Agriculture and Seafood
Agriculture is one of Maryland’s critical economic engines, with more than 2 million farm acres in production and over $2.2 billion of agricultural products sold in our state. Our seafood industry is also vital to our economy and central to our culture, and Maryland watermen have harvested the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay for generations. Senator Van Hollen is working to ensure that farmers, producers, and watermen across the state have the resources they need to support production, rural development, and conservation efforts. He is also focused on making sure that rural communities from the Eastern Shore to Western Maryland have the federal resources necessary to support the infrastructure, energy, and telecommunications and broadband projects that will help our agricultural economy continue to grow and prosper.
Senator Van Hollen played a key role in crafting critical elements of the 2018 Farm Bill that have helped provide Maryland’s farmers and producers with the tools they need to succeed. Building on a voluntary conservation program Senator Van Hollen originally authored in 2008, the Farm Bill continues to deliver resources to farmers in Maryland and throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed to improve soil health and the health of the Bay. Maryland farmers have been leaders in this effort, and Senator Van Hollen continues to call for other states in the watershed to meet their commitments – including Pennsylvania.
The Farm Bill also equips Historically Black Land-Grant Universities, like the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, with the financial flexibility they need to fully meet their missions. In addition, the 2018 Farm Bill included a provision Senator Van Hollen authored to help veterans and underserved populations get the training and support they need to build successful farming operations.
That legislation made big strides in strengthening Maryland agriculture, but COVID-19 threw new hurdles in front of our state’s farmers, watermen, producers, ranchers, and others. Senator Van Hollen has focused on addressing their unique needs throughout the duration of the pandemic. The food supply chain, from production to consumption, was ravaged by COVID-19 and the economic fallout resulting from it. Many working families couldn’t get food on the table. Meanwhile, Maryland farmers were struggling to tread water.
Senator Van Hollen pushed to address both sides of this equation head-on by bolstering nutrition assistance programs and fresh food delivery to those in need while simultaneously providing financial support to farmers and food processors through a series of coronavirus relief bills including the American Rescue Plan. Crucially, the American Rescue Plan also included essential resources to help close the digital divide and connect more Marylanders to the internet, including in rural communities. Senator Van Hollen followed up that victory by securing funding within the infrastructure modernization law to connect every family with high-speed, affordable broadband. The internet is to the 21st century what electricity was to the 20th century: absolutely essential. With new resources for affordable broadband, Maryland’s agriculture community will have more tools to lead the modern economy and get a financial leg up to remain competitive.
Senator Van Hollen also believes that to strengthen the health of Maryland agriculture, we need to invest in cutting-edge agriculture research. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he has consistently advocated for essential funding to supercharge innovation in agriculture – and much of that innovation is happening right here in our state thanks to world-renowned research institutions like the University of Maryland, College Park and the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Senator Van Hollen will continue to support these institutions, and others, in their efforts to revolutionize agricultural research and science.
Agriculture is a cornerstone of Maryland’s economy, culture, and history, and Senator Van Hollen is committed to delivering for the Marylanders who are pushing our agriculture forward.