Saturday Mailbox


May 08, 2004

`Ag-tag' program funds teaching on agriculture

In Kevin Cowherd's column "For new bay-theme tags, he's racing off to the MVA" (April 26), he asks: "When the rest of the country summons an image of Maryland, is it really of grain silos and Holsteins and acres of crops shimmering in the hot sun?"

Well, perhaps the rest of the country isn't summoning thoughts of shimmering waves of grain. It does, however, probably think of our quality of life, which a strong agricultural economy helps to ensure.

Since the establishment of the "ag-tag" program, which helps fund our efforts, the Maryland Agricultural Extension Foundation (MAEF) has reached more than 60,000 elementary school students each year. We have developed new educational resources, including, among other things, an informative video pertaining to Maryland's top commodities, an atlas of Maryland agriculture and an interactive CD.

We've also expanded our programming to include secondary education and administration of Maryland's Future Farmers of America program.

Since the program began two years ago, more than 100,000 ag-tags have been sold. Sales peaked at about 5,000 in one month alone and have been holding steady with sales of approximately 1,500 per month.

While ag-tag sales numbers may be below those of the bay tag, these programs are equally important to the state.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust is using bay tag funds to educate folks about the importance of the bay and to work to restore and preserve this treasure.

The MAEF Education Foundation is using ag-tag funds to educate people about the significance of agriculture, the food we eat, the clothes on our backs and the vital natural resources we enjoy.

I hope Mr. Cowherd can begin to understand the role these efforts play in Maryland's future and stop trying to pit us against each other.

C. John Sullivan III

Bel Air

The writer is president of the board of the MAEF.

Tuition cap bill protects future

The Sun got it wrong when it urged Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to veto the Higher Education Affordability and Access Act ("Doing the right thing," editorial, April 28).

The editors must have forgot that higher education fuels Maryland's economy. We are among the country's richest states -- not because of our superabundant natural resources or our unusually strong manufacturing base, but because we have an educated work force that allows us to cash in on the high-tech economy.

Credit for our advantage goes substantially to the University System of Maryland.

Unfortunately, that strength faces serious threats, thanks to funding cuts. To balance its budget, Maryland has slashed higher-education dollars. Today, we spend $122 million less on higher education than we did in 2002.

Tuition rates have soared. And with a billion-dollar deficit on the horizon, deeper education cuts are likely.

The bill The Sun wants the governor to veto would make state officials pause before they drive off the cliff. It would temporarily cap tuition increases and boost state support while we devise a stable funding mechanism for public higher education.

Vetoing the bill would endanger one of the state's most valuable assets.

Brian E. Frosh


The writer is chairman of the Maryland Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Cutting trash pickups will hurt poor areas

I always enjoy Eric Siegel's incisive columns on urban life. He is off the mark, however, when he gives his blessing to the reduction of trash collection in Baltimore ("Cutting trash pickups makes sense," April 29).

Cutting trash pickups to once a week may work out reasonably well in areas that are generally stable and affluent. It is unlikely to work well, however, in borderline and depressed areas, where litter is already a serious problem.

In my borderline district, the alleys are rarely if ever clean. For several years, the property across the street had messy, overflowing trash -- and the resident was an officer of the local civic association.

If residents could be counted on to neatly store their trash in a couple of additional closed cans, once-a-week pickup would be all right.

They can't be counted on to do this -- and that's why twice-weekly pickup needs to continue.

Christopher Muldor


City living saves time in traffic

The two May 1 letters on easing Beltway congestion offer starkly different solutions ("Plan from past could relieve Beltway tie-ups" and "Living in the city is cure for congestion," letters, May 1). The suburban guy wants the "Highway to Nowhere" completed, while the city guy suggests city living as the solution. I'll pick city life any day.

Having grown up in the land of freeways, Houston, Texas, I can tell you it's not a pretty picture.

And even Houstonians are learning the benefits of city living and good rail transportation. Houston this year opened a light-rail line after, many years ago, dismantling a rail system that connected all areas of the city.

More highways are not the answer.

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