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June 07, 2019

Trone learns about farming challenges at Clear Spring roundtable

Credit: Herald-Mail Media, C.J. Lovelace

CLEAR SPRING — Local farmers and Maryland agriculture advocates said Friday that they continue to face an uphill climb due to overregulation, labor shortages and biosecurity concerns.

Sitting on a hay bale, U.S. Rep. David Trone listened intently to the continued challenges for Western Maryland farm industries.

“We had a great agricultural roundtable,” Trone, D-Md., said afterward. “I really appreciated Governor Hogan sending out his secretary of agriculture to be here. … It was a very bipartisan effort today to help the farmers of Western Maryland.”

 

Farmers, including host Steve Ernst, owner of Ernst Grain and Livestock near Clear Spring, covered a wide range of issues in the discussion, which state Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder and department staffers attended.

Topics included tariffs, dairy pricing, worldwide livestock disease control, rural broadband and visa programs that limit the migrant workforce pool.

“One of the nice things about Maryland is the department of ag works strongly with the industry and producers,” Ernst said. “And we’ve tried to make an effort in the state to make sure our elected officials understand what actually happens at the farm gate.”

Ernst said Maryland’s western areas are home to a diverse farming industry, creating overlap between various sectors of the industry — everything from livestock to vineyards.

“Some of the issues, such as the labor issue, cut across lots of lines,” he said. “That cuts across livestock, orchards, produce. Just understanding that, while there’s segments in agriculture, it’s very interconnected, especially in the mountain valley ag up here in Western Maryland.”

Ernst urged Trone to consider supporting actions to loosen overbearing regulations, remove government oversight from commodity pricing and protect against the potential influx of dangerous livestock diseases seen elsewhere in the world, like African swine fever.

Some believe the devastating virus could come into U.S. through its “porous border to the south,” Ernst said.

 

“That thing has the potential to rock the whole agriculture world,” he said, causing the need to eradicate herds of hogs but also crushing demand for grain, as well.

The concerns raised during the meeting came as no surprise for Bartenfelder, who said it’s “not just an issue in Washington County; it’s statewide.”

He said it was great to have Maryland’s 6th District congressman, who grew up on a farm in Adams County, Pa., on hand for the discussion.

“By his own admission, he said that this meeting really helped him today,” Bartenfelder said of Trone. “I think that’s why these things are so important. He literally didn’t see these issues or hear them from that sky view. He was right down in the weeds, so to speak. He heard it right from the grassroots from the people who are affected the most.”

Other participants in the discussion included representatives from Washington County Agricultural Business Development, Garrett County Agriculture Economic Business Development, Maryland Farm Bureau, Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit and Grow and Fortify.