Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tractors Against the Bay

Farmers and others upset over state-imposed restrictions on septic-based rural development staged a "tractorcade" Tuesday past the State House in Annapolis.

The protest comes on the day the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee is scheduled to hear a bill, SB391, which would repeal the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012.

The law, introduced by Gov. Martin O'Malley and passed last year over rural lawmakers' objections, restricts large-scale housing development that would rely on septic systems. O'Malley and other supporters say septic limits are needed to curb sprawl development, preserve farmland and reduce nitrogen pollution into the Chesapeake Bay. Officials say a household on septic generates far more pollution than does one on a state-of-the-art sewer system.
Remember, though,  septic tanks only contribute only about 7% of the nitrogen (the main nutrient pollution problem) to the Bay; municipal sewage, storm runoff, agriculture and airborne deposition all contribute more.  It's not insignificant, but it's well on the way.
But farmers complain the law devalues their land and threatens their livelihood, as they borrow funds to farm based on the development value of the property. Some have said the law is pushing them to sell their land to developers now, rather than continue farming, in order to take advantage of a "grandfathering" provision in the legislation, which passed last year as SB236.
Ironic that a Sustainable ... Agricultural Preservation Act is actually leading farmer to consider selling their farms out of agriculture,  isn't it?  Unintended consequences are a bitch aren't they; that is if they're really unintentional.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation issued a statement supporting the septic development restrictions, which reads in part:

“Putting in place protections that encourage growth in areas that will generate less pollution makes common sense and will improve the quality of life for our children and future generations. Those protections are not a “taking,” as some suggest; instead it enhances the value of agricultural lands and will help protect the fabric of rural Maryland.
The farmers don't seem to believe it, though. 

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