'Right to Farm' Is Right

December 09, 1993

The mere discussion of "right to farm" legislation is a clear indication of the precarious state of agriculture in Carroll County.

Regardless of Carroll's popular image, the fact is that this once totally rural county is becoming another suburban bedroom.

Many of the new residents may have considered Carroll to be a country idyll before they moved in, but they have become angry after experiencing the reality of living next to large-scale farms and livestock operations.

People who were born and raised in farm communities accept the dust, smells, noise and getting stuck on roads behind slow-moving farm vehicles as part of life among people who till the soil. Farmers generating dust when they plow or harvest, or the smell from a herd of cows, don't disturb these residents any more than the noise of ships moving in and out of the harbor bothers people living beside Baltimore's waterfront.

However, new arrivals in Carroll County, unfamiliar with the realities of farming, often get irked when the stench from an outdoor manure pit wafts into their backyard as they are hosting a weekend barbecue. Many local transplants also worry that some of these less pleasant aspects of farming will affect the resale value of their properties.

Farmers should not have to obtain special zoning permits to raise their animals or till the soil. Neither should they be subjected to nuisance suits nor be tied up answering complaints if their methods are within standard practices and they adhere to environmental, health and safety laws. "Right to farm" legislation has been enacted in other jurisdictions, including neighboring Howard County, to give members of the farming community some protection.

The debate in Carroll County over whether a state law is more effective than a county ordinance is misdirected. Farmers need to raise the threshold to shield themselves from these nuisance suits. A state law might carry more weight in court, but Carroll's farming community might not have time to wait for that. The delay in obtaining legislative approval of a statewide statute in Annapolis might further jeopardize the county's remaining farm operations.

The Carroll County Agricultural Commission is right to ask for enabling state legislation that is necessary for a local ordinance. Carroll's delegates and senators should make passage of this measure one of their top priorities.

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