Maryland has a long agricultural tradition and we must work to ensure that the industry remains one of the state’s greatest strengths. Our rural communities – and our farmers – are part of what makes this state special. Agriculture is the largest commercial industry in Maryland, and supporting our farming economy in all of its rich diversity will be a central focus of mine as Governor. These communities, and the hardworking families that make them, have helped create the Maryland of today. As denser cities and suburbs continue to grow, we need to give these communities the attention and investment they deserve as part of the Maryland of tomorrow.
Central to this investment will be protecting and growing Maryland’s agricultural industry. We should be proud of the hard work that Maryland farmers, watermen, and entrepreneurs of all stripes do every day. We are leaders in crab harvesting, poultry farming, horse breeding, wine-making, and more. As Governor, I will be an advocate for these and other important industries.
Family farms in particular from all over the state deserve our support. If these small business owners want to put money into their land, Annapolis should be in their corner. Younger Marylanders who want to start their own farms – especially ones who are willing to commit to sustainable agricultural practices– need access to financial and technical support as they get their businesses off the ground.
But our rural communities are far more than just economic engines: they are cornerstones of vibrant historic communities from every corner of Maryland, and, with the right people and policies, they can be the backbone of its future. With the right investments in improved broadband internet access, rural hospitals and telehealth innovations, transportation infrastructure, and treatment for opioid addiction, we can equip every town in this state with the tools necessary to succeed in the new economy.
Many skeptics say we can’t foster growth in our agricultural communities and protect our precious natural resources. I believe that is a false trade-off. We can encourage growth in the agricultural sector without compromising our commitment to protecting the environment. Farmers are our partners in conservation. They have a vested interest in the quality of the soil, water, and air in our state. Environmental laws protect the farmers and businesses that do it the right way. These businesses need protection from competitors who are willing to cut corners to make a profit. In industries that do cause environmental degradation, we will work with and reward innovators who are willing to make the leap to more sustainable practices.
Plenty of renewable energy sources, including wind power, can be put to work on rural land. The Chesapeake Bay is one of our greatest treasures, and we must work cooperatively so that Marylanders for generations to come can enjoy this marvel. Oyster beds in the Chesapeake Bay, which are down to a fraction of their historic population levels, serve as storm surge protectors and natural water filters. When done right, managed harvest of these beds boosts oyster populations while providing livelihoods for their farmers.
We also must make sure our agricultural industries work for everyone involved. Farmworkers are some of the most vulnerable laborers in our economy, and as Governor, I will be their partner. They have the same right to a living wage and a healthy workplace that other workers have, even as they disproportionately face discrimination, sexual harassment, and unsafe work environments. I pledge to make sure that agricultural workers of all backgrounds go to work every day with the peace of mind that comes with knowing their state government is in their corner.
When I am Governor, Maryland’s rural communities will receive the meaningful, holistic attention they deserve. I will bring together leaders in Annapolis, the private sector, and all 24 jurisdictions to make sure that these hallmarks of our heritage have a place in our 21st century economy, and that our agricultural industry remains a source of pride and prosperity for decades to come.