(Submitted by Jane Seigler, Reddemeade Farm, Ashton, Montgomery County. Please submit your “meet the candidate” stories to email@example.com. Click here read a story about Ehrlich.)
A balmy evening graced an assemblage of about 80 Marylanders who gathered at the historic Dodon Farm in Davidsonville on September 17, in support of the O’Malley/Brown Campaign. In addition to Governor O’Malley and Lt. Governor Brown, the group also included Secretary of Agriculture Earl “Buddy” Hance, Del. Virginia Clagett, Maryland Farm Bureau President Patricia Langenfelder, former Executive Director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board Rob Burk and his wife Dr. Amy Burk, and of course several generations of the Pittman family, who are lucky enough to own and reside upon that beautiful farm. Also in attendance were members of the Marlborough Hunt Club, the Maryland Grain Producers Association, the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts, and Anne Arundel farmers and landowners.
On behalf of the host family, Steuart Pittman welcomed the group, and thanked the O’Malley administration for its work on behalf of Maryland farms in general, and the horse industry in particular. For example:
- – the O’Malley administration stepped in to overturn the Senate Finance Committee’s recommendation to zero out funding for the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) in the 2010 session. By contrast, the Ehrlich Administration dipped into MALPF money to balance its budget even in good economic times.
- – Governor O’Malley recognizes and acknowledges the importance of the preservation of farms and open space whenever he argues for the need to save Maryland horse racing. He understands that the horse and agriculture industries are good for the economy and good for the environment.
- – Governor O’Malley and his Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance helped the horse industry pass a number of important bills in recent years, including one that finally states that our equestrian activities on horse farms are agriculture. In these tough times, it has been vitally important to have a Governor who can work well with the legislature to get things done. Former Governor Ehrlich’s legislative record, by contrast, was marked by his poor relationship with the leadership of the General Assembly.
- – Governor O’Malley was willing to make tough decisions to balance the state budget during a national economic crisis, and was able to bring the legislature along in the process. He did the unpopular things that needed to be done to help us in the long term, rather than governing by the polls.
Governor O’Malley, Lt. Governor Brown and Secretary Hance all spoke at length and with passion about the short-sightedness of letting farms be developed, and how those farms cannot be brought back when once they are paved over. The Governor spoke with pride of how, since taking office, the O’Malley-Brown administration has fought to preserve our farmlands—fully funding Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) and putting 263 farms on 32,800 acres of land into preservation. He pointed to his efforts to support the horse industry, including leading the fight to secure as much as $100 million annually from slots revenue for purses and breeders incentives; expanding the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation’s acceptable uses of preserved properties to include a broader array of equine activities; signing emergency legislation authorizing the purchase or condemnation of certain racing facilities, in order to keep the 134 year old tradition of the Preakness Stakes and other racing facilities and names in our state; and signing legislation that ensured that the Maryland Horse Industry Board would have a continued and secure source of funding and prohibiting specified MHIB funds from reverting to the General Fund.
The Governor also pointed to his initiatives in support of agriculture in general, including for example: strong funding for the Cover crop program, partnering with USDA to re-authorize the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), creation of the Energy Audit Program, which helps farmers save on utility costs and reduce waste, and investing in MARBIDCO—the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation—in order to support young farmers who are trying to buy or lease farmland, and start-up enterprises that need help with rural business financing.
State Delegate Virginia Clagett, as the longest serving elected official in the state, spoke briefly about how – after decades of work to preserve and promote farms – she finally feels that she has an ally in the governors mansion.
The Governor and Lt. Governor lingered long at the event, chatting with the guests, answering their questions and listening to their concerns. He was often overheard praising the work of the Maryland Horse Council, the Maryland Farm Bureau, and his own Department of Agriculture.
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