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

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, 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.