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Right-to-farm measure passed

April 09, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County will be able to protect farmers against nuisance complaints under legislation that won final approval on Friday from the Maryland General Assembly.

The right-to-farm bill will allow the Washington County Commissioners to develop regulations to shield farmers from frivolous complaints from neighbors.

The Washington County Farm Bureau had asked the commissioners to adopt the protections in light of anticipated growth.

But first, the county had to receive the state enabling legislation.

Farm Bureau President Gerald Ditto said he was pleased that the legislation was approved.

"We'll be looking forward to working with the planning commission. Our proposal's in their hands," said Ditto, a Clear Spring hog farmer.

If it gets the expected signature of Gov. Parris Glendening, the law goes into effect Oct. 1.

Planning Director Robert Arch said he didn't know when local right-to-farm rules might be adopted by the county.

"We'll sit down and look at what was proposed and how we can incorporate it into our rules and regulations," he said.

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Right-to-farm rules would be designed to protect both homeowners and farmers, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

Under the proposed rules, homeowners would be notified in writing up front that they may be located near a farming operation.

Although few people have been complained about farms in Washington County, that may change as more new people move into the county who have no experience with farms, farmers say.

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

In asking for the law, farmers say they want to make sure that the large investments they have made in their operations are safe.

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

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