In 2012, to the howls and protests of landowners and farmers across the state, the Maryland General Assembly passed Senate Bill 236 (a.k.a. “The Septic Bill”), which was then duly signed into law by Governor Martin O’Malley.  (To learn more, scroll down.)

And now the tractors are ready to roll.

On Tues. February 12, 2013, farmers across the state will be gathering with tractors, horses and other ag conveyences, as well as protestors on foot, to march on Annapolis in support of Senate Bill 391 (cross-filed with House Bill 106), which would repeal the ‘Septic Bill’ of 2012.

The march is known as The Protest SB 236 Tractorcade.

If you support the effort to repeal SB 236, you are invited to bring your tractors, your trailers, your horses, your duallies, your carriages, your wagons or just yourself and join in. You can drive, ride or walk. Protestors will assemble at the Navy Marine-Corps Memorial Stadium on the morning of February 12th, 2013 at 9am.   The fee for parking is $5 for cars, $10 for trucks, and $20 dollars for semis.  At 10 a.m., the Tractorcade will leave the stadium and parade around the Maryland Senate Building on Bladen Street.

Protestors are encouraged to attach signs to their tractors and horses (signs can’t  be carried with sticks or posts).

Protestors are also encouraged to testify that afternoon in support of SB 391 (which would repeal The Act formerly known as SB 236). The bill will be heard by the Senate Committee for Education, Health and Environmental Affairs during the session beginning at 1 p.m.  To testify, you must sign in (or be signed in) by noon. If you are participating in the Tractorcade and are concerned you will not make it in time to sign in, you can have someone else register you.  For more details, please click here.

The Tractorcade is being spearheaded by one of the founders of The Lisbon Horse Parade, Lambert Cissel of Kimberthy Farms in Howard County.

SB 391 is sponsored by Eastern Shore Senators E.J. Pipkin, Richard Colburn and by former pony clubber and whipper-in for New Market-Middletown Valley Hounds, Sen. David Brinkley. House Bill 106 is sponsored by Del. Michael A. McDermott from the Eastern Shore.

Q. What is SB 236 (2012)


Or is it Eminent Domain run amuck?

According to Del. McDermott, “The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 establishes numerous restrictions on septic systems by creating a “tier system” which will hinder residential development in rural Maryland and all but eliminate septic systems for residential subdivisions. Essentially, this bill will take away local planning and development decisions with regards to decisions about future development. By taking away the power from the local government, the State of Maryland will assume greater and greater autonomy with decisions about future septic systems.

The title, Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, seems to say one thing while actually doing another. It is a far cry from preserving agriculture and farming in Maryland. This is the great land grab by Maryland – hurting farmers in the name of preserving them.

It is reasonable to draw conclusions from this bill that this spells the end of rural development in Maryland. It will devalue farmland and place farmers who must borrow against their land for the next planting season to have land that is not worth anywhere near what it is in today’s market. This destructive bill is the camel’s nose under the tent.”

In 2012, according to the Southern Maryland News, the Calvert Board of County Commissioners said that the Act “ignores minimal impacts of septic fields, is poorly and vaguely worded so as to create contention and confusion, and adds to layers of state mandated planning areas creating conflict, redundancy and an unfriendly development environment. The Bill also ignores 93% efficient nitrogen removing septic systems. These systems are as effective as Waste Water Treatment Plants. It would also control local zoning through regulation of septic systems, which is misuse of police power…if the State’s intent is to control impacts to water quality, a limit should be placed on septic system effluent.”

According to The Baltimore Sun, the Harford County Council and Harford County Planning and Zoning Director Pete Gutwald “blasted the state’s new sustainable growth act Tuesday night for taking away private property rights and trying to control local land use planning.”

The Sun reports that Billy Boniface, owner of Bonita Farm (Thoroughbred breeding) and president of the Harford County Council, stated: “This is huge for landowners in northern Harford County. The state is basically taking away 50 percent of the value on their property.”

 About SB 236, The Act That Killed Maryland Farming

By Harry Ketts, At Last Farm (Thoroughbred breeding), Aquasco, Southern Maryland

While the act is officially known as the “SUSTAINABLE GROWTH AND AGRICULTURAL PRESERVATION ACT OF 2012,” most of us refer to it as the SEPTIC BAN BOONDOGGLE of 2012.

This Act, as we all know, is a runoff from the liberal PLAN MARYLAND, a plan specifically for the removal of all control of our normal lives to the control of the State of O’Malley’s disciples. Now that the SB 236 is going into law, it has been shown that it has done some real damage to all sorts of peoples, but in our case to the farmers, wherever they may be in the State.

The problems are soon to be realized when the farmers go to the bank and try to borrow using their land as collateral. This Act has downsized the value of each and every farm.

And there are other penalties. If the counties do not abide by this Act, then they are now “not playing by the rules” and are subject to losses in discretionary state funding and programs, which will in turn penalize the farmer.

Not only are the farmers being hurt by the downsizing and devaluation of their land, but so are the developers, realtors, commercial business owners and on and on (check with MACRO).  We, here in Prince George’s County, fought several years ago to keep our zoning in the Open Space areas to a one in five zoning instead of a one in twenty five zoning.  Well, we won that, but now the state legislature has taken over and decided that we should have a very limited number of houses on our farms and that this is because of the septic ban, PlanMaryland and the need to “save” the Chesapeake Bay.  Well let it be said that our farming and using the land for collateral will not help the Bay in the least.  Many of the farmers who use their land to make a living generally have a minimum of collateral available and must depend on the banks at the beginning of the seasons for purchasing new supplies and new equipment. Guess what? It is now the beginning of the new farming season, and farmers don’t have the same asset they had one year ago today.

It is time for the farmers of the State of Maryland to stand up and fight for the right to farm.  We need farmers and we need to stop this Act from ruining farming.

The Equiery deadline has been extended to Monday, Feb. 11, 2013

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