Md. milk commission unlikely

January 06, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Carroll legislators support a Maryland Milk Commission to help bring higher milk prices for dairy farmers, but the most senior member of the county delegation predicted that legislation establishing one would not pass in the General Assembly this year.

"It's not a simple subject," Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, said last night at the Carroll County Farm Bureau annual legislative dinner at the Agriculture Center. About 65 people attended.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Agriculture Secretary Robert L. Walker would have to back the bill for it to pass, said Mr. Smelser, a member of the General Assembly since 1955.

The best farmers could expect this year would be for legislative leaders to send a proposal to a study committee, he said.

Dairy farmers in Carroll and throughout the state have proposed establishing a commission to establish a minimum price that they would receive for their milk. Pennsylvania and Virginia have similar commissions.

"The dairy industry in Maryland is fading fast," said Detour dairy farmer Myron Wilhide.

Consumer prices for milk would not be regulated by the commission, which would be made up of three consumers, two farmers and one milk processor, Mr. Wilhide said. Administrative costs would amount to less than a half-cent per gallon.

Mr. Wilhide said Mr. Walker is studying the idea.

Carroll farmers also would like the local delegation to introduce legislation to allow the county commissioners to write "right-to-farm" legislation.

The commissioners support the concept, which is aimed at reducing complaints and lawsuits filed against farmers by suburban neighbors bothered by farm smells and noise.

Woodbine horse farmer James Steele said many people who move to Carroll are not familiar with agricultural practices.

"Most problems farmers have are a matter of communication," he said.

Farmers also are working to update the state right-to-farm law, which is short and vague, Westminster grain farmer Donald Essich said.

A Carroll ordinance likely would include:

* A real estate transfer disclosure statement for property purchased in agriculture and conservation zones to inform potential buyers that farming is a preferred activity in those areas.

* A grievance committee to resolve controversies arising from inconveniences and discomfort associated with farming operations.

* A limitation on circumstances in which a farming operation may be deemed a nuisance if the farmer is following good management practices and environmental regulations.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, said he would support such legislation.

Del. Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, and Del. Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, also attended last night's meeting.

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