Farm Bureau in Maryland Decides to Thwart Farmers Efforts

Bureau, Governor, Ag Officials Side with Health Dept. NOT Farmers

ABC News this morning aired a story on the outrage over AIG giving 165 million dollars in bonuses to its executives. Lawrence Summers, Director of the National Economic Counsel, was quoted as saying “We are a nation of law…the government can’t just abrogate a private contract.”

Will someone please tell the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that?  In 2006, they criminalized agistment contracts (cow-boarding in particular) by re-defining the meaning of the words “dairy agistments” as a sale of raw milk.

Governor Martin O'Malley

Governor Martin O'Malley

For three years, dairy farmers in the state have suffered punishing economic losses, due to this abrogation of contract law. The Maryland Agriculture officials and Governor Martin O’Malley have deferred to the health department on the issue.

Now, to add insult to injury, the Maryland Farm Bureau has come out against two proposed bills to rectify the situation. They are against both bills, with absolutely no explanation why.

The stated mission of the Farm Bureau is “To Promote and Protect Maryland Agriculture and Rural Life.” Now, one would think that would mean, that the Farm Bureau could be counted on for support.  Especially, by the small farmers who need them the most.

“We are a nation of law…the government can’t just abrogate a private contract.”

Anti-HB 1080 Forces Awarded George Orwell Award

Hartke Is Online grants special recognition in cases like this. We call it our George Orwell Award (known as the Un-wellie). Today, we would like to grant this dubious distinction to three Maryland organizations. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, The Maryland Department of Agriculture, and the Maryland Farm Bureau.

This award is named after the brilliant political satirist, George Orwell, who wrote the books Animal Farm and 1984. Since these Maryland groups seem to feel “Some Farms are More Equal Than Others,” and they seem to only represent the agribusiness dairy farms–they really deserve this award for Big Brother like conduct. And the bureaucrats re-defining meanings of words is straight out of the pages of Animal Farm!

When raw milk activist Liz Reitzig visited the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Office of Food Protection and Human Health Services last summer, she walked down an entire corridor lined with “Got Milk?” posters. She told me that “it is evident from the decorating scheme, who the DHMH  thinks they represent, and it is not your local family farm!”

Associated Press Reported in 2008 Maryland Dairies in Dire Straits

An advisory panel says Maryland’s ailing dairy industry needs help from state taxpayers. The number of dairy farms in the state has fallen below 600, a decline of more than 40 percent in ten years. The Maryland Dairy Industry Oversight and Advisory Council has proposed a $15 million fund to subsidize dairy farmers.–Associated Press

The AP report went on to say that the proposed funds would be doled out by the Maryland Secretary of Agriculture, as needed.  Wouldn’t it be better to let the free enterprise system reward these farmers for their labors rather than have the Secretary play the dairy tooth fairy?  Why does the taxpayer need to buy milk, plus have their tax dollars set up a welfare system to bail out faltering farms?

Since the Associated Press story, in 2009, dairy prices have tanked, milk processors used to pay $22.00 per hundredweight, now they are paying $11.00 per hundredweight.  Way below what a farmer needs to break even.

We need Big Brother to move out of the way, stop putting crippling regulations in place that interfere with free trade and private contracts between citizens. We need the Agriculture Department and the Farm Bureau to promote and foster growth of farms, not just certain farms that Big Dairy owns and operates.

Small family farms are the incubator farms in our farm economy.  They are the promise of future growth, especially since the “buy local” movement is the trend, and the way consumers are headed. The small farms promote food security and food safety, also, by the traditional farming methods and humane animal husbandry they employ. More and more consumers are seeking to “buy humane” which means the demand for these farm fresh products will continue to spiral upwards.

See the Proposed Bill for Yourself, and the Farm Bureau’s Position

Here is the link to the Maryland Farm Bureau’s “hotline” about the HB 1080 which would restore citizen’s rights to make private boarding contracts with farmers.  Interestingly enough they are incorrect about something. In their description of the cow share bill they incorrectly assert that “This bill allows the unregulated sale of raw (unpasteurized milk) between a farmer and a consumer if the two enter into a contract that gives the consumer an ownership interest in the animal or herd from which raw milk is produced.” The bill does EXEMPT cow-shares from the regulatory statute, but does not call a cow-share a sale. Here is a link to the bill so you can read it yourself

What You Can Do, If You Live in Maryland, or Know Someone Who Does

Because of their position on this, we need Maryland farmers to submit strong written (and verbal) testimony about how the Farm Bureau does not represent them. Consumers can write letters or make calls to their representatives in Annapolis, asking for their support for HB 1080. You may want to detail how you feel your rights are being violated, how you would like to support Maryland farmers, etc.

Please take a moment to create testimony specifically countering what the farm bureau says. It would also be great if some of the members of the Health and Government Operations Committee (specifically Delegate Robert Costa (301) 858-3551) could hear from you about this. Please send this on to any others who might be interested in this.

Maryland Independent Consumers and Farmers Association is SUPPORTING HB1080 to allow farmers to engage in agistment agreements. At this time, they are not supporting the HB 1015 bill mentioned in the Farm Bureau Hotline.  Their focus is to pass HB 1080, because it is aimed at correcting an obvious wrong, and restores respect for contract law, and constitutional rights that have been lost by Maryland citizens.

The mission of the Maryland Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (MICFA) is to promote and preserve unregulated direct farmer to consumer trade that fosters availability of locally grown and home produced food products. MICFA is one of the 18 state affiliates of the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, which works on a national level toward the same end.  Liz Reitzig, President of MICFA can be reached by email Liz at or by phone 301-860-0535.

Important Hearing Tomorrow in Annapolis

The HB 1080 bill goes before the Health and Government Operations committee for a hearing tomorrow, Tuesday March 17, 1:00pm Room 241, Lowe House Office Building, Annapolis.

Related Posts:

Maryland Small Dairies Need Life Support

Mom Makes Raw Milk Headline News in Maryland

Photo Credit: Governor O’Malley by Chipd


  1. Outrageous. Frustrating, shocking and downright Un-Well-ian! I hope you are sending a right fancy certificate to the Governor to hang in his office so he can appreciate the harm he is doing.

    Local Nourishment’s last blog post..Dosing healthy animals=sick humans


  1. […] Farm Bureau in Maryland Decides to Thwart Farmers Efforts […]

  2. […] young mother in Maryland who has led the effort to re-establish access to raw dairy in her state, is doing so because her children can’t tolerated processed milk. They are growing up healthy and […]

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