Mandatory Pfiesteria controls opposed by county's legislators

January 09, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

In a message to local farmers, members of Carroll County's General Assembly delegation vowed to fight any mandatory Pfiesteria control measures and pledged to continue efforts to obtain more money for the new county Agricultural Center building.

"When it comes to this 'Pfiesteria hysteria,' and they try to shove it down our throats, we will fight it and be vicious and be vociferous," Republican Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson told Carroll farmers Wednesday at the county Farm Bureau's annual dinner.

A commission studying the microorganism's toxic outbreaks last summer -- which killed fish and sickened people on the Eastern Shore -- concluded that farm runoff into the Chesapeake Bay contributed to the problem and recommended that all Maryland farmers adopt plans within five years to limit the amount of manure they spread on fields.

Carroll legislators said a definite link between nutrients and the Pfiesteria problem has not been established. They promised to oppose any regulations proposed in this year's General Assembly session that would place additional economic burdens farmers, including transporting manure and taxing poultry.

"They always get the idea of taking money out of somebody's pocket that's working so hard to earn it," said Sen. Larry E. Haines, chairman of Carroll's six-member legislative delegation.

"Regulating farmers is not the answer to the problem," the Republican said.

Although the Pfiesteria outbreak has been limited to the Eastern Shore, imposing measures to control runoff would affect farmers statewide.

"If we saw a lot of regulations having to do with animal waste, mandatory nutrient management or regulations of structures to contain waste, that would affect us," said Glenn Shirley, president of the county Farm Bureau.

Del. Joseph M. Getty, also a Republican, said a delegation priority in this year's session is to obtain $300,000 in matching funds from the state for construction of a $2.1 million exhibition and trade show building at the Agricultural Center in Westminster.

The delegation got $300,000 in state money toward the project last year and $100,000 in 1996.

The Agricultural Center's fund-raising committee is also raising money for the new building.

County Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Donald I. Dell, who attended Wednesday's dinner, said they had a positive meeting last week with neighborhood residents concerned about the impact of the new Agricultural Center building.

The commissioners said the county may be able to alleviate residents' worries about traffic by building another driveway to the center at the end of Landon Burns Park ball field.

"I think the Ag Center is a vital part of our community and we have to enhance it," Brown said.

Brown urged the delegation to sponsor a bill during the session to allow a referendum on whether to create a transfer tax for Carroll's agricultural preservation program. The commissioners have sought a transfer tax referendum for the past two legislative sessions. "The program is kind of crippled by a lack of funds," Shirley said.

"A transfer tax is something I'm not real enthused about," said Dell. "But the fact that we're asking the legislature to allow the citizens to vote, that's something I can live with."

One issue Carroll's delegation did not address at Wednesday's meeting was the plight of the state's dairy farmers. A combination of last summer's drought and the lowest milk prices in 15 years have forced many dairy farmers out of business.

The Carroll Farm Bureau supports the Maryland Dairy Industry Association in its efforts to obtain General Assembly approval for the state to become a member of an emerging Southern states milk compact.

The compact would link 15 states from Maryland to Texas into a marketing group that would set the farm price of milk at a level that would make milking cows more profitable.

"It could mean some more money in the dairy farmers' paychecks," Shirley said. "I wouldn't look for it to be a lot, but anything helps."

Pub Date: 1/09/98

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