Agriculture is at Maryland's core. Our economy and commerce began with agriculture – farming, dairy, livestock, and poultry. Cities, towns, and villages all across Maryland began – in some cases over 300 years ago – as centers of commerce and transportation for taking harvests to market.
The Department of Agriculture reports that approximately 350,000 people in Maryland are employed in some aspect of agriculture, making it the largest commercial industry in the state. Agriculture also remains the single largest land use in the state with roughly 32 percent of Maryland land used for farming in 2011.
Today, like many businesses in Maryland, farmers face a siege of regulations and taxes that threaten to undermine the viability of an important industry that is deeply woven into Maryland's history. Maryland farmers are being held to a higher environmental standard by the EPA than surrounding states. Beyond agricultural runoff, Maryland's hard working farmers are being blamed for clean water issues that involve other factors such as poor storm water and wastewater management, as well as aging septic systems. Unfortunately, there is little interest from developers to undertake the huge cost of building new communities in rural areas that involve money to improve or replace these systems.
We need a pragmatic, balanced approach to regulating farming and agriculture in Maryland without over-regulating this important industry out of existence. Maryland farmers should not singled out by the EPA or by legislators in Annapolis, and made the scapegoat for a problem that has many sources outside their control. We must also prevent Maryland's Inheritance and Estate taxes from forcing family survivors to sell businesses and property, handed down through generations--especially farms--just to pay the tax.
A NEW WAY FORWARD:
- I will propose the REPEAL of the "RAIN TAX" that unfairly imposes a special "storm water management fee" upon Maryland landowners – individual and businesses -- in counties that treat storm water released into the Chesapeake Bay. This is an example of a pervasive attitude in Annapolis to "hurt Maryland first" with disproportionate taxes and fees since Maryland is the only state that has enacted or imposed such a crazy and abusive tax on its citizens among other neighboring states that contribute to the problem. Taxes like the "Rain Tax" are not only bizarre and unreasonable, but they "cheapen" environmental issues when taxpayers see them as little more than a quick-fix excuse by legislators to backfill the fiscal shortfalls of out-of-control spending in Annapolis.
- I will consider ALL the environmental factors that contribute to the Chesapeake Bay's clean water issues -- not just focus on agricultural runoff-- and will work with our members in Congress to require surrounding states that contribute to the problem adhere to the same strict EPA standards as Maryland and proportionally share in the cost of environmental efforts to protect this vital natural resource.
- Taxes and fees that impact the agricultural industry will be subject to my "ANNUAL STATE FISCAL-USE & EFFICIENCY AUDIT" to determine how monies collected are being spent and whether this spending demonstrates an efficient use of taxpayer money. Monies not being used for their intended purpose will either be suspended and adjusted through a regulatory change process or I will propose their elimination over a three-year phase out period.
- I will propose the REPEAL of MARYLAND'S INHERITANCE and ESTATE taxes. These taxes allow the state of Maryland to "rob the dead" by assessing the value of a deceased owner's business or property and forcing family survivors to pay an additional "Death Tax" to the state on top of the cumulative annual taxes that have already been paid. Taxes like this especially rob farms and agricultural businesses of the rewards reaped from generations of hard work and sacrifice when they are forced to sell the family farm or business, just to pay these taxes.