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Local lawmakers to offer right-to-farm bill

January 28, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County lawmakers agreed Wednesday to seek a bill designed to protect county farmers from nuisance complaints.

Such a state law would give the Washington County Commissioners the power to enact county "right-to-farm" rules, lawmakers said.

The rules would protect both farmers and property owners, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

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Homeowners, especially those who are new to the county, would be notified in writing up front that they might be located near a farming operation.

Any conflicts between residents and farmers would be resolved by a committee.

The eight-member Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly voted unanimously Wednesday to pursue the so-called enabling legislation.

The farm bill was one of several requests the Washington County Commissioners pitched to the delegation Wednesday at a meeting in Annapolis.

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Earlier this month, the Washington County Farm Bureau suggested a right-to-farm bill.

The Farm Bureau has worked on the matter for several years, Farm Bureau President Gerald Ditto said in a telephone interview after the vote.

"This is terrific. This is a positive thing for us and now we can get moving on it," said Vice President Priscilla Harsh.

Farmers say they want to make sure that the large investments made in their operations are safe.

Although few people have complained about farms in Washington County, that could change as more people with no experience with farms move into the county.

Or new federal and state regulations might force farmers to change their operations in a way that would affect their neighbors, farmers say.

Frederick County, Md., adopted a right-to-farm law in 1996 after getting General Assembly approval.

Sen. Donald F. Munson said he's heard concerns about large hog farms in neighboring counties.

Runoff from those farms might be polluting waterways that feed Maryland watersheds, said Munson, R-Washington.

County Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said the county has a separate law that addresses such environmental concerns.

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