OPINION: A Good Year For The Environment, Agriculture - Southern Maryland Headline News

OPINION: A Good Year For The Environment, Agriculture

By Maryland Senator Roy Dyson

I receive a lot of correspondence during every General Assembly Session regarding issues of importance to constituents I am proud to serve. This year, the major constituent issues I heard a lot about were concerns about environmental protection and agricultural preservation.

I am pleased to say that a lot of these key initiatives passed and have been signed into law. Several of these bills were either sponsored or co-sponsored by me.

Many concerns were raised about was the decline of yellow perch in Maryland. This is why I introduced Senate Bill 702 which was successful and signed into law. This legislation requires the Department of Natural Resources to adopt regulations to provide a management strategy for this species that enables them to migrate to historical spawning rivers and streams before spawning. It equitability allocates harvests of yellow perch between recreational and commercial harvesters as well.

Just this week, I was in Annapolis to see Senate Bill 532 signed into law. I have written about this issue briefly before, but since I have received so many letters, e-mails and phone calls of support and concern the bill would not pass, I believe it is important to revisit the issue. This bill prohibits a person from taking or possessing our precious diamondback terrapin for commercial purposes. The over harvesting of the diamondback terrapin – the mascot of the University of Maryland – threatened their very existence. This law, which goes into effect on July 1, will go along way toward preventing the taking of these valuable natural resources.

The diamondback terrapin produces about 40 eggs per year and do not reach maturity until at least eight years of age. Survival rates during the first are estimated to be as low as 20 percent. Because their reproductive rates are so low, females must reproduce for many years for the population to grow or remain stable.

Diamondback terrapins weren’t the only turtles to be protected. House Bill 1223, which passed, expands DNR’s authority allowing it to adopt rules and regulations to restrict, permit or prohibit catching, possessing, purchasing, transporting or exporting snapping turtles.

Cancer rates in Southern Maryland are some of the highest in the State. This is the reason why I agreed to vote for Senate Bill 103, better known as the “clean cars” legislation. This bill, which was signed this week, mandates lower vehicle emissions in cars as well as reviewing State energy policies and considering proposals and strategies to develop alternative fuels and efficiency measures to improve the State’s air quality.

Bills to mandate certain types of electronic recycling, oil pollution and oil tank management also passed.

Senate Bill 784 addresses a serious problem affecting the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. This successful legislation requires the Maryland Department of the Environment to establish regulatory requirements to enforce stronger storm water management. This is an especially important issue in Southern Maryland. As development encroaches upon us, polluted storm water washes into our rivers and streams and further erodes these important waterways and ultimately the Bay.

On the agricultural front, a key bill pushed by the farming industry passed. This legislation allows an individual who owns or operates a farm regulated by the Maryland Department of Agriculture to be employed by the department provided the farmer does not exercise any regulatory or supervisory authority with respect to the farm activities of their own property.

Another bill that passed unanimously in both houses is HB 621 which exempts counties from charging admissions and amusement tax gross receipts for activities related to agricultural tourism.

In an effort to keep our agriculture industry thriving, we passed Senate Bill 64 which permanently establishes the Young Farmers Advisory Board. This bill was established three years ago, but had a sunset provision. Senate Bill 64 removes that provision and allows this important board to communicate the importance of young and beginning farmers to agriculture in the State and identify and address issues relating to young and beginning farmers. This Advisory Board then makes recommendations to the Maryland Agricultural Commission.

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