunting on Sundays in Maryland among Maryland residents. . . . Large landowners are like residents in that opposition exceeds support for hunting deer on Sundays.”

DNR’s continued promotion of expanded Sunday hunting on private lands when its own study found that landowners do not want it: (“large landowners are less likely to allow Sunday deer hunting on their property than allow it”) (supra), could be considered a failure of its regulatory mission and a violation of the public trust. Given that DNR manages recreational and wildlife lands for the enjoyment of and use by all Maryland citizens: hunters as well as hikers, bikers, bird watchers, mushroom hunters, etc., DNR should support, and not undermine, fair shared use of those resources one day a week during gunning season.

In conclusion, expanded Sunday hunting in the Western counties should be abandoned, since it demonstrably does not advance DNR’s stated goal of increasing (or at least not further reducing) the deer herd size in those counties. Moreover, DNR should not continue to promote expanded Sunday hunting throughout the state, since it clearly disadvantages the majority of other stakeholders whose interests DNR is statutorily tasked to serve and since it goes against the wishes of the majority of Marylanders.

The State should continue to work with various stakeholder groups, including but not limited to the Maryland Farm Bureau, to find the most effective and efficient means to reduce deer populations in areas where they have a quantifiably negative financial impact on agriculture (as well as similarly quantifiably negative impact in certain suburban areas). In working with various stakeholder groups, DNR should continue to pursue initiatives for deer herd reduction not considered in the 2009-2018 White- tailed Deer Plan, such as market hunting.

MHC appreciates the opportunity to comment on these proposed regulations, and urges DNR to adopt the recommendations set forth here.

Respectfully submitted, 

Jane Seigler President 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Proposed regulations to implement the Ag Certainty Program are released.

Via the University of Maryland's Risk Management Blog:
"Comments on these proposed regulations are due by November 17 to Louise Lawrence, Chief, Maryland Department of Agriculture, Office of Resource Conservation, 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis, Maryland 21401, or, call 410-841-5873, or email to Louise.Lawrence@maryland.gov, or fax to 410-841-5734.  Take a moment and consider how these potential regulations will impact your operation and consider letting MDA know your thoughts."

Click here for more info.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Useful publication on Maryland and Federal labor laws and applicable agricultural exemptions.

Via the University of Maryland Agricultural Law Initiative and the Maryland Farm Bureau:
"Compliance with labor laws is essential for all businesses including Maryland’s family farms, who are often able to gain exemptions to the general labor requirements. In fact, the Federal law directly addresses agricultural businesses and provides useful exemptions to the standard labor regulations. The publication by William Pons examines the laws and regulations affecting everything from hiring of individuals to the paying of minimum wage as it relates to agriculture operations. Additionally, the publication provides a nice overview of the applicable exemptions and clarifies aspects of labor law that may be confusing.  This publication is useful for all individuals who are operating a farm or agricultural related business and hire employees."

Click here to download a copy of this publication.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Maryland General Assembly Candidate Endorsements

The following candidates for seats in the Maryland General Assembly were endorsed by vote of the Maryland Horse Council Board of Directors at its Quarterly Meeting on August 26th in New Market, Maryland.

This is the first time in MHC history that we have endorsed candidates for office. The endorsement decisions were based on the candidates proven track record of support for MHC and our issues and concerns, including support for: equestrian training and competition facilities and equestrian sports; farmland preservation; the Thoroughbred industry, breeders and racing; our opposition to Sunday hunting; and attendance at MHC events.

Senator Thomas V. (Mike) Miller - Senate

Delegate Michael (Mike) Busch - House

Senator Thomas (Mac) Middleton - Senate

Delegate Maggie Macintosh - House

Delegate Sheila Hixson - House

Senator Joan Carter Conway - Senate

Senator Roy Dyson - Senate

Delegate Susan Aumann - House

Senator J.B. Jennings - Senate

Delegate Stephen Lafferty House

Delegate Eric Luedtke House

Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith House

Delegate David Rudolph House

Delegate Steven Arentz -- House

Delegate Guy Guzzone -- Senate

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

MHC joins other recreational groups in Petition to Intervene in PEPCO/Exelon Merger Case

MHC has joined Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts, Inc., Trail Riders of Today, Inc., Potomac Bridle and Hiking Trail Association, Inc., Equestrian Partners in Conservation, Inc.; Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, Inc., Montgomery County Road Runners Association, Inc., The American Hiking Society and the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Inc. in a Petition to Intervene in the PEPCO/Exelon merger proceeding currently before the Maryland Public Service Commission. (PSC case # 9361) The purpose of the intervention by these outdoor user groups to to seek to have Exelon, should the merger be approved, grant more public access to its rights of way for recreational use.

Monday, September 15, 2014

DNR changes implementation of Sunday hunting in four western counties

After initially requesting emergency implementation of a regulation expanding Sunday hunting in Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties, DNR has now said that it will instead pursue the normal process for implementing new regulations. This means that Marylanders will now have the opportunity to read and comment on the regulations before they go into effect. We will watch for the publication of the proposed regulations in the Maryland Register, and will post that information here, along with the deadline for submitting comments.

Here is a link to DNR's letter to licensed hunters, notifying them of their recent action.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Candidate Responses to MHC's Questionnaire

The Maryland Horse Council submitted a questionnaire to all candidates for statewide office, seeking statements on a number of issues important to horse people. We received over 25 responses. HERE is a link to where you can read those responses.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Farm Bureau and Horse Council Urge Safe Hunting and Riding Practices

September 2, 2014

For Immediate Release
Contact: Matt Teffeau or Jane Seigler
410-922-3426 301-502-8929

Farm Bureau and Horse Council Urge Safe Hunting and Riding Practices

The White Tail Deer hunting season will soon be underway. Maryland Farm Bureau and Maryland Horse Council leaders encourage their members and the public to be conscious of their surroundings and respectful of others during this traditional and recreational season.

Landowners, sportsmen, equestrians, farmers, and others commonly spend more time outdoors during this time of year. Respecting landowners private property rights and preventing trespassing while hunting or riding will avoid possible negative interaction among participants.

Maryland farmers continue to face a growing problem of crop damage inflicted by wildlife, especially deer, said Maryland Farm Bureau President Chuck Fry. We encourage Maryland sportsmen to take full advantage of this years hunting season.  We also encourage the community to respect the rights of landowners and be considerate of other outdoor recreation while hunting.

Maryland Horse Council President, Jane Seigler, said:

Maryland horse farmers, like all Maryland farmers, struggle with the effects of deer damage on our farms. We applaud all truly effective methods to control the deer population. We encourage all Maryland equestrians to:

       Be informed - learn the dates and details of the hunting seasons in the areas where you ride, so equestrians and hunters can avoid interfering with each other;

       Stay in touch with the landowners where you ride, to find out if permission has been given to hunters so you can avoid interference, and so you can be the landowners eyes and ears for unauthorized use;

       NEVER ride on land unless you have the owners permission, and ALWAYS stay off planted cropland.

Maryland sportsmen and equestrians have many common interests and continue to be good stewards on the land. We encourage all outdoor groups to respect private property and to always practice safe measures during hunting seasons, Fry said.

The mission of the Maryland Farm Bureau is to promote and protect Maryland agriculture and rural life. MFB is a private, non-profit membership organization that is financed by voluntary membership dues. Its strength comes from the active participation of over 37,000 member families that belong to the states 23 county Farm Bureaus.

Established in 1985, the Maryland Horse Council seeks to unify, inform, and represent Marylands diverse equestrian community. As a volunteer-based, non-profit, membership organization, financed by membership dues, donations and sponsorships, the Horse Council represents and serves over 28,000 people with 81,000 horses on 16,040 properties that comprise 587,000 acres of Maryland farmland. (2010 Maryland Horse Census)


Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Maryland Horse Council is grateful to Senators David Brinkley and Norman Stone ...

The Maryland Horse Council is grateful to Senators David Brinkley and Norman Stone, members of the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review of the Maryland General Assembly, for their prompt and positive response to MHC’s plea that they request a hearing on “emergency” regulations proposed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to implement hunting in 4 western counties. By law, a hearing must be scheduled if a member of the Committee requests it. We await the scheduling of the hearing. As our letter to the Committee demonstrates, DNR’s actions in its attempt to promulgate new regulations without giving Marylanders notice of their content and an opportunity to comment on them is an affront to due process and a violation of established law.

Senator Brinkley stands up for “Due Process”


Senator Brinkley stands up for “Due Process”

The Equiery applauds Senator David Brinkley for standing up for our constitutional right to due process of law by requesting a hearing for DLS Control No. 14-217 Submission of COMAR as “Emergency Regulation.”
The Equiery likewise applauds the Maryland Horse Council for alerting the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review (AELR) and for alerting Senator Brinkley (as well as other members of the committee) to this potential circumvention of due process. It is too easy in today’s society to become complacent about the government and about the regulatory process. Too easy to shrug one’s shoulders and say, “Well, that’s just the way they do things.” To paraphrase Edmund Burke, who looked with jaundiced eye upon bureaucracy, tyranny will prevail when good people stand by and do nothing.
In mid-June of this year, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife & Heritage Services (DNR WHS) released the 2014-2015 Guide to Hunting and Trapping in Maryland with regulations included that had not yet been approved by the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review (AELR), as is required by law.
DNR WHS eventually did submit these regulations to the AELR, but not until July 29, more than a full month after releasing the guide, and more than two months after the passage of Maryland’s law enabling, but not mandating, expanded hunting in Maryland’s four western counties.
There was plenty of time for the regulation request to be submitted via the regular process. DNR has already argued that there was not enough time to submit the request via the regular process, because of the new law signed by Governor O’Malley in May increasing the opportunities for expanded hunting in Western Maryland on private and public land. However, DNR submitted many other requests for updated regulations based on laws signed by the governor in May via the standard process prior to submitting this particularly controversial regulation as an emergency–and doing so more or less in secret.
Suffice it to say that, by submitting the request as an emergency, it is clear that bureaucrats at DNR were hoping the maneuver would stay off the radar of the general public, bypassing the public’s legal right to comment.
But adding a few days of hunting in no way, either legally or ethically, constitutes a regulatory “emergency,” which is intended to cope with public health crises and other true public emergencies. It is clear that bureaucrats at DNR were using the emergency process as a cynical way to bypass public comment.
Consequently, no one had an opportunity to comment. Bow hunters were denied their right to comment (and bow hunters are conspicuously excluded from the regulation’s expansion of Sunday hunting, although they were included in the new law). Perhaps bow hunters would like an opportunity to comment on the proposed regs. Other users of public land were excluded from commenting, including–but not limited to–hikers, bird watchers, and equestrians. (For the record,The Equiery is supportive of game hunting, including the hunting of deer with firearms, and is supportive of certain expanded opportunities for deer hunting with firearms. The Equiery also believes in the shared use of public lands; however, we believe that not all uses are simultaneously compatible, so in certain situations, “shared use” means allocating different days – or different periods within certain days – for different pursuits.)
There are more arcane details that support the necessity of the request by Senator Brinkley for a hearing, details that could possibly be used to distract interested parties from the core issue. However, we trust that Senator Brinkley will not allow these red herrings to distract him from ensuring that the O’Malley administration follows due process as required by law.

Monday, July 28, 2014

National Parks mean $212.7 Million for Maryland

From our friends at The Equiery:

National Parks mean $212.7 Million for Maryland

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 6,615,155 visitors to national parks in Maryland spent $212.7 million dollars and supported 2,689 jobs in the state in 2013.
“The national parks in Maryland attract visitors from across the country and around the world,” Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini, acting regional director, said. “Whether they are out for an afternoon, a school field trip, or a month-long family vacation, visitors come to have a great experience, and end up spending a little money along the way.  This new report shows that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service – and a big factor in our state’s economy as well, a result we can all support.”
Some (not all) of the national parks in Maryland allow horses, such as Antietam National Battlefield, Catoctin Mountain Park, and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. Of course, there is also the Assateague Island National Seashore with the ponies.
The report shows $14.6 billion of direct spending by 273.6 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.
According to the 2013 economic analysis, most visitor spending was for lodging (30.3 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.3 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent).
The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).
Click here to view the report visit. The report includes information for visitor spending by park and by state.
To learn more about national parks in Maryland and how the National Park Service works with Maryland communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, click here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Horse Council asks Governor to veto Sunday hunting bills

Here is the letter the Horse Council sent to Governor O'Malley, asking him to veto the bills that would allow Sunday hunting on both public and private land in Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties.

April 4, 2014
The Honorable Martin J. O’Malley Governor of Maryland
100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401

Dear Governor O’Malley:

The Maryland Horse Council has worked hard during this legislative session alongside other organizations representing outdoor recreation interests to block the expansion of Sunday hunting in Maryland. Our senators and delegates listened at hearing after hearing as our members and allies (many of whom are avid deer hunters) described the need for one day each week in the period from October into January when we can hike, ride horses, watch birds, and do whatever we like outdoors without fear of encounters with hunters, and when the deer herd itself can “settle.” Several statewide Sunday hunting bills as well as county bills in Anne Arundel, Calvert, and Harford were successfully blocked.

We had a very productive meeting with DNR Secretary Gill on March 5 at which we pointed out the inconsistency of DNR’s positions on this issue. On the one hand, DNR actively lobbies for expanding Sunday hunting, saying that it is necessary to achieve their goal of controlling the deer population. On the other hand, DNR has publicly stated its desire to increase the deer population in western Maryland, and opposed a southern Maryland bill that would establish a program to train deer hunters to reduce the herd on farms. We also pointed out to Secretary Gill that the statistics DNR uses to lobby for Sunday hunting are drawn from annual harvest reports that actually demonstrate Sunday hunting’s failure to increase the overall harvest.

As a result of our March 5 meeting, Secretary Gill asked the budget committees to include a request that DNR conduct a Deer Population Management Report (Committee Narrative K00A03.01) to assess the relative impact of Sunday hunting versus other deer herd reduction strategies. We were impressed by Secretary Gill’s responsiveness to our concerns and look forward to working with DNR as they compile information for this study and write the report. We also appreciate your recent appointment of Joe Michael to the Wildlife Advisory Committee. His participation will improve the Maryland Horse Council’s ability to better inform our members of DNR intentions with respect to hunting days.

Unfortunately, two Sunday hunting bills slipped through the legislative process and will appear for your signature. SB 472 / HB 406 and SB 473 / HB 432 allow DNR to authorize Sunday hunting in Frederick, Allegany, Washington, and Garrett counties, one for just deer and the other for all species. Residents of those counties are just learning of this unfortunate turn of events and realizing what it will mean for their 2014-2015 outdoor calendars. The bills passed under the pretense of a need to reduce the deer herd in those western counties, despite DNR’s public statement of its desire to increase the herd in parts of this region [DNR 2014-2016 Regulation Concepts, February 19, 2014].

According to an opinion survey conducted by Responsive Management of Harrisonburg, VA for DNR and appended to DNR’s Maryland White-tailed Deer Plan 2009-2018, “Opposition exceeds support for deer hunting on Sundays in Maryland among Maryland residents. On the other hand, among deer hunters, a majority support hunting deer on Sundays. Large landowners are like residents in that opposition exceeds support for hunting deer on Sundays.”

Given the undue burden on the 98% of Marylanders who do not hunt, Sunday hunting should not be permitted unless it can be definitively shown that it is a critically essential tool for managing wildlife, and that no other method that preserves safe Sundays is effective.

Therefore, the Maryland Horse Council respectfully requests that you take one of two courses of action:
1.Veto SB 472 / HB 406 and SB 473 / HB 432 with a statement to the effect that DNR is undertaking a study on deer population management to determine the need for Sunday hunting, or
2. Sign SB 472 / HB 406 and SB 473 / HB 432 only after securing a commitment from DNR Secretary Gill that DNR will not authorize the Sunday hunting that the bills permit until after publication of its 2014 Deer Population Management Report, which will have given all the various stakeholders (hikers, mountain bikers, cross- country skiers, bird watchers, equestrians, etc., as well as hunters and farmers) the chance to work out a comprehensive solution to the deer management problem that really works, while preserving safe Sundays.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.


Jane Seigler

cc: Sen. MIller
Del. Busch
Sen. Joan Conway Del. Macintosh Sec. Gill
Ms. Ashley Valis

Monday, April 7, 2014

Trail Riders Action Alert

Via Equestrian Land Conservation Resource:
The multi-year national highway bill, called MAP-21 that authorizes the Federal Highway Administration's Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is set to expire this year. Congress is beginning work on the next highway bill and if RTP is going to continue it will have to be included in that bill.

All recreational riders and trail users are being urged to call their Senators and ask them to sign on to the Recreational Trails Program Dear Colleague letter being circulated this week. The deadline for Senators to sign on is April 9th.

Click here for more info on how to take action.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Annapolis update

The Horse Council has been very busy during this legislative session, with the extraordinary assistance of our new lobbyist, Frank Boston. Our efforts have been primarily focused on trying to prevent the expansion of Sunday hunting. These "Sunday Hunting" bills are usually introduced county-by-county, and they are often "courtesy bills," introduced by the "County Delegation," i.e., all the legislators from the particular county. This means they are very difficult to successfully oppose. The session is not yet over, but we are fairly confident that we have succeeded in Anne Arundel and Harford. Still in play are Calvert, where we are reasonably optimistic, and Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington, where a favorable outcome is much more in doubt.

Here is the testimony submitted today for the House Environmental Matters Committee hearing on the western counties bills:

Testimony of the Maryland Horse Council
before the Maryland House Environmental Matters Committee in Opposition to SB 472 and SB 473, Sunday Hunting in Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington Counties

April 2, 2014
The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) strongly reiterates its opposition to expanding Sunday hunting in Maryland, for the reasons expressed in our testimony before this Committee on related Sunday hunting bills.
In particular:
Sunday hunting has not been proven to be significantly effective in managing the deer population. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has agreed to conduct a study this year of the effectiveness of Sunday hunting as a tool of deer population control and its effect on other users of outdoor recreation. Sunday hunting should not be further expanded until DNR has completed this study.
These bills that purport to expand the opportunities to hunt deer are counter to DNR’s own statement that it needs to increase the deer population in Region A (Allegany, Garrett and part of Washington Counties). [DNR 2014-2016 Regulation Concepts, February 19, 2014]
Given the undue burden on the 98% of Marylanders who do not hunt, these bills should not be enacted unless it can be definitively shown that Sunday hunting is a critically essential tool for managing wildlife, and that no other method that preserves safe Sundays is effective.
MHC urges the Committee to report these bills unfavorably, and give all the various stakeholders (hikers, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers, bird watchers, equestrians, etc., as well as hunters and farmers) the chance to work out a global solution to the deer management problem that really works, while preserving safe Sundays.

Respectfully Submitted,
Jane Seigler

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Horse Council comments on MDE proposal governing Erosion and Sediment Control Plans and Stormwater Management Plans

Here are the Horse Council's comments on the Draft Guidance for Agricultural Practices and Structures:

February 10, 2014
To: Brian Clevinger, MDE
Sediment, Stormwater, and Dam Safety Program
Robert Sommers, MDE Secretary
Earl Hance, MDA Secretary
Re: Draft Guidance For Agricultural Practices and Structures DRAFT
Mr. Clevinger,
It has been a pleasure working with Herb Sachs, MDA, and many others on the issues that created the need for this guideline. We spoke to Secretary Sommers about this at last week’s Ag Dinner and have had a number of meetings with Secretary Hance on the topic.
The lack of a definition of agricultural structures was a problem that allowed some counties to require Erosion and Sediment Control plans for site preparation for barns, sheds, and indoor riding arenas. Some of those counties also required that farmers hire civil engineers to stamp site plans even when Soil Conservation District staff were involved in the projects. The costs in many cases were exorbitant and the engineers often had no experience with farm management issues. We applaud MDE for drafting guidelines that will amend the regulation that contradicted state law on the need for Erosion and Sediment Control Plans for agricultural structures.
We also applaud the Department for drafting a model Stormwater Management Plan application that does not require the involvement of civil engineers. The sketch plan required in your model application appears to be well within the abilities of Soil Conservation District staff, which in our view is the appropriate agency to work with farmers on erosion and runoff issues.
Your proposed definition of an agricultural structure is the following:
An Agricultural Structure means a structure built on a farm used to further crop and livestock production and conservation of related soil and water resources. The structure may be used for basic processing of products produced on the farm on which it is located. Basic processing does not change the form of the product, but does include treatment such as cutting, drying, and packing necessary for storing and marketing. Agricultural structures cannot be used for human occupancy, nor are they intended for access by the general public.
This definition states that an agricultural structure must be “used to further crop and livestock production.” Under the provisions of the 2009 Horses as Agriculture statute (Agriculture, sections 2-701(d) and 2-702.1), caring for and training horses and similar activities are clearly defined as agriculture. Some counties might argue
that these activities are not "livestock production" unless exclusively devoted to breeding. Under that interpretation, the definition would exclude most barns, sheds and private riding arenas.
We propose that the definition of an agricultural structure include as an allowed use “keeping and managing livestock.” Horses are classified as livestock in state and federal law, and “keeping and managing” covers the typical activities that take place on horse farms.
Maryland Horse Council understands the rationale behind excluding buildings “intended for access by the general public.” Counties have struggled with the meaning of this restriction in local law, and generally conclude that a building where horses are boarded is not a public use building because each “client” is under contract to have his or her livestock managed at the facility or has a rental agreement to use the livestock housed at the facility. Public use in the horse industry generally refers to stores, show facilities that attract spectators, and racetracks.
Unless the definition of an agricultural structure is amended to include buildings used to keep and manage horses, the horse farms that make up 587,000 acres of the state’s farmland will be required to comply with the same site preparation rules as urban developers. Civil engineers would replace Soil Conservation District staff as the liaison between the farm owners and county government during farm modernization projects, leaving the farm owners less incentive to maintain the Cooperator Agreements that are the foundation Soil Conservation Districts’ positive influence on farms.
Maryland Horse Council encourages MDE to seek input from other sectors of agriculture on this definition as well. The exclusion of many kinds of value added production seems to have no policy rationale. Private wineries, dairies that produce ice cream, and any number of other activities that take place under the roofs of agricultural buildings have the same effect on erosion and sediment loss regardless of the activity. We believe that when the General Assembly exempted agricultural structures from erosion and sediment control plan requirements it envisioned agriculture in broader terms than this definition allows. We see no policy argument in favor of the narrow definition in the draft that has been circulated.
Please contact me or our President, Jane Seigler, if you seek further input from the horse industry on this or related issues.
Steuart Pittman
Legislative Committee Chair, Maryland Horse Council
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Horse Council comments on proposed composting regulations

Here are the comments filed by MHC with the MD Department of the Environment on its proposed new regulations governing composting. Click here for a link to the full text of the draft regs.

February 10, 2014

Ms. Hilary Miller, Deputy Director
Land Management Administration
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Blvd., Suite 610
Baltimore, MD  21230-1719

RE: proposed regulations 26.04.11 Composting Facilities

Dear Ms. Miller:

The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is a membership-based, 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 is pleased to submit the following comments regarding the above referenced regulations that are being proposed by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).

The proposal would establish a broad and complex new scheme for regulating composting facilities, which - at least in the non-farm context - have been largely unregulated previously. However, agricultural composting has been facilitated and overseen by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the local Soil Conservation Districts for decades, and that history and practice should be used to inform how these new MDE regulations would affect agricultural composting, especially where manure is the primary feedstock.

As we understand it, under MDE’s proposal on-farm composting facilities must be permitted unless:
  1. the composted material is produced and used on-site or at a facility controlled by the same operator, (hereinafter “on-site”) (section .05 B (2)), or 
  2. the composting facility is located on a farm that is required to register with MDE because it uses greater than 5000 square feet “in support of composting,” accepts materials from off-site, and uses that compost on-site (section .05 B (3)), or 
  3. is a Tier 1 (primarily yard waste) or Tier 2 facility (certain other materials including animal manure and bedding) under 5000 square feet “in support of composting,” that complies with certain specified general environmental standards and whose windrows or piles are lower than 9 feet (Section .05 B (04)). It is not clear whether this particular provision also includes horse farms that compost animal manure and bedding, or whether it is intended to refer only to non-farm Tire 1 and Tier 2 facilities. This confusion is also implicated in the provisions of section .11 (General Permits)

MHC respectfully submits that the proposed regulations fail to take into account the unique characteristics of composting as it typically occurs on horse farms. 

  • Many horse farms compost the manure and bedding that is removed from barns and sheds during regular cleaning. This material is produced on-farm, although the straw, wood shavings or other bedding material is typically purchased off-site. Although the proposed regulations state that manure including bedding is a Type 2 feedstock, they do not make clear whether use of bedding that is purchased off-site would preclude application of exemptions for feedstocks produced on-site. The regulations should be clarified to state that animal manure that contains animal bedding used on-site (regardless of its source) constitutes a feedstock that is produced on-site.

  • According to NRCS information, a 23 horse operation will use an 80’ x 60’(4,800 sq ft) pad for 180 days composting capacity. Thus, any operation with 24 or more stalled horses will require a pad of greater than 5,000 square feet. There are dozens, if not scores of horse farms in Maryland that meet this threshold. The proposed regulations should be amended to increase the 5,000 square foot limit to accommodate larger horse operations.

  • The proposed regulations do not discuss what is perhaps the most typical model for horse farm composting operations, i.e., only on-farm generated materials (manure and bedding) are composted, and the resulting compost is sold or given away to other local farms, residences, landscapers, etc. The regulations should be amended to make clear that composting facilities that use only materials generated on-site, but distribute them off-site are exempt from the permitting requirements as long as they are in compliance with applicable MDA regulations.

  • In some cases, horse farms take in manure from other farms not owned or controlled by them, who do not have the capacity to compost their own manure. These facilities may distribute the final composted material to other farms, residences or landscape companies. The regulations should be amended to increase the 5,000 square foot limit for these facilities to, for example, 40,00 square feet as consistent with the Forest Conservation Act, and exempt them from the permitting requirement as long as they are in compliance with applicable MDA regulations. 

Composted horse manure is a valuable and as yet under-utilized resource. According to a 2010 equine census,* Maryland is home to 79,100 equine animals housed at 16,000 locations with 188,000 acres devoted strictly to horses.  At an average rate of 55 pounds of manure excreted per horse per day,** Maryland’s horses produce an estimated 1,443,575,000 lbs of manure per year. Horse manure is a good substrate to use for compost.  First, it’s drier than other livestock feces, therefore it’s easier to transport from one location to another.  Second, it has a 5:1:2 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium** and thus is relatively balanced in nutrients when it’s applied as a soil amendment.  Third, when the feces include animal bedding products such as sawdust or wood shavings it is close to an ideal 25:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. It is in the best interest not only of horse farm owners, but of all Maryland citizens and of our environment to ensure that this product is recycled to its highest and best use, by minimizing barriers to that use. Unreasonable restrictions on manure composting and distribution of the composted end product as a soil amendment will only result in more manure ending up in landfills, rather than benefitting our soils, crops, gardens and roadsides. 

MHC appreciates the opportunity to comment on these proposed regulations, and urges MDE to adopt the recommendations set forth here.

Respectfully submitted,
Jane Seigler

*  MASS (Maryland Agricultural Statistics Service). 2002. Maryland Equine: Results of the 2002 Maryland Equine Census. Annapolis, MD: Maryland Department of Agriculture.
**  Lawrence, L., J.R. Bicudo, and E. Wheeler.  2003.  Horse manure characteristics literature and database review.  In Proc. International Anim., Ag. Food Processing Wastes Symp., Research Triangle Park, NC, Oct. 12-15., 277-284.  St. Joseph, MI: Am. Soc. Ag. and Biol. Engineers.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Congress passes Farm Bill

Congress has [finally] passed the federal Farm Bill, which contains a number of provisions important to horse people. The President is expected to sign it. Click here for an analysis from the American Horse Council.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Vet Medicine Mobility Act passes US Senate; now goes to House

Via the Equiery and the American Horse Council.
In a post last year, we reported on changes in the way the Drug Enforcement Administration was interpreting provisions in the Controlled Substances Act, essentially making it illegal for vets to keep on their trucks the drugs necessary to provide routine or emergency care to horses. A bill attempting to correct this situation is now moving through Congress. From the American Horse Council:
On Wednesday, January 8, the United States Senate passed, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act (S. 1171), sponsored by Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS). The bill was passed unanimously without amendment and has been sent to the House of Representatives where it awaits further action.
The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to clarify that veterinarians are allowed to transport, administer and dispense controlled substances and medications outside of their registered offices and hospitals. It would ensure equine veterinarians have the ability provide mobile or ambulatory services in the field to the horse community.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently changed its interpretation of provisions within the CSA regarding what veterinarians may carry with them and has stated it now believes it is illegal for veterinarians to transport controlled substances and medications for use outside of their registered locations, such as an animal hospital.
Equine veterinarians often provide mobile services and treat horses at farms, training facilities, horse shows, or racetracks. In many cases it is not possible for owners to bring their horses to a clinic or hospital. For this reason, veterinarians have for years carried any medications they may have needed with them secured in their vehicle. However, their ability to do this and provide care to horses in the field is now in jeopardy.
This legislation would allow vets to continue to treat horses as they always have. The AHC supports this bill and hopes the House will pass the bill quickly.