O'Malley set to name agriculture secretary

February 01, 2007|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,special to the sun

Roger L. Richardson, a Wicomico County grain farmer, will be named the next state agriculture secretary tonight.

Gov. Martin O'Malley will announce Richardson's appointment at the annual Maryland Agriculture Dinner at Michael's Eighth Avenue restaurant in Glen Burnie, said administration spokesman Rick Abbruzzese. Richardson is expected to be in attendance.

Richardson, who operates a trucking company in addition to his farm, is on the board of directors of the Maryland Center for Agro-Ecology Inc., a coalition of agricultural, environmental, education and government leaders working to preserve the environment and maintain the viability of farming.

He also was a member of the Agricultural Stewardship Committee, a panel of elected officials, farmers and environmentalists that was convened in April 2005 to research ways to boost farm profitability and reduce pollution running into the Chesapeake Bay.

Reached at his home near Eden last night, Richardson, 72, declined to discuss his appointment until it is announced. He said he farms about 3,500 acres, which includes some rented land, and has a fleet of 10 trucks that haul farm products.

Richardson's appointment was a popular topic of discussion in Annapolis yesterday as agriculture officials gathered in the House Economic Matters Committee hearing room for an overview of farming issues.

"I have known Roger Richardson for years, and he will do a good job," said departing Agriculture Secretary Lewis R. Riley.

Douglas W. Green, a poultry farmer from the Eastern Shore and chairman of the Maryland Agricultural Commission, described Richardson "as a self-made man and a very good businessman."

Kenneth Bounds, a vice president of MidAtlantic Farm Credit, a cooperative bank that is the state's largest farm lender, said Richardson will be a strong advocate for Maryland agriculture.

"He's a quiet guy but can be determined if he has to," Bounds said.

The dinner, which typically draws a cross section of farmers, government officials, and elected leaders from around the state, is held by the Maryland Agriculture Council, an organization that promotes the importance of farming, the state's largest industry. The $75-a-plate affair is expected to draw more than 700.

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