Readers Respond

December 01, 2009

Md. farmers making progress on pollution

Tim Wheeler's story "Heavy rains deter planting of cover crops" (Nov. 21) accurately states the effects of weather, grain markets, business costs and other logistics on a farmer's ability to plant cover crops. The O'Malley administration understands these challenges and has, year after year, listened to farmers, adapted the state's cover crop program to make it logistically and financially appealing, targeted resources for maximum results, approved all applications and committed record funding that has covered all payments promised to farmers.

Because there are many issues that impact a farm operation from year to year, it is important to keep an eye on the critical goal of nutrient reduction. Restoring the Chesapeake Bay requires each of us to think and act differently and hold ourselves accountable to real progress. To ensure real progress in bay restoration, Gov. Martin O'Malley led the other bay states and the federal government in establishing two-year progress milestones, tracked for public review through BayStat.

Maryland residents, businesses, governments and farmers must together reduce nitrogen going to the bay by 3.75 million pounds by 2011 - the end of the first two-year milestone period. Of that goal, 2.5 million pounds are assigned to the agricultural sector. Through their commitment to a wide array of nutrient-reducing practices, farmers have accomplished nearly 40 percent of the 2011 goal in just one year.

Cover crops are a cost-effective way for this sector to reduce its impact, but they are just one piece of a multi-faceted effort to restore the bay. We continue to look for new ways to reach this goal. A few examples are newer technologies such as precision agriculture, which reduces nutrient applications, and consideration of options to reduce fall fertilizer applications to cash grains.

There is a great deal of credit to go around for the progress the agricultural sector has made toward the 2011 goal, from the state's flexible and strongly funded cover crop program to the commitment and resourcefulness of farmers.

There is no doubt that achieving the goals will be challenging for all sectors, but working to enlist farmers in applying new technologies and other creative approaches, in addition to greater focus on achieving cover crop goals, makes the agricultural goal achievable.

Earl F. Hance, AnnapolisThe writer is the Maryland secretary of agriculture.

UM Medical Center, Hopkins reduce other hospitals' costs

Not all hospitals are created equal. Sunday's article by Kelly Brewington and Jamie Smith Hopkins made several excellent points ("Pricey hospitals wary of reforms," Nov. 29). Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center are expensive. They are superior academic medical centers. They also welcome the most complicated and expensive medical challenges for a number of excellent reasons, and the results are equally excellent in many cases.

What was not emphasized in Sunday's piece is that other hospitals do not have to bear the substantial expense of treating these patients. They transfer the patient (and the cost) to the academic health centers.

Regionalization of complicated medical care concentrates resources to provide optimal care efficiently at a lower overall cost. Individual centers of excellence suffer in the analysis of individual balance sheets.

Dr. Charles E. Wiles, Buffalo, N.Y.The writer is a professor of surgery at the University of Buffalo.

Millionaires tax was a failure

Maryland's millionaires tax was enacted to raise an additional $106 million from taxpayers making more than $1 million. The results were that revenue collected from taxpayers in that category fell by $100 million.

Sean Dobson's arguments are logical ("Millionaires aren't fleeing Md.," Readers respond, Nov. 24), but a few moments of thought can identify factors that he did not consider.

It is not the same taxpayers who make more than $1 million in any given year. Some of those may not have gotten out in time and so had to file returns for a partial year's residence in Maryland. What about all the other revenue lost when a high-income taxpayer leaves the state, such as real estate and sales taxes?

The problem with this type of argument is that, to reach a valid conclusion, all possibilities need to be factored in. Given the complexity of tax law and the ingenuity of tax lawyers, that is impossible.

All of the tortured logic notwithstanding, a tax was passed to increase revenue by $106 million. The tax collected was $100 million less, a $206 million loss in projected revenue. It didn't work.

Ted Harka, Phoenix

No grade inflation at The Sun

I am very glad that Mike Preston is not the teacher in my children's classes! ("Mike Preston's report card," Nov. 30.) I'm not sure what scale he is grading on, but it seems that virtually everyone does badly on it. Even after an exciting win against a very good Pittsburgh Steelers team, no one gets an A.

That kind of grading scheme is demoralizing, as any good teacher knows. I propose Mr. Preston go get an education degree and not come back to The Sun until after he's graduated.

James Potash, Baltimore

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