A Maryland General Assembly bill that would define what can be labeled as meat died in committee last week.
The bill, which focuses on meat products that contain lab-grown animal tissue or are made from plants or insects, and states that a food is misbranded if it’s labeled as meat but contains or is made from those sources, was given an unfavorable report by the Maryland Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 11.
Sen. Jason Gallion (R-Harford and Cecil), who sponsored the bill, said it was meant to be a truth-in-labeling bill.
“The intention of this legislation is to make it clear the difference between meat and chemical-packed fake meat,” he said on Feb. 6 before the committee.
Gallion added that the bill was not meant to ban any meat substitute or alternative but was supposed to inform people about the ways they differ from traditional meat in nutrition and ingredients.
All 11 members of the committee voted unfavorably, according to the Maryland General Assembly website.
Colby Ferguson, government relations director at the Maryland Farm Bureau, said the committee was concerned about any possible lawsuits that would be brought against the state as a result of the bill.
“I think the bill could be crafted in a significantly different way, maybe more like what the milk labeling bill was last year,” he said.
That bill prohibits the labeling of food products as milk unless they meet the definition of milk, which is defined in the bill. Enactment of the milk bill hinges on 11 of 14 specific states, including Alabama, Florida and Virginia, enacting similar legislation. The deadline for this is Oct. 1, 2029.
In discussion of a milk bill last year, Gallion said it would be impossible to enforce a one-state ban.
Ferguson said that the issue of meat labeling still needs to be addressed on the federal level.
“Not every bill we support passes,” he said of the Maryland Farm Bureau. “There’s opportunity in the future for more discussion on it.”
Other agriculture-related bills are making the way through the Maryland General Assembly.
A bill was filed in both the Maryland House of Delegates and state Senate that would ban the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. Some have argued the pesticide is toxic to young children and women of childbearing age.
This is the third year a bill like this has been introduced. The bill would apply to insecticides with the pesticide in them and seeds that have been treated with it.
The bill states that the Department of Agriculture would be required to provide “integrated pest management” education and assistance to certified crop advisers, farmers and pesticide applicators. Integrated pest management is “an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The bill has not progressed in either chamber since hearings on Feb. 11 and Feb. 12.
A bill that would broaden the scope of Maryland’s egg law has been approved by the Maryland Senate and has moved on to the House of Delegates.
Currently, the law applies to chickens, but under the bill it would apply to all domesticated poultry, including turkeys, pheasants and ducks.
The bill also requires that shell eggs produced by poultry other than domesticated chickens be sold by net quantity instead of weight, defines what makes an egg spoiled and authorizes the secretary of agriculture to conduct tests, examinations, and sampling for compliance purposes.
The House Environment and Transportation Committee has not made a decision about the bill since it was referred to them on Jan. 31.
Yard waste bill
By adding yard waste to the definition of litter in the state’s illegal dumping and litter control law, this bill would make it illegal to dump yard waste outside of designated locations or curbside pickup.
The bill would make illegally disposing of yard waste a misdemeanor and outlines fines that can be applied to offenders as well as actions the court can order the person to take, such as removing the yard waste.
There was a hearing scheduled before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on Jan. 29, but the bill has not progressed since.
Natural filter bill
Sen. Ron Young’s (D-Frederick) bill would expand agricultural practices that are funded by state cost-share programs.
Filed in late January, the bill defines a fixed natural filter practice as planting riparian herbaceous cover, planting riparian forest buffers, planting trees that are on agricultural land or outside a riparian buffer, wetland restoration or pasture management, which can include rotational grazing.
It also adds fixed natural filter practice to the list of practices that can be funded by state cost-share programs and states that those funds cannot be used to fund conservation practices that don’t “address a natural resource concern identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service or result in an improved conservation benefit.”
A hearing has been scheduled before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee on Feb. 25 and a hearing for the corresponding bill before the House Environment and Transportation Committee the same day.
Cover crop bill
Currently, under Maryland’s cover crop program, farmers are paid a stipend to grow cover crops but cannot combine harvest the crops.
Under this bill, aimed at helping grow the craft beverage industry in Maryland, farmers who grow malting barley and rye can harvest it and provide it to the craft beverage industry while still receiving a stipend.
There was a hearing scheduled for the bill before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on Feb. 12 and the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on Feb. 11, but the bill has not moved in either chamber since.