From time-to-time, I have updated you on the progress being made by the Incentives for Agriculture Task Force which I co-chair with my House colleague, Delegate Rudolph Cane (D-Eastern Shore).

I have been very pleased with the attendance of the membership as well as the ideas that have been discussed. The goal of this task force is mainly to alleviate the tax burden on our farmers.

From the beginning, I wanted to make sure that this task force got out of Annapolis and had an official hearing in an agricultural area of the State. On August 28, the task force will do just that by visiting Salisbury University to address a fairly substantial agenda.

I have invited every member of the Maryland General Assembly rural caucus to attend and I encourage and hope they will be able to make this last public hearing of the commission. I also encourage Maryland farmers to attend this open hearing since the work of this task force directly affects them. I certainly would have liked to have had the task force visit every county in the state, but budget constraints prevented that from happening.

However, Salisbury is located in an agricultural rich area, much like Southern Maryland so it is a good place to bring farmers and shareholders who care about this industry together in a less intimidating atmosphere than an Annapolis committee room.

Other attendees will include Deputy Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance and Maryland Farm Bureau President Mike Phipps who both reside in Calvert County and are members of the Incentives Task Force.

One of the first matters we will be taking up is evaluating a letter sent to me on August 6 by Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Roger Richardson asking that the Task Force look into tax-related recommendations including:

• Eliminating part or all of the state estate tax for agricultural enterprises.
• Encourage the elimination of capital gains taxes on the sale of development rights.
• Waive the amusement tax for agri-tourism enterprises.
• Enact state tax credits for preserving land.
• Support reduced capital gains tax rates for land sold to young or new farmers.

All of these recommendations are very important to the agricultural industries and I would like to see all of them implemented. The department plans to discuss several of these items in depth at the meeting.

Taxing young or new farmers, agri-tourism enterprises, and agricultural enterprises turns farmers away from this great and much-needed profession. Farmers provide an invaluable service to our State and we need to encourage the industry to thrive, not falter. In addition to providing fresh local produce, farmers protect us from unwelcome growth.

The agenda for the Salisbury meeting will also include a presentation by Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Pat McMillan, Lynn Hoot with the Maryland Grain Producers Association, Valerie Connelly with the Maryland Farm Bureau, the Honorable William “Bill” Boniface with the Young Farmers Advisory Board and George S. Robinson, Sr., managing partner of Chesapeake Bio-Energy, LLC.

Mr. McMillan will discuss the 2007 Federal Farm Bill and its vast implications to the federal and ultimately state agricultural industry.

I have dealt with Ms. Hoot and Ms. Connelly for many years and both are very knowledgeable in their field and deeply committed to the agricultural industry. I look forward to their presentations.

Mr. Boni