Farmers oppose reforestation law, proposed merger of 2 departments

January 06, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Local farmers expressed concern about the stat reforestation bill and the possible merging of the state Department of Agriculture with the Department of Natural Resources at last night's Carroll County Farm Bureau legislative dinner.

The annual dinner at the Carroll County Agricultural Center in Westminster was attended by most of the county delegation to the General Assembly and Carroll government officials interested in agriculture.

"I'd hate to see the Department of Agriculture swallowed up by DNR," said Gary Brauning, president of the Carroll County Farm Bureau.

He said he had heard that R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., speaker of the state House of Delegates, was introducing a bill to set the merger in motion.

"Agriculture will still be the No. 1 industry in Maryland, and I think the department has been doing a pretty good job of it," he said.

State Del. Richard N. Dixon, a Democrat from Carroll County, agreed with Mr. Brauning and said cost-saving measures should affect larger agencies.

"If we're going to make cuts, we need to go where the big bucks are, and the big bucks are not at the Department of Agriculture," he said, adding that some difficult budget decisions must be made this year.

"Heaven forbid, our deficit problems go away and we don't address the issues that need addressing, because they will come back again over the years."

State legislators also said adjustments are planned in the newly passed state reforestation law.

"That law went way beyond what was anticipated," said state Sen. Charles H. Smelser. The Democratic senator represents Carroll, Frederick and Howard counties.

"Adjustments have to be made and they will attempt to be made," he said.

County officials said they were concerned about the future of the state agricultural preservation program in light of recent cuts.

William Powel, Carroll's administrator of the program, said that the state had promised to sell bonds to fund the program, but would do so only if it had financial obligations to meet.

The state agricultural preservation board was reluctant to make offers on land if it was not certain the money would be available to buy the easements.

"Is there anything the county can do to keep from totally losing the credibility of this program?" Mr. Powel asked.

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