Farmers question auto testing

January 06, 1995|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

The next few months are going to be quiet for Carroll County's legislative delegation in Annapolis, at least if meetings with county farmers this week are any indication.

Except for the county Farm Bureau's list of resolutions -- which include maintaining the current school year and exploring new methods of composting -- county farmers brought up few issues during a legislative dinner Wednesday night and a breakfast for agricultural and business leaders yesterday.

Farmers are concerned about tough new emission tests for cars, particularly the new rules permitting test operators to get into an automobile and run the engine for at least 15 minutes at speeds up to 55 miles per hour.

"What if you have an old clunker like mine?" asked John Tortura, a semi-retired Bachman Valley farmer. "It's going to blow apart."

Sen. Larry E. Haines, head of the county delegation, said he and Del. Donald B. Elliott were introducing legislation to repeal the emissions standards, at least until the contiguous states comply.

"This was sold to the General Assembly in 1991 with the argument that, if you don't pass this legislation, you'll lose federal funding and, for every new industry you get, you'll have to close down two," said Mr. Haines, a Republican from Westminster.

"That's just not true," he said. "The benefits aren't there for the cost. The cars that are manufactured today aren't the problem."

As an example of what he called environmental over-regulation, Senator Haines ridiculed a $500,0000 Environmental Protection Agency grant that was awarded to the University of Utah to study how much methane cows release when they burp.

The grant builds on EPA studies to determine whether cow emissions are affecting the ozone layer, he said.

"How ridiculous can you get?" Mr. Haines said. "If this emissions test on vehicles is repealed, I guess they're going to have emission tests on cows."

Instead, Mr. Haines said legislators should put more effort into preserving farms, citing a bill he said he will introduce this year that would take money from the the state's Project Open Space program and put it into agricultural land preservation.

Mr. Elliott, a New Windsor Republican, said supporting agricultural industries with ideas such as the Maryland Milk Commission, a bill which was sent to summer study last year, is also important.

The bill -- introduced by Frederick County Del. James E. McClellan -- would have established a commission to ensure that dairy farmers would receive a minimum price for raw milk.

A task force organized in 1991 found that raw milk from Pennsylvania and Virginia is entering the state at prices lower than the costs encountered by local farmers to produce it.

Owners of milk processing plants and the governor did not support the proposal, so the sponsors agreed to study the issue further, Mr. Elliott said.

"We talk about bringing industries into the state and preserving those that are already here with incentives and tax breaks," he said, noting that dairy used to be the largest agricultural industry in the state.

Dairy farms are now third, behind the poultry and horticultural industries. Agriculture is considered the largest industry in Maryland, Mr. Elliott said.

"Yet, here we have an industry in the state that is in major decline, and we're not doing a . . . thing about it," he said.

"Otherwise, I don't think we'll have to worry about the burping of cows. There won't be any cows to burp."

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