Agricultural benefits to Md. stressed Hodge wants swift action on several proposals


September 10, 1998|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

The state should move quickly on several proposals designed to improve the climate of agriculture, the co-chairman of a committee looking into the future of farming in Maryland said yesterday.

Failure to do so could threaten the industry and adversely affect every citizen in the state, Gary V. Hodge told the Maryland Agricultural Commission.

Hodge, executive director of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, is co-chairman of the newly formed, 12-member Future of Maryland Agriculture Committee.

The group also includes representatives of the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the University of Maryland and the Maryland Farm Bureau, and hopes to build support for state policies to help assure the long-term health of farming.

"We want to make sure we have a viable agriculture industry in the future," said Bradley Powers, assistant secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture and a member of the new committee. "Not just because it will be good for farmers. It will be good for the environmentalists and the general public."

Powers said residents of Baltimore and other urban areas would benefit from a financially healthy farming industry.

"In addition to enjoying the open land, they will get products that are fresher and of better quality because they are produced closer to home," he said

He said the consumer might even benefit from lower prices if fruit and vegetables don't have to be trucked in from the West Coast or imported.

Powers said various segments of Maryland's agriculture community have come under attack in recents years, including the tobacco, dairy and poultry industries.

To kick off its efforts, the Future of Agriculture group has proposed a three step program. It includes:

A statewide survey on public opinion toward agriculture.

A public relations campaign to educate the public to the benefits of maintaining a profitable agriculture industry in the state.

Having the University of Maryland evaluate recommendations of previous commissions and conferences to identify proposals that could benefit farming.

Pub Date: 9/10/98

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