A Good Year for Chicken Industry in Maryland General Assembly
The 90-day session of the Maryland General Assembly concluded at midnight on Monday, April 10 and the chicken industry fared quite well. Bills harmful to the Maryland chicken industry were unsuccessful, while a couple that we supported were sent to the governor.
SB 773, the Community Clean Air Act, never cleared a Senate committee. This bill -- we opposed it -- would have required the Maryland Department of the Environment to conduct a short, poorly defined, scientifically weak study of air emissions from chicken houses and other types of agricultural buildings. We argued that the study as called for in the bill would have been a waste of time and money and would have yielded just partial data of little use to Marylanders.
Senate Bill 174 also never got out of committee. It would have removed a state tax credit intended to help develop renewable energy sources such as chicken manure/litter. Opposing the bill, we argued that if alternative uses of manure/litter were being urged, then removing this state incentive to help with projects would be foolish.
A great deal of time was spent to make sure legislation to create further prohibitions on the use of human medically important antibiotics for farm animals was not passed as introduced. We worked with the Senate sponsor to redesign the bill, Senate Bill 422, which eventually was passed and sent to Governor Larry Hogan. The bill allows veterinarians to use their best professional judgements to prescribe antibiotics to keep farm animals healthy. Also, the amended bill creates a more workable antibiotics data reporting system.
We worked hard to allow chicken live-haul trucks traveling on Maryland Department of Transportation roads to be close to a higher weight limit that exists in Delaware and Virginia. While Senate Bill 917 does not allow exactly what Delaware and Virginia permit, the new weight limit on five axle vehicles is higher than the present limit, but the higher weights will be allowed only from November to April for five years. During those years the five axle tractor/trailers will need to convert to six axles. The higher weight limit in Maryland will allow more efficient use of vehicles, fewer trips, less road congestion, and considerably fewer vehicle emissions. The bill awaits Governor Hogan's approval.
We lent our support to SB 1158 that will create a system to designate solar generating facilities as "pollinator friendly" if they meet certain standards to be developed by the state. This could encourage the planting of flowers underneath solar panels to help bees with pollination of nearby crops, including feed ingredients essential to the chicken industry. That bill was approved by the Senate and House of Delegates.
Overall, on issues specific to the chicken industry, we had a good year.