Former Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. met with about 30 farmers on Monday, October 4, 2010 on Trego Zimmerman’s farm in Walkersville in Frederick County. With the skies threatening more rain, it was held in a straw storage barn, adjacent to pens holding Holstein calves. As the Governor was being introduced by Sen. Brinkley, several bales of straw fell out of the mow, just missing several people below. Someone yelled, “Too much hot air!” The Governor smiled and reminded the audience that he wasn’t talking at the time.
With that excitement out of the way, Sen. Brinkley told the audience that the equine community was an important part of the state’s economy and that the last four years had been a trying time. Sen. Brinkley asked Gov. Ehrlich his thoughts regarding the direction he would take for Maryland in the next four years.
“Winning this race means an opportunity for agriculture and the equine industry and this sector of the economy in general,” Ehrlich said. “Clearly, if not the number one complaint, then it’s the 1A complaint from all small business across the state of Maryland with an increasingly hostile regulatory climate. This environment is set by the executive.”
As he concentrated on what the equine industry has had to face in the past 4 years, he spoke about slots and the current administration’s handling. “Slots give me a headache,” Ehrlich stated, and reminded the audience that there is currently only one slots parlor in the State after sixteen years of talk. He accused Democrats of wasting time while neighboring states earned income from Maryland gamblers that head out of the state, taking their dollars with them. “My bill had a serious problem – it had my name on it,” Ehrlich said. And he specifically noted the lost income to breeders and others in the equine industry as this continues. He remarked how the Standardbred industry is almost non-existent in the state due to the current O’Malley administration. “You have to have a governor that understands and cares about allowing farmers to be able to make a living at what they are doing.”
He then focused on what many in the audience complained about, and that was the O’Malley administration having a punitive regulatory nature instead of a working relationship with agriculture.
Kathleen JP Tabor, an attorney specializing in equine businesses stated that in the past five years, she has seen the collapse of the industry in Maryland. She noted how many individuals had come to her in 2005, 2006 and 2007 for assistance in opening the doors to their dreams. But in the past five years these businesses are now either struggling or closed their doors due to the regulations, taxes, insurance costs, workers compensation expenses, and greed of developers. All of this has a ripple effect on other businesses as well. If the current environment continues, “I am about ready to close the doors on my business as well,” she stated.
Chuck Fry, Vice President of Maryland Farm Bureau stated that Maryland has many ag. communities (dairy, equine, poultry, small grains, etc.), but that all of us together are facing serious issues. “Between drought, too much rain, and now stink bugs… the list of regulations we have to follow, and it’s almost too much for the farming community to bear.”
Several farmers also expressed concern about the return of estate taxes (or death ) that could force them to sell off their property in order to pay the taxes. “Death should not be a taxable event,” Ehrlich agreed.
The attendees expressed their overall frustrations to Ehrlich who conceded that, although born a city kid he has learned to be a friend of the farmer, and he supports the agricultural industry in all its forms. He agreed that Maryland should have a Horse Park. He specifically noted that it’s time to encourage “point of profit” at farms and agreed with Senator Brinkley’s earlier comment that no one with a full stomach or full mouth could lodge complaints against the ag community.
The session was organized by Del. Stull in Frederick County. Also representing the equine industry were Arlene Atkins (Farmers Coop), Keith Wills (Farm Credit), Christine Hajek & Jamie McIntosh (Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue), Tom & Judy Smith (Good Friday Farm) and Elizabeth Winters (Paradise Stables). Contact the Ehrlich campaign office, or your local delegate’s office, to arrange a similar session in your county! Then contact The Equiery at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Submitted by Pam Saul, Rolling Acres Farm in Brookeville)
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