Sustainable Farms in Maryland
Maryland's farms play an important role in creating a resilient and local food supply. Many farmers are incorporating more sustainable practices to improve their stewardship of the land and waters of our state.
Pollinator Protection Act of 2016: The legislation that was passed in 2016 needs a technical fix! The legislation was intended to restrict the sale of neonicotinoid pesticides to only registered pesticide applicators, but it has been interpreted to allow stores that sell to registered pesticide applicators to ALSO sell to the public. HB208 would clarify that only certified applicators or farmers may purchase neonicotinoid pesticides.
Smart Solar Siting: Solar energy can be an amazing tool to reduce greenhouse gases and provide clean energy, but unfortunately it is a new development pressure that can displace Maryland farmers. Throughout the state, the solar industry has targeted farmland as an ideal place to build, outcompeting farmers who need acres of land to maintain their economic viability. While framed as providing a new source of revenue for farmers, farmers and landowners are not necessarily the same group of people. So while a solar lease may give the landowner a new source of revenue, it is by displacing the previously leasing farmer. Clean Water Action supports a comprehensive solar siting plan to evaluate how much farmland has to be displaced to meet clean energy goals, and to drive the development to already disturbed lands: rooftops, parking lots, brownfields, and other similar lands. Other states, like New Jersey, have undertaken similar planning processes to minimize the impact on productive farmland.
Food and Farmworker Protections:
The COVID-19 pandemic poses a severe threat to the essential workers who feed us, including workers in poultry and seafood processing plants and in agricultural fields . Food and farm workers are unable to maintain necessary health and safety protocol due to crowded working and housing conditions, inadequate personal protective equipment, and lack of paid sick leave or access to medical care. These workplace and housing conditions put agricultural workers and their families at high risk for the COVID-19 illness. Despite growing concern for essential workers and fear of disruptions to the food system, these weaknesses remain unaddressed. Many workers in Maryland’s agricultural and meat processing industries are immigrants or migrant workers and fear risk of retaliation for reporting issues in their workplace. Maryland currently does not have mandatory protection measures to prevent further disease outbreaks.
Healthy Farmworkers Act: Migrant food and farm workers are uniquely susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 because of their housing environments. Workers are often bussed to the jobsite in crowded vehicles and, most live in employer-provided housing that consists of crowded bunks and barracks where it is impossible for workers to maintain necessary social distancing. Improving housing standards for farm workers will help guarantee their safety during the pandemic. Emergency Bill HR0577 (The Healthy Farmworkers Act) requires The Maryland Department of Labor to adopt enforceable COVID-19 precautions and housing standards for all camp operators and employers of H-2 guest workers and require improved inspections of employer provided housing.
HB0124 - Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS): Workers in Maryland’s fields and processing plants lack basic protections from Covid-19, such as personal protective equipment, handwashing stations, and the ability to maintain social distance/ . They are also currently exempt from paid sick leave,overtime pay. Employers must implement appropriate safety precautions in order to protect their workers from COVID-19 exposure. HB0124 requires Maryland Occupational Safety & Health (MOSH) to issue an ETS that establishes exposure risk level, minimum safety protocols, an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan, and a permanent standard for aerosol disease transmission precautions.
Maryland Essential Workers Protections Act: The Maryland Essential Workers Protections Act will provide much-needed standards and procedures to protect the health and safety of all essential workers during pandemics. These include, safe and hygienic working conditions, hazard pay, health care, implementation of emergency action plans, universal health and bereavement leave, the right to refuse dangerous work, and free testing and reporting of positive results.