Farm Food Facts

Maryland Department of Ag Signs the Decade of Ag (Part 1)

April 20, 2021 USFRA Episode 105
Farm Food Facts
Maryland Department of Ag Signs the Decade of Ag (Part 1)
Show Notes Transcript

With Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Bartenfelder and Chip Bowling

This is a very important time for our food supply. No one, from farmers and ranchers to supermarket leaders to the consumer can dispute how important agriculture and the universal support of agriculture is. Right now today's episode focuses on the Herculean efforts of two States, Maryland, and California, and the farmers who make those States great through the USFRA's Decade of Ag effort through Earth Day and the public private partnerships, which are all focused on the future of sustainable agriculture.

Phil:

Welcome to farm food facts. I'm your host, Phil Lempert. This is a very important time for our food supply. No one from farmers and ranchers to supermarket leaders to the consumer can dispute how important agriculture and the universal support of agriculture is. Right now today's episode focuses on the Herculean efforts of two States, Maryland, and California, and the farmers who make those States great through the USF RAs decade of ag effort through earth day and the public private partnerships, which are all focused on the future of sustainable agriculture. This is an episode of farm food facts that will open your eyes and empower you. And one, you will probably listen to over and over again, and hopefully share with others. First let's head over to Maryland. Joseph Bartenfelder is Maryland's Secretary of Agriculture since March, 2015. He grew up on a farm and has been a farmer and small businessman since graduating college. His family sells produce at the Baltimore city farmer's market and wholesale raises poultry and grows wheat beans and corn. They've been farming it's original Baltimore County farmstead since 1903. I can think of no one better to serve as secretary of agriculture. He lives it with him, our friend and past chair of the U S farmers and ranchers in action Chip Bowling who needs no introduction, but I still will chip farms on his third generation family farm in Newburg , Maryland growing over 1600 acres of grain crops. I've been on Chip's family farm. And all I can say is, wow. Now, to be honest with you, I keep asking him to let me build a house there and move there, but He insisted I'm going to have to start by feeding those chickens that are at the entrance way to the farm. And I'm not going to do that. Chip is one of our nation's most effective advocate for our industry, whether it's on Capitol Hill or on a stranger farm Chip shares his knowledge and his insights in a way that no other leader can Mr. Secretary chip welcome to Farm Food Facts.

Joe:

Thank you Phil, it's good to be here with you.

Chip:

Thank you .

Phil:

So, and this question to both of you, we often say that this next decade matters most for the sector. You're both clear leaders in action. What does this mean for the state of Maryland? Mr. Secretary? Why don't you go first?

Joe:

Thanks, Phil. And, and you know, when you did , uh, Chip's introduction, even though he didn't need one, your head, you don't want a couple of important facts for Maryland. When a lot of people around the country think about Maryland being such a small state. Uh , they really think about it being such a leader in agriculture. And it , it really is , uh , we're, we're diverse in agriculture from the West all the way through the Eastern shore. And when you talk about national leaders in agriculture, we have two of them right here in our state, in Chip Bowling and Chip Council. And , um, you know, they'd done such an excellent job in bringing Maryland to the forefront and helping the entire country as far as , uh, international trade and where our products go. So , uh , with that being said, the next decade in agriculture , uh, is, is really , uh, important for a safe and affordable food supply. And , and to keep it going. And as we talked a little earlier before the meeting started, I think this past year with the pandemic that we're going through really emphasizes the importance and zeroes in on what sustainable agriculture really is . So , um, pass it over and let Chip weigh in .

Phil:

Before you , before Chip you start, Mr. Secretary isn't agriculture, the number one industry in Maryland?

Joe:

Oh, it absolutely is. And I'm glad you recognize that. I talk about that , uh , work, wherever I go. And I look at people's faces and their income stylish , and , and, you know, if, if you would take agriculture off the shore or out of Southern Maryland , uh, I'm afraid we wouldn't , um, we would look like a deplete, you'd have a depleted economy.

Phil:

So Chip, what is this vision mean for you as a farmer?

Chip:

So, yeah, if I could agree that secretary Bartonfelder, all of his points, he hits spot on , uh , for me as a Maryland farmer and for other Maryland farmers. And it's funny that you mentioned Chips Council because they call us the two chips when we're at the same meeting , uh , promoting agriculture, not just in Maryland, but around the world. And thanks for acknowledging that. Uh , and so Phil , for us here in Maryland, we've been working on decades of ag for decades. Uh , we have had to since 1998 , uh, with the Chesapeake Bay mandate, we're using the nutrient management plan. And every farmer in the state of Maryland has a nutrient magic plants . And we're now using that data and that knowledge to have the consumer and the rest of the Maryland residents understand that Maryland agriculture is helping with water quality. It is helping with air quality, we're using fertilizers and chemicals like they're supposed to be used. And they're finding out that Maryland agriculture was not a detriment to the day . Like they thought it was, we were actually helping clean up the Chesapeake Bay. And so those decades keep rolling, rolling over for us all the time. The next decade of agriculture, you know , quite frankly, is important because of climate change is at the top of the list with everybody's at top of mind for everybody , uh , and with the new administration coming on, they made it at the top of their list to address climate change. And quite frankly, the state of Maryland under secretary Barton , Felder's leadership and Eric governor, we have a climate task force that's been in , uh , upset for a couple of years now, if I'm not mistaken. So we , we understand that climate and soil health and responsibility as a, as a farmer and a land owner is at the top of the list for every Maryland farmer.

Phil:

So Chip, when you look at everything that's going on , um , in Maryland at the state level, those sustainable ag initiatives that you mentioned, which one are you the most excited about?

Chip:

Well, I don't know if excited is the right way because no one wants to , uh, the nutrient management plan quite frankly, has made me a better farmer. Um, it helps me save money on inputs that I don't quite frankly don't need. Um, but most farmers are not excited to do that. Uh, it's mandatory without a plan. We can't farm, we can't buy fertilizer, so no one gets excited over that. But I think that they'll most farmers will agree with me that has made it made us better farmers. It's made us better stewards of the land. And quite frankly, it's , it's saved us money on inputs because we're not putting products out there that we don't need.

Phil:

Uh , Mr. Secretary, how are you and the department helping to empower farmers and ranchers , um , to be true, change agent climate heroes. I mean, everything that that chip has said , um , you know, has been mandated. Here's what you've got to do. Um, I said the word excitement , uh, chip changed that word that, you know, it's not exciting, but it's good, but it's good. So how do you empower these farmers and ranchers that for decades, for generations, such as Chip's family have been doing it one way, and now you're saying, Whoa, hold on. You got to change the way you ,

Joe:

Well, Chip mentioned a nutrient management plan. Uh , we have plan writers on staff , uh , in offices, all across the state to help farmers do their nutrient management plans, but our max office, which is the Maryland agriculture cost share program. Uh, we've got some initiatives going , um , that are coming on board this year. It's really important for agriculture, really important for Maryland farmers. And I'm one of those , um, that will be , um , up and running later this year will be a part of our manure storage buildings on forms that can receive Ultraman war and see chip is shaking his head because it's something that he talked to me about probably five, six years ago when I came on as secretary. And that is in Southern Maryland, they need and are looking for, to be able to use poultry anymore , uh , at spots on the Eastern shore it's not needed. So the transport of that to those farms and they'll be able to store it in the newer storage sheds and on their farms and then need it and apply it at the right time of the year. So that's an important, important step to help farmers. And one of the things, you know, the farmers , uh , are the first stewards of the land also like to look at as they're stewards of the Bay too , because we have many, many farmers you farm on the Eastern shore, but they're also Waterman too . And so they realize much and the products that they get from there as they do from their land. So, so Phil, Phillip , I could add secretary made a couple of good points there. Um, even though that nutrient management plan is mandatory, Maryland department of agriculture partners with farmers, it's , it's not like it's this stringent, you know, top down way of doing things. They look for ways to partner with farmers. Like he managed, he managed the mentioned the poultry litter program. They're looking for ways to help farmers like me get resources like chicken litter , uh, over to me at a, at a cost benefit . So not only do we partner in working with those plans that are mandatory, we're looking for ways to quite frankly, voluntarily do things and to help subsidize the cost of getting me program to farm in a different way.

Phil:

So the word that I'm going to use here is collaboration. The, the , you know, it's not mandate, but collaboration's working together. So to that end chip , when you meet with other farmers, when you meet with supermarket executives, everybody that you meet with , um, tell me what you tell them about the reason to collaborate , um , and endorse the decade of ag.

Chip:

So one of the best stories that I tell, because everywhere I go and do have the opportunity to speak, everybody says, Hey, what's it like to farm in Maryland? I mean, just gotta be crazy. And it's not. It's a , it's a very, quite frankly is quite an ag friendly state. Um, but I use the partnerships that we use with Mel department of agriculture, with the farming community, and quite frankly, the environmental community around the Chesapeake Bay , uh , 15 years ago, we couldn't even be in the same room to have a meeting together. And we weren't working together at all. We found ways to work together. And what we found was when we found that way to collaborate, and we were actually trying to achieve the same goal . There isn't a farmer out of here. There's not trying to be better at what he does , uh , than , than we do. We want to be sustainable. We want to be environmentally friendly. We want to leave it in a better place. And what we found is in most of the environmental environmentalist or trying to do the same thing . So we have found that collaboration and partnership works.

Phil:

So the bottom line is having everybody around the same table, leave your stuff at the door and let's figure out how to fix this

Chip:

Exactly.

Joe:

Phil, if I can add one thing to that, we try to take it past the table. When you talk about the collaboration. And when I say pass the table , um, we, we set up, as soon as I went in his secretary, I realized that some things had changed in the legislature , uh, since I was there. And when I say that, I mean, there were less farmers there. So there was less what I call practical everyday knowledge of what's going on, on the farm by legislators. And so here they were looking at legislation that they really didn't know how it would impact the farmer. So we set up tours all across the state visit working farms. It, Boeing was one of them where we went down and we visited there. And one of the things I heard after that, when I was in to testify on legislation in , in , in their committees was the effect of that had on them picking up the practical knowledge. And when we add these visits, we also brought other people were invited to go along with us , um , uh, Chesapeake Bay commission and, and those folks through the day could see what was going on. And it left a lasting impression on the job that our farmers are doing. Um, and you know, that's something that I'm proud of. And I think that's something all Maryland farmers are proud of. And I know chip both chips have talked about that time and time again.

Phil:

Well, Mr. Secretary, I think that, you know, it it's common sense and brilliant at the same time because , um, I don't care what the industry is, but very often what we do is we have people , uh , deciding things, talking about things and, and they don't have that hands-on experience. Um, there , there's no question about it that if you visit the farm, if you talk to the both ships, you know, if you, if you touch, touch the soil, if you see what's, what's there, you have a much better, clearer understanding of, of what you should be discussing and talking about. It's not just all up here, theoretical. Um, it's down here on , on the ground. Um, so a question to both of you and Mr. Secretary wine , you go first , um, what do we need to do today? Um, that over the next 10 years will affect agriculture?

Joe:

Well , um , what we're doing today, I mean, our cover crops program here in Maryland , uh, is recognized across the board, across the country. Every place I go , uh, it's probably the most effective way to take , uh , excess nutrients out of the school and provide a healthy soul . So , um, we, we need to continue to work with , um, our partners across the board , um , to make sure that we still maintain a vibrant cover crop program for Maryland farmers be able to access. And the other thing is to make , uh , funds available , um, through , um, through the department or through MARBIDCO, which has kind of a financing arm for what I call our next generation of farmers. Uh , the younger people who want to get into farming and, you know, to give them the knowledge and the expertise that the can get in it and provide a future for agriculture, because it's not just a future for agriculture, it's a future for this state . It's a future for this country because, you know, you, you mentioned earlier is the number one industry in Maryland, but, you know, we can supply food for the world. And that's basically what it , you know , when it comes down to of the reason we can supply that chip touched on it earlier is the way the nutrients are apply now. Um, you know , you should be, if you , if you're planting corn , uh, you know , you pod the nutrients upfront and , and now we have all timed applications on when they get it. So that, that corn gets it when it needs, it, it just in a one-time thing, it uses that up and you have multiple applications. So,

Phil:

So it's more of just in time. So Chip , um , over the next nine years or so , um, besides carving out that piece of property from me, what else are you going to do by 2030?

Joe:

We'll get rid of the chickens.

Phil:

No , if I remember correctly, the chickens are Chip's uncles,

Chip:

Right? Good memory, good memory. Every farm has to have some chickens on it. So that's his , that's his project, but for the next nine years, you know, we we've started this decade of ag in 2019. It's at my farm at the Nova meeting. And his secretary mentioned, one of the points is , was investing in the next generations of agriculture, not just how fall on , but the people that fall in the next generation of people that come along , uh, we want to do, we want to restore our environment through agriculture, that regeneration natural resources. We want to actually collectively restore the appreciation for agriculture farm farming here in Maryland. There are way more people that live in this state that don't farm them do. And quite frankly, the secretary has been a very good proponent of promoting Maryland agriculture in a way that quite frankly, we're more popular now as farmers in the state of Maryland that we've ever been. Um, so, you know, we want to make sure that we're doing the right thing, not just for me right now, but for my children and the future generations that are going to farm on this farm. No right here, where we're sitting today.

Phil:

So chip, what does sustainability mean to you and what is it meant for your farm for your family from an economic standpoint?

Chip:

So, you know, for me, you mentioned earlier that on the third generation on this farm where I'm doing this podcast it's morning, but my family has been farming of Southern Maryland since the late 1700's. Um, sustainability, quite frankly, that's a big right there. We've been here for a couple of hundred years doing the same thing, basically within five miles of where I'm sitting now. Uh, I want to make sure that I'm profitable and what I'm doing. And quite frankly, the secretary , uh , is making sure through cost share for me to implement new practices here in the state of Maryland. That helps me stay sustainable. Again, my nutrient management plan is helping me keep my input cost down and only use what I need when I need it. And, you know, I wanna make sure that I'm doing what I can for the environment and for the farm that we're here on now to make sure that my kids and my future generations of grandchildren can farm here if they want to.

Phil:

Well, Chip, Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us on Farm Food Facts today.

Joe:

Thank you Phil, and it's good seeing you Chip.

Chip:

Nice to see you, Mr. Secretary. And if I could Phil, I didn't get a chance, but you know, I'm proud to have our secretary of ag on this podcast with us, and I'm proud that they decided to sign on to the decade of bag for me as a Maryland farmer. Uh , and quite frankly, you know, personally, I've signed on myself and I am really, really happy that the secretary saw the need and the want to do this. And I want to thank you, sir, for that. And everyone at Maryland department of agriculture, that's made this a reality. Thank you, Chip. We want to be the first state in the nation,

Phil:

Gentlemen. Thanks again for joining us today on Farm Food Facts. To our audience, be sure to check out the next episode where we continue this discussion with California, secretary of ag, Karen Ross, and Don Cameron, President of the California state board of food ag. Thanks for joining us today on farm food facts for more on all things, food and agriculture, please visit [email protected] Also be sure to look out for us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers and on Twitter at USF RA until next time.