Maryland's farms and its farmers will be honored by a commemorative agricultural license plate unveiled yesterday by the state Motor Vehicle Administration and farm groups.
The "ag tag" will join the highly successful Chesapeake Bay Trust's blue heron license plate as only the second commemorative type license plate issued by the state, said MVA Administrator Anne S. Ferro.
The new tag will raise money for programs to create public awareness of Maryland's agricultural heritage and the importance of what is still the state's largest industry.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Business section incorrectly reported that proceeds from the sale of blue heron license plates go to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. the money goes to the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
The Sun regrets the error.
"Agriculture is a $17 billion-a-year business in this state," said Steven Connelly, executive director of the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation, which is to receive the proceeds of the license tag sale.
The foundation was created by the General Assembly in 1989 to promote agriculture in the state school systems.
"You ask a third-grader where milk comes from, and many will tell you the Giant or Safeway," said Connelly. "They think chocolate milk comes from brown cows. It's the same for some of their parents. They don't make the link between the food they eat and the farm."
To help change this, the Agricultural Education Foundation visits schools around the state with trailers equipped as science labs.
Connelly said the labs are used to get students involved in hands-on agricultural experiments such as making plastic from corn starch and corn oil, and crayons from soybeans.
The foundation also takes inner-city middle school students to a University of Maryland dairy research farm near Clarksville "where they can see cows milked, fed and learn about nutrition," Connelly said.
The foundation hopes to raise $100,000 the first year from farm tag sales. The tag features a farm scene with reddish barns and a silo against a sunrise background. At the bottom of the plate, there's the message, "Our Farms, Our Future."
Ferro said the ag tag will not be available until February or March of next year. It will cost $20, with $12 going to the Agricultural Education Foundation. There will be a $10 renewal fee charged every two years.
The MVA said it sells about 50,000 blue heron tags a year, generating $600,000 for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.