By Sarah Fielder and Mayhah Suri
The Agriculture Law Education Initiative’s November 18 Agriculture and Environmental Law conference in Annapolis, Maryland, brought together experts from the law, agriculture, and environmental fields to foster a dialogue about how these fields can work in tandem to improve lives and protect the environment. The sold-out conference featured a number of topics, including storm and bay water quality, zoning compliances, the food modernization safety act, and nutrient management. One topic at the center of this dialogue was alternative energy on the farm. Sean Jones, a third generation farmer who has successfully integrated the use of solar panels in his dairy farm, was one of the featured speakers on this topic. Jones covered his family’s interest in alternative energy, his experience so far, and how other growers may approach integrating solar energy onto their farms.
“We had been looking for something to hedge our utility costs,” said Jones.
According to Jones, his farm was approached about investing in solar panels and after doing some research they chose to take advantage of the opportunity. “The idea of being green is great, but it was mainly an economics decision,” he said.
Jones and other featured speakers shared experience and expertise with an audience of farmers, lawyers, state and federal government officials, environmental activists, extension agents, and others.
The keynote panel featured Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Bartenfelder, Maryland Secretary of Environment Ben Grumbles, and Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. The Secretaries discussed how the Delmarva region can achieve its water quality protection goals while preserving the agriculture industry. Secretary Grumbles said that while every sector needs a customized approach, agriculture needs to be regulated differently than other sectors to allow the industry to thrive while protecting Bay water quality. Secretary Bartenfelder expanded on that theme, saying that historical successes in Maryland were due to a variety of programs and sectors working cooperatively. Secretary Kee emphasized the importance of having clear regulations and standards that farmers and other groups can understand and work with.
The Agriculture Law Education Initiative will host the next annual conference in November 2017, date to the be announced.