HAGERSTOWN -- Members of the Maryland Farm Bureau voted yesterday to break with its 83-year history of political neutrality by approving the formation of a political action committee.
"I think the group wanted to change our style when it comes to dealing with the legislature," Farm Bureau President Stephen Weber said after an overwhelming vote in favor of the PAC.
"We have always been completely nonpolitical in the election process," he added. "We have never endorsed candidates in the past."
Bob Jones, a retired University of Maryland Cooperative Extension agent for Carroll County, set the stage for a favorable vote in a speech from the floor, winning applause as he told delegates: "Agriculture has to become an effective minority. We haven't done that yet."
Farmers have expressed concern that the decline of the number of members of the General Assembly with agriculture backgrounds has made it harder to get their viewpoint of farm issues across.
Only three members of the state legislature list agriculture as their profession.
The new PAC -- Maryland Friends of Agriculture Fund -- is scheduled to be operational by late spring. It hopes to raise $50,000 a year to use for political contributions and education programs.
Weber said the amount of money going to a candidate will be less important then the group's endorsement.
The Farm Bureau is the state's largest farm organization.
It represents 14,100 farm families.
Other action taken by delegates at the bureau's annual convention included:
Passage of a resolution to support Maryland's horse industry and its endeavor to gain slot-machine gambling at racetracks.
Rejection of a proposal to have farmers withhold commodities from the market for six months in an attempt to boost farm prices.
Approval of a recommendation that all new regulations on farming be subject to a rigorous cost/benefit analysis.
Support of voluntary nutrient management programs and an appeal to the General Assembly to repeal mandatory provisions of the Water Quality Act of 1998.
Pub Date: 12/09/98