Agriculture Commission Works With MACo & Counties on Agritourism, Other Farming Issues

Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Earl “Buddy” Hance thanked MACo representatives and the counties for working with the Governor’s Intergovernmental Commission on Agriculture (GICA) on agritourism and other agricultural issues at GICA’s October 23rd meeting.  Through MACo, Secretary Hance and other Department employees have been meeting with county planners and health officers to discuss  agritourism, food permitting, and zoning issues.

GICA was formed in 2006 and is composed of representatives from State agencies, local governments, and the agricultural sector.  GICA works to identify and address issues important to the agricultural industry, coordinate State, local, and private sector efforts to promote agricultural businesses.  Currently, Carroll County Commissioner Robin Frazier and Kent County Planner Amy Moredock are MACo’s two representatives on GICA.  MACo Legal and Policy Director Les Knapp also attends GICA meetings.

At its October 23rd meeting, GICA considered: (1) a model definition of agritourism that could be used by the counties; (2) a model checklist to help potential agritourism operators navigate state and local requirements; and (3) a short list of recommendations, such as asking counties without Agricultural Marketing Professionals (AMPs) to designate an “ombudsman” for agritourism purposes.  GICA will likely adopt some version of the definition, checklist, and recommendations in the next several weeks.

GICA also heard presentations on: (1)  State and local permitting and zoning issues related to farms providing housing for federal H2A temporary foreign agricultural workers; (2) the Agritourism Signage Program; and (3) the Department of Business and Economic Development’s Office of Tourism. County sampling licenses for farmers were also discussed.

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