In February 2005, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich, Jr., asked Secretary of Agriculture Lewis R. Riley to advance Maryland’s agriculture through the development of comprehensive policy recommendations. Secretary Riley delegated the Governor’s request to his advisory board, the Maryland Agricultural Commission, which is comprised of 28 members representing a range of agricultural interests. The Commission appointed an Advisory Committee to guide the strategic planning process, the report, and recommendations for next steps. The Commission contracted with American Farmland Trust (AFT) to facilitate the process and to write the statewide strategic plan.
The Commission, the Advisory Committee and American Farmland Trust organized a public input process that would result in a plan that addressed the needs of the farm community and the larger group of stakeholders invested in the future of Maryland’s agriculture. The process included stakeholder surveys, seven listening sessions, conference calls with experts, and the Governor’s Agricultural Forum; the result of these efforts is this strategic plan.
An assessment of responses from the public input process revealed three overarching issue areas — enhance profitability, ensure an adequate base of well-managed agricultural land, and advance research, education and the advocacy of agriculture. The core of the strategic plan is centered on these three prominent issues, addressing specific goals within each issue area, as well as describing current programs in Maryland that could help further these goals.
Based on this highly collaborative process, the plan concludes with 30 policy recommendations made by the Commission and some initial next steps toward implementation that will ensure the future viability of agriculture in Maryland.