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MHC Legislative Blog

House testimony (HB 1338):

Testimony of the Maryland Horse Council on HB 1338 - OPPOSE
March 7, 2018

Summary -
For almost 20 years, the Maryland Horse Council has worked to ensure fair use of shared natural resources during deer hunting season, by seeking to preserve Sundays as the one day of the week when hikers, birdwatchers, dog walkers, trail riders and other outdoor enthusiasts could enjoy the outdoors without concern for adverse interactions with hunters. Initially, we helped defeat a number of statewide Sunday hunting bills, and since then we have opposed numerous county-by-county bills. Two years ago, we proposed a reasonable compromise that would cut off Sunday deer hunting, where allowed, at 10:30am. This compromise has been embraced by some legislators, who have praised the Horse Council for this reasonable approach, and it has now been adopted by Montgomery and Kent Counties. Now, once again, we are facing a statewide bill that would allow all day Sunday hunting on virtually every Sunday in all deer seasons: firearm, muzzleloader and bow. This would open up 19 Sundays to all day Sunday hunting (according to the current season calendar), where many counties currently have none to just a few. That is almost every Sunday for five calendar months.

The horse industry in Maryland is a large, engaged and thriving constituency, and a strong economic engine: 28,000 direct equine related jobs; 16,000 properties occupying over 587,000 acres (10% of Maryland’s total land, and 25% of all agricultural land) The industry represents $1.6 billion in annual economic impact, generating $78 million in annual tax revenue.
Some, including the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), have recently begun to conclude that the deer population in Maryland has stabilized, and additional deer reduction measures are not needed and even contraindicated. DNR’s recently released draft 2018-2020 hunting seasons propose reducing the bag limits (i.e., the number of deer allowed to be taken), implicitly acknowledging that reducing the deer population is not a priority.
Others believe that deer over population is a serious health, public safety and economic problem in Maryland. Sunday hunting is demonstrably not an effective solution to that problem. For example, in all but one of the five Maryland counties that vastly expanded Sunday hunting, the deer harvest has fallen.
Therefore, Sunday hunting is not an effective deer management tool; it is rather a hunter convenience tool. Convenience is surely a benefit, but it is a benefit that should be available to all constituents equitably, not just one small segment. In 2014, the Horse Council conducted a statewide survey on Sunday hunting. 68% of respondents ride on trails on public or private land one or more days a week. And, perhaps most significantly, 85% said they changed their schedules or riding locations to avoid encountering hunters.
A majority of landowners and of the general public oppose Sunday hunting. This position is shared by most outdoor recreation groups other than the deer hunters themselves. This bill directly contravenes that clear public opinion by authorizing DNR to allow all day deer hunting on virtually every Sunday September through January.
More effective deer management tools could be used, including more use of managed hunts (sharpshooters) on private land; increased use of DMPs (crop damage permits), which currently are only about 25% fulfilled; exploration of the possibility of allowing venison harvested under DMPs to be sold.
The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is a membership-based, umbrella trade association of the entire horse industry in Maryland. Our membership includes over 40 breed, interest and discipline associations, plus horse farms and stables, horse-related businesses, and horse owners representing all facets of the Maryland equestrian community, from the owners of race horses to the owners of trail horses or just beloved retired companion horses. The owner of Pimlico, Laurel and Rosecroft racetracks is a member, as are vets, tack stores, and other farms and businesses throughout the state. As such, we represent over 30,000 Marylanders.

The horse industry in Maryland is a large, engaged and thriving constituency, and a strong economic engine. The results of an economic impact survey conducted by the Sage Policy Group, Inc. and released on November 21, 2016, reveal that horse industry spending statewide increased by 19% between 2010 and 2015 in real terms, and by 29% in nominal terms. In addition, the industry directly and indirectly supports 28,000 direct equine related jobs. The industry comprises 16,000 properties occupying over 587,000 acres (10% of Maryland’s total land, and 25% of all agricultural land) and $1.6 billion in annual economic impact, representing $78 million in annual tax revenue.

POSITION
The Horse Council opposes HB 1338.

BACKGROUND
For almost 20 years, the Maryland Horse Council has worked to ensure fair use of shared natural resources during deer hunting season, by seeking to preserve Sundays as the one day of the week when hikers, birdwatchers, dog walkers, trail riders and other outdoor enthusiasts could enjoy the outdoors without concern for adverse interactions with hunters. Almost 20 years ago, we helped defeat a number of statewide Sunday hunting bills. Proponents of Sunday hunting then changed tactics, seeking to introduce Sunday hunting on a county-by-county basis, which we also opposed vigorously. Sometimes they were successful; sometimes not. When they were successful, they succeeded in making an already complicated situation more complicated, making it more difficult for others to plan their outings, and for Natural Resources Police to effectively crack down on poachers and irresponsible hunters, which has caused even more negative encounters between irresponsible hunters and other users. The Maryland Horse Council has proposed reasonable compromises that would still allow fair use of shared natural resources, by cutting off Sunday deer hunting, where allowed, at 10:30 am. This compromise still gives trail riders and others plenty of Sunday access to trails. This compromise has been embraced by some legislators, who have praised the Horse Council for this reasonable approach, and it has now been adopted by Montgomery and Kent Counties. Now, once again, we are facing a statewide bill that would allow all day Sunday hunting on virtually every Sunday in all deer seasons: firearm, muzzleloader and bow, which encompass five calendar months. This bill does nothing to improve the situation for Natural Resources Police and continues to infringe on the fair rights of other users of our shared natural resources in Maryland.
.
The issue of recreational Sunday hunting is certainly a fraught one. According to the public opinion survey conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for the 2009 – 2018 White-Tailed Deer Plan, a majority of landowners and of the general public oppose Sunday hunting. This position is shared by most outdoor recreation groups other than the deer hunters themselves. This bill directly contravenes that clear public opinion by authorizing DNR to allow all day deer hunting on virtually every Sunday September through January (19 Sundays in the immediate past seasons). This would be a tectonic shift for many counties. Currently, six counties have three or fewer Sundays, and three of those have no Sunday hunting at all (Baltimore, Howard and Prince Georges).

The Horse Council has been studying and advocating on Sunday hunting throughout the state for over almost two decades. It is important to make clear that the Horse Council is not opposed to hunting. Many of our members are hunters of deer, other game mammals and game birds. Many Horse Council members are also farmers, and are painfully aware of the enormous crop damage that deer inflict, as well as the problems of vehicle collisions and Lyme disease.
Through our years of studying DNR data, we are unconvinced that recreational hunting is the best solution for deer overpopulation. These data reveal that despite expansion of Sunday hunting in some other jurisdictions, deer harvest numbers are dropping. (And given the widely acknowledged “ghost doe” problem (i.e., some hunters phone in false reports of the number of does harvested, in order to become eligible to shoot a trophy buck), those numbers may actually be artificially inflated.) We have looked at DNR harvest numbers in the five counties that have had a large number of Sunday hunting days added in recent years. In all but one of the counties, the harvest numbers declined substantially after Sundays were added.

It is sometimes argued that the declining numbers of recreational hunters is in part responsible for the declining harvest, but that begs the question of whether relying on recreational hunters is therefore “backing the wrong horse” in the effort to reduce the deer population. Adding Sundays demonstrably does not increase the harvest; it just affords recreational hunters the luxury of choosing which weekend day to devote to hunting, thereby spreading the same number of deer kills over seven days instead of six. So adding Sundays is arguably more a matter of hunter convenience than sound deer management. Convenience is surely a benefit, but it is a benefit that should be available to all constituents equitably, not just one small segment.

Contravening many arguments that Sunday hunting is needed to help control a burgeoning deer population is the fact that the size of the deer herd has been steadily declining from a peak of about 295,000 in 2002 to about 214,000 today Indeed, DNR’s recently released draft 2018-2020 hunting seasons proposes reducing the bag limits (i.e., the number of deer allowed to be taken), implicitly acknowledging that reducing the deer population is not a priority. DNR states there that this change is being proposed “in response to hunter request.”

It is also sometimes argued that recreational hunters need Sundays because they have other things to do on Saturdays - a situation that plainly applies to most of Maryland’s users of outdoor resources, be they hunters, birdwatchers, dog walkers, mountain bikers, off-road vehicle enthusiasts and trail riders. So why should one group get special consideration - especially since, as the numbers clearly show, Sunday hunting does not increase the harvest? Where is the balancing of the public good?  The number of licensed hunters in Maryland, about 100,000, pales in comparison to the state’s overall population of about 6 million. Compare the number of hunters, for example, to the number of people who use Maryland’s park land for hiking and other forms of recreation. In 2014, the Horse Council conducted a statewide survey on Sunday hunting. 68% of respondents ride on trails on public or private land one or more days a week. And, perhaps most significantly, 85% said they changed their schedules or riding locations to avoid encountering hunters.

We of course recognize that private land owners have some right to decide what uses they want to allow on their land. But such rights have never been absolute, as any review of zoning and land use rules can plainly establish. And, as a practical matter the public/private land distinction affords little relief since public and private tracts are often relatively small, non-contiguous, intertwined and rarely well-marked. In our survey, referenced above, 56% of respondents said they ride on trails that cross both public and private land.

ADDITIONAL PROPOSALS
The Horse Council wants to see actions that will be truly effective in, not just give lip service to, solving the deer overpopulation problem. Here are just a few ideas for consideration, especially when considered in light of the goal of actually, effectively, reducing the deer population.

1) The most effective means of reducing the herd is NOT recreational hunting, but managed hunts (sharp shooters). More use could be made of this tool on private lands.

2) Crop damage permits are not being fully utilized, and more needs to be done to increase their use. According to DNR data, in Montgomery County, (as well as statewide), only about 25% of the deer tags issued under crop damage permits are actually being used.

3) The Horse Council (in cooperation with the Maryland Farm Bureau) has actively pursued a “market hunting” bill that would allow (and establish a method for) the commercial sale of venison harvested under crop damage permits. Recreational Sunday hunting proponents and DNR oppose this, saying that it would be TOO effective in reducing the deer population, arguing that the deer population had declined in recent years and that the program would reduce numbers further. This position lays bare the internal incongruity in the logic of those who argue that Sunday hunting is needed because the deer population is too high. In any event, controls could be written into the plan to prevent the population from being too drastically reduced or eliminated, if that is a concern to some. Although there are some federal regulatory hurdles that would have to be overcome, we think this is a proposal that is worth pursuing.
 

CONCLUSION
We urge the Committee to give HB 1338 an unfavorable report.

Senate testimony (SB 817)

Testimony of the Maryland Horse Council on SB 817 - OPPOSE
March 13, 2018

Summary -
For almost 20 years, the Maryland Horse Council has worked to ensure fair use of shared natural resources during deer hunting season, by seeking to preserve Sundays as the one day of the week when hikers, birdwatchers, dog walkers, trail riders and other outdoor enthusiasts could enjoy the outdoors without concern for adverse interactions with hunters. Initially, we helped defeat a number of statewide Sunday hunting bills, and since then we have opposed numerous county-by-county bills. Two years ago, we proposed a reasonable compromise that would cut off Sunday deer hunting, where allowed, at 10:30am. This compromise has now been adopted by Montgomery and Kent Counties and is working well. Now, once again, we are facing a statewide bill that would allow all day Sunday hunting on virtually every Sunday in all deer seasons: firearm, muzzleloader and bow. This would open up 19 Sundays to all day Sunday hunting (according to the current season calendar), where many counties currently have none to just a few. That is almost every Sunday for five calendar months. In addition, SB 817 would grant extraordinary and unprecedented power to The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to allow blanket Sunday hunting of all species in all seasons on both public and private land, thereby stripping direct control from the legislature. The Horse Council opposes SB 817.

The horse industry in Maryland is a large, engaged and thriving constituency, and a strong economic engine: 28,000 direct equine related jobs; 16,000 properties occupying over 587,000 acres (10% of Maryland’s total land, and 25% of all agricultural land) The industry represents $1.6 billion in annual economic impact, generating $78 million in annual tax revenue.
Some, including the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), have recently begun to conclude that the deer population in Maryland has stabilized, and additional deer reduction measures are not needed and even contraindicated. DNR’s recently released draft 2018-2020 hunting seasons propose reducing the bag limits (i.e., the number of deer allowed to be taken), implicitly acknowledging that reducing the deer population is not a priority.
Others believe that deer over population is a serious health, public safety and economic problem in Maryland. Sunday hunting is demonstrably not an effective solution to that problem. For example, in all but one of the five Maryland counties that vastly expanded Sunday hunting, the deer harvest has fallen.
Therefore, Sunday hunting is not an effective deer management tool; it is rather a hunter convenience tool. Convenience is surely a benefit, but it is a benefit that should be available to all constituents equitably, not just one small segment. In 2014, the Horse Council conducted a statewide survey on Sunday hunting. 68% of respondents ride on trails on public or private land one or more days a week. And, perhaps most significantly, 85% said they changed their schedules or riding locations to avoid encountering hunters.
A majority of landowners and of the general public oppose Sunday hunting. This position is shared by most outdoor recreation groups other than the deer hunters themselves. This bill directly contravenes that clear public opinion by giving DNR blanket authority to allow any Sunday hunting, and specifically by authorizing DNR to allow all day deer hunting on virtually every Sunday September through January.
If continued reduction of the deer population is desired, more effective deer management tools could be used, including more use of managed hunts (sharpshooters) on private land; increased use of DMPs (crop damage permits), which currently are only about 25% fulfilled; exploration of the possibility of allowing venison harvested under DMPs to be sold.

The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is a membership-based, umbrella trade association of the entire horse industry in Maryland. Our membership includes over 40 breed, interest and discipline associations, plus horse farms and stables, horse-related businesses, and horse owners representing all facets of the Maryland equestrian community, from the owners of race horses to the owners of trail horses or just beloved retired companion horses. The owner of Pimlico, Laurel and Rosecroft racetracks is a member, as are vets, tack stores, and other farms and businesses throughout the state. As such, we represent over 30,000 Marylanders.

The horse industry in Maryland is a large, engaged and thriving constituency, and a strong economic engine. The results of an economic impact survey conducted by the Sage Policy Group, Inc. and released on November 21, 2016, reveal that horse industry spending statewide increased by 19% between 2010 and 2015 in real terms, and by 29% in nominal terms. In addition, the industry directly and indirectly supports 28,000 equine related jobs. The industry comprises 16,000 properties occupying over 587,000 acres (10% of Maryland’s total land, and 25% of all agricultural land) and $1.6 billion in annual economic impact, representing $78 million in annual tax revenue.

POSITION
The Horse Council opposes SB 817.

BACKGROUND
For almost 20 years, the Maryland Horse Council has worked to ensure fair use of shared natural resources during deer hunting season, by seeking to preserve Sundays as the one day of the week when hikers, birdwatchers, dog walkers, trail riders and other outdoor enthusiasts could enjoy the outdoors without concern for adverse interactions with hunters. Almost 20 years ago, we helped defeat a number of statewide Sunday hunting bills. Proponents of Sunday hunting then changed tactics, seeking to introduce Sunday hunting on a county-by-county basis, which we also opposed vigorously. Sometimes they were successful; sometimes not. When they were successful, they succeeded in making an already complicated situation more complicated, making it more difficult for others to plan their outings, and for Natural Resources Police to effectively crack down on poachers and irresponsible hunters, which has caused even more negative encounters between irresponsible hunters and other users. The Maryland Horse Council has proposed reasonable compromises that would still allow fair use of shared natural resources, by cutting off Sunday deer hunting, where allowed, at 10:30 am. This compromise still gives trail riders and others plenty of Sunday access to trails. This compromise has been embraced by some legislators, who have praised the Horse Council for this reasonable approach, and it has now been adopted by Montgomery and Kent Counties. Now, once again, we are facing a statewide bill that would allow all day Sunday hunting on virtually every Sunday in all deer seasons: firearm, muzzleloader and bow, which encompass five calendar months. This bill does nothing to improve the situation for Natural Resources Police and continues to infringe on the fair rights of other users of our shared natural resources in Maryland. In addition, SB 817 would grant extraordinary and unprecedented power to The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to allow blanket Sunday hunting of all species in all seasons.
.
The issue of recreational Sunday hunting is certainly a fraught one. According to the public opinion survey conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for the 2009 – 2018 White-Tailed Deer Plan, a majority of landowners and of the general public oppose Sunday hunting. This position is shared by most outdoor recreation groups other than the deer hunters themselves. This bill directly contravenes that clear public opinion by authorizing DNR to allow all day deer hunting on virtually every Sunday September through January (19 Sundays in the immediate past seasons). This would be a tectonic shift for many counties. Currently, six counties have three or fewer Sundays, and three of those have no Sunday hunting at all (Baltimore, Howard and Prince Georges).

The Horse Council has been studying and advocating on Sunday hunting throughout the state for over almost two decades. It is important to make clear that the Horse Council is not opposed to hunting. Many of our members are hunters of deer, other game mammals and game birds. Many Horse Council members are also farmers, and are painfully aware of the enormous crop damage that deer inflict, as well as the problems of vehicle collisions and Lyme disease.
Through our years of studying DNR data, we are unconvinced that recreational hunting is the best solution for deer overpopulation. These data reveal that despite expansion of Sunday hunting in some other jurisdictions, deer harvest numbers are dropping. (And given the widely acknowledged “ghost doe” problem (i.e., some hunters phone in false reports of the number of does harvested, in order to become eligible to shoot a trophy buck), those numbers may actually be artificially inflated.) We have looked at DNR harvest numbers in the five counties that have had a large number of Sunday hunting days added in recent years. In all but one of the counties, the harvest numbers declined substantially after Sundays were added.

It is sometimes argued that the declining numbers of recreational hunters is in part responsible for the declining harvest, but that begs the question of whether relying on recreational hunters is therefore “backing the wrong horse” in the effort to reduce the deer population. Adding Sundays demonstrably does not increase the harvest; it just affords recreational hunters the luxury of choosing which weekend day to devote to hunting, thereby spreading the same number of deer kills over seven days instead of six. So adding Sundays is arguably more a matter of hunter convenience than sound deer management. Convenience is surely a benefit, but it is a benefit that should be available to all constituents equitably, not just one small segment.

Contravening many arguments that Sunday hunting is needed to help control a burgeoning deer population is the fact that the size of the deer herd has been steadily declining from a peak of about 295,000 in 2002 to about 214,000 today Indeed, DNR’s recently released draft 2018-2020 hunting seasons proposes reducing the bag limits (i.e., the number of deer allowed to be taken), implicitly acknowledging that reducing the deer population is not a priority. DNR states there that this change is being proposed “in response to hunter request.”

It is also sometimes argued that recreational hunters need Sundays because they have other things to do on Saturdays - a situation that plainly applies to most of Maryland’s users of outdoor resources, be they hunters, birdwatchers, dog walkers, mountain bikers, off-road vehicle enthusiasts and trail riders. So why should one group get special consideration - especially since, as the numbers clearly show, Sunday hunting does not increase the harvest? Where is the balancing of the public good?  The number of licensed hunters in Maryland, fewer than 100,000, pales in comparison to the state’s overall population of about 6 million. Compare the number of hunters, for example, to the number of people who use Maryland’s park land for hiking and other forms of recreation. In 2014, the Horse Council conducted a statewide survey on Sunday hunting. 68% of respondents ride on trails on public or private land one or more days a week. And, perhaps most significantly, 85% said they changed their schedules or riding locations to avoid encountering hunters.

We of course recognize that private land owners have some right to decide what uses they want to allow on their land. But such rights have never been absolute, as any review of zoning and land use rules can plainly establish. And, as a practical matter the public/private land distinction affords little relief since public and private tracts are often relatively small, non-contiguous, intertwined and rarely well-marked. In our survey, referenced above, 56% of respondents said they ride on trails that cross both public and private land.

ADDITIONAL PROPOSALS
To the extent that there is still interest in reducing the deer population, here are a few ideas for consideration.

1) The most effective means of reducing the herd is NOT recreational hunting, but managed hunts (sharp shooters). More use could be made of this tool on private lands.

2) Crop damage permits are not being fully utilized, and more needs to be done to increase their use. According to DNR data, in Montgomery County, (as well as statewide), only about 25% of the deer tags issued under crop damage permits are actually being used.

3) The Horse Council (in cooperation with the Maryland Farm Bureau) has actively pursued a “market hunting” bill that would allow (and establish a method for) the commercial sale of venison harvested under crop damage permits. Recreational Sunday hunting proponents and DNR oppose this, saying that it would be TOO effective in reducing the deer population, arguing that the deer population had declined in recent years and that the program would reduce numbers further. This position lays bare the internal incongruity in the logic of those who have argued that Sunday hunting is needed because the deer population is too high. In any event, controls could be written into the plan to prevent the population from being too drastically reduced or eliminated, if that is a concern to some. Although there are some federal regulatory hurdles that would have to be overcome, we think this is a proposal that is worth pursuing.
 

CONCLUSION
We urge the Committee to give SB 817 an unfavorable report.

 

Published in Legislative

March 12, 2018

House Appropriations Committee
Maryland General Assembly
Annapolis, Maryland
Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Chair

Re: HB-1793 - Creation of a State Debt - Baltimore County - Maryland Equine Education Center- SUPPORT

Dear Chairwoman McIntosh and Members of the Committee:

The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is a membership-based, umbrella trade association of the entire horse industry in Maryland. Our membership includes over 40 breed, interest and discipline associations, plus horse farms and stables, horse-related businesses, and horse owners representing all facets of the Maryland equestrian community, from the owners of race horses to the owners of trail horses or just beloved retired companion horses. As such, we represent over 30,000 Marylanders.

The horse industry and related equestrian pursuits in Maryland are exploding in growth and popularity. A recent Sage Policy Report determined that industry spending increased about 20% between 2010 and 2015. We have a huge population of horse owners and riders. The equestrian segment is the second largest component of our agricultural economy. With an equine heritage dating back to the 17th century, we have more horses per square mile than any state in the Union, representing 35 breeds and 40 disciplines. And we participate! Year round, the entire state hums with shows, clinics, seminars, conferences and events dedicated to and attended by horse lovers. And there is vast potential in the state for growing the industry even more. A 2016-2017 survey by the University of Maryland Institute for Governmental Service and Research (IGSR) found that at least one member in 51.9 percent of Maryland households is interested in horses. The Maryland Equine Education Center will support and complement this vital and growing segment of our economy and community.

Therefore, MHC supports HB-1793 - Creation of a State Debt - Baltimore County - Maryland Equine Education Center, and urges the Committee to give it a favorable report.

Published in Legislative

January 15, 2018

House Ways and Means Committee
Maryland General Assembly
Annapolis, Maryland
Delegate Anne Kaiser, Chair

Re: HB-7 - Income Tax Credit – Venison Donation – Feed the Hungry Organizations - SUPPORT

Dear Chairwoman Kaiser and Members of the Committee:

The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is a membership-based, umbrella trade association of the entire horse industry in Maryland. Our membership includes over 40 breed, interest and discipline associations, plus horse farms and stables, horse-related businesses, and horse owners representing all facets of the Maryland equestrian community, from the owners of race horses to the owners of trail horses or just beloved retired companion horses. As such, we represent over 30,000 Marylanders.

MHC has many members who are hunters. We also have many members who are landowners who suffer crop and landscape damage from deer.

The Maryland Food Bank and Maryland Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry are both excellent programs that do important and worthwhile work on behalf of Maryland’s needy residents. Many hunters already donate harvested deer to these programs. MHC believes that the tax credit proposed in HB 7 will help to incentivize additional participation, by helping to defray expenses of processing the donated meat. We especially support the provisions specifying that the tax credit applies only to antlerless deer, and that the $200 cap on the use of the tax credit will not apply to deer harvested under a Deer Management Permit.

Therefore, MHC supports HB-7 - Income Tax Credit – Venison Donation – Feed the Hungry Organizations, and urges the Committee to give it a favorable report.

Published in Legislative

January 29, 2018

Senate Committee on Budget and Taxation
Maryland General Assembly
Annapolis, Maryland
Senator Edward Kasemeyer, Chair

Re: SB-434 - Creation of a State Debt - Queen Anne's County - Talisman Therapeutic Riding Farm - SUPPORT

Dear Chairman Kasemeyer and Members of the Committee:

The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is a membership-based, umbrella trade association of the entire horse industry in Maryland. Our membership includes over 40 breed, interest and discipline associations, plus horse farms and stables, horse-related businesses, and horse owners representing all facets of the Maryland equestrian community, from the owners of race horses to the owners of trail horses or just beloved retired companion horses. As such, we represent over 30,000 Marylanders.

The Maryland Horse Council strongly supports therapeutic riding programs. Programs such as these fill an important need, and have proven success in rehabilitating children and adults, including recovering injured military, and in providing much needed support to their families. Providing and maintaining safe, well managed facilities for these programs is very much in the public interest of all Marylanders.

Therefore, MHC supports SB-434 - Creation of a State Debt - Queen Anne's County - Talisman Therapeutic Riding Farm, and urges the Committee to give it a favorable report.

Published in Legislative

March 12, 2018

Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee
Maryland General Assembly
Annapolis, Maryland
Senator Joan Carter Conway, Chair

Re: SB 610 - Natural Resources - Forest Conservation Act - Standards and Requirements = SUPPORT

Dear Chairwoman Conway and Members of the Committee:

The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is a membership-based, umbrella trade association of the entire horse industry in Maryland. Our membership includes over 40 breed, interest and discipline associations, plus horse farms and stables, horse-related businesses, and horse owners representing all facets of the Maryland equestrian community, from the owners of race horses to the owners of trail horses or just beloved retired companion horses. As such, we represent over 30,000 Marylanders.

MHC is committed to promoting good environmental stewardship of the land. In 2011, MHC established a Farm Stewardship Committee to assist horse farm owners and managers to reach their land stewardship goals by providing user-friendly information, community support, and access to information on financing and other incentives. The Committee also works to gain recognition for Maryland’s horse farms as excellent stewards of about one-quarter (approx. 587,000 acres) of all agricultural land in the state. Much of that equine-dedicated land is in pasture and forest, both of which help reduce run-off to streams and rivers and provide wildlife habitat. We are dedicated to bringing the voice of the horse community into discussions of laws, regulations and incentive programs for the environment.

As noted above, established forest exceeds only well-managed pasture as a protector of the Bay. In addition, because horseback riders seek to respect agricultural fields, forest lands are our most common venues for riding. SB 610 takes important and vital steps to protect the overall forest cover.

Therefore, MHC supports SB 610 and urges a favorable report.

Published in Legislative

February 5, 2018

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Maryland General Assembly Annapolis, Maryland
Senator Zirkin, Chair

Re: SB 268 - Vehicle Laws - Overtaking and Passing Bicycles, Farm Equipment, Farm Tractors, and Animal-Drawn Vehicles

Dear Chairman Zirkin and Members of the Committee:

The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is a membership-based, umbrella trade association of the entire horse industry in Maryland. Our membership includes over 40 breed, interest and discipline associations, plus horse farms and stables, horse- related businesses, and horse owners representing all facets of the Maryland equestrian community, from the owners of race horses to the owners of trail horses or just beloved retired companion horses. As such, we represent over 30,000 Marylanders.

MHC has some concerns related to the impact on public safety that may occur if SB 268, which would allow vehicles to pass horse trailers, farm equipment, bicyclists, and other slow moving vehicles, is passed and implemented.

A double yellow line means that the State Highway Administration has determined that the road is one where “overtaking and passing or driving on the left . . . would be especially dangerous.” Maryland Code Ann. § 21-307(a) (No-Passing Zones) (emphasis added).1 In many cases, these roads are narrow, rural, roads with no shoulders and short sight distances. Double yellow lines prevent accidents by minimizing the risk of driving into oncoming traffic.

Maryland law preserves the prohibition on crossing double yellow lines even when traffic is impeded by slow-moving objects such as farm equipment or bicycles. (While the general rule is that motor vehicles must leave a clearance of 3 feet when passing a bicycle, that rule does not apply to narrow roads with double yellow lines because the “highway . . . is not wide enough to lawfully pass the bicycle at a distance of at least 3 feet.”) 2

Maryland horse owners drive horse trailers on the rural roads on a daily basis. Horse trailers traveling within posted speed limits carry more forward momentum than the average motor vehicle because of the dynamic weight of the live horses – the more horses, the more momentum. As such, horse trailers cannot brake or accelerate as quickly as a passenger car. If a horse trailer were confronted with oncoming traffic traveling at common passing speeds, the driver of the trailer would have few options other than holding on and hoping for the best.

The risk in such a collision is not just to the drivers. Horses who are thrown forward in a trailer risk serious injury or death to themselves and the driver, and extracting

1 The only exception is if the driver is crossing the double yellow line to make a left turn, which is permitted “only if it is safe to do so.” 21-307(d).

2 Maryland Code Ann. § 21-1209(2)(ii) & (iii)

horses from a wrecked trailer is a difficult, time-consuming operation involving large amounts of first responder resources. In addition, a frightened horse can get loose and create further havoc on the road.

These substantial risks exist even if the horse trailer itself is not the vehicle confronted with oncoming, passing, traffic. For example, if a trailer is traveling behind a bicyclist and a vehicle further back in line attempts to pass both trailer and bicycle, that vehicle could encounter oncoming traffic and cause an accident involving both the horse trailer and the bicyclist. Such a scenario would risk the lives of the horses, the driver of the trailer, the driver of the passing vehicle, the driver of the oncoming vehicle, and the bicyclist. The more slow moving vehicles or bicyclists the vehicle is trying to pass, the higher the risk.

These concerns are not hypothetical. Two horses were killed in a July 2016 wreck in Maryland after a car cut-off the truck pulling the trailer. Last April, a horse died in Caroline County when a Virginia State Trooper collided with the trailer. And in 2015, a man, his dog, and three horses died in Ohio when a passing car swerved abruptly and slowed suddenly in front of the trailer.

A road that the State Highway Administration has determined is “especially dangerous” for passing remains “especially dangerous” even when the object being passed is a slow moving vehicle. Disregarding that determination should not be undertaken lightly.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments.

Published in Legislative

February 28, 2018

House Ways & Means Committee Maryland General Assembly Annapolis, Maryland
Delegate Anne R. Kaiser, Chair

Re: HB 1232 Purse Dedication Account for Retired Racehorses

Dear Chairman Kaiser and Members of the Committee:

The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is a membership-based, umbrella trade association of the entire horse industry in Maryland. Our membership includes over 40 breed, interest and discipline associations, plus horse farms and stables, horse-related businesses, and horse-owners representing all facets of the Maryland equestrian community, from the owners of racehorses to the owners of trail horses or just beloved retired companion horses. As such, we represent over 30,000 Marylanders.

MHC has concerns regarding this bill that would mandate that funding from the horse racing purse account be allocated for Thoroughbred aftercare.

Maryland leads the nation in racehorse aftercare and second careers. The successful national program known as the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) was founded in Maryland. RRP, along with its allies in the racing industry (including the Jockey Club and the racetracks) have created a system that engages the commercial, recreation, and nonprofit sectors of the horse industry to facilitate placement of these horses. RRP and its Thoroughbred Makeover have revitalized America’s pride in and love affair with the Thoroughbred, helping to ensure former race horses have active secondary careers and have a high consumer demand with plentiful options for loving homes.

Furthermore, we, the Maryland Horse Council are in the process of launching the Maryland Equine Transition Service (METS), a first-in-the-nation solution that will offer alternatives to horses of all breeds that might otherwise end up on trucks to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses. METS was recently awarded a $750,000 grant to create this national model. METS was created in part to get the non-racing part of the horse industry caught up with the racing side in caring for its most vulnerable horses.

The Maryland Horse Council does not currently support a state mandate on funding for Thoroughbred aftercare. Mandated funding would simply replace the voluntary funding that racing owners and trainers provide from the purse account today, and create tension in our industry when we have recently made great strides to work together.

Additionally, this bill would require that a quasi-state agency, Maryland Horse Industry Board, manage the fund. This requirement falls outside the mission and mandate of the Maryland Horse Industry Board, which was created by legislation to serve as a commodity board to promote the growth of the horse industry, and would place unnecessary strains on the resources of this agency.

We appreciate the well-meaning intentions behind this bill, but the Maryland Horse Council respectfully opposes HB 1232.

Thank you for your concern about the welfare of our magnificent animals.

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Here are some tax tips for handling farm income, courtesy of the UMD Ag law blog.

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The flag is up and the race is on!
Maryland Horse Council Legislative Update
March 1, 2018

The flag is up, and we are already halfway through the 2018 session of the Maryland General Assembly! So far, over 2,900 bills have left the start box and are now somewhere on course. Most bills will not cross the finish line on April 9th. Most bills are simply “not fit enough” to finish (as in they are just “bad bills,” poorly conceived or executed pieces of legislation, albeit usually well-meaning). Like each of the national teams competing at the Olympics, all are allowed to start, regardless of qualifications. Once having left the start box, each bill must navigate obstacles worthy of any four-star course, from committee to chamber, crossover and back again (for a map of the course, click here http://agrisk.umd.edu/blog/understanding-the-difference-between-a-law-and-a-regulation?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+MarylandAgriculturalLawBlog+%28Maryland+Risk+Management+Blog%29). Presumably, only the best and most fit bills will finish the course on April 9th; if the bills then pass the vet check (i.e. are approved by the Governor), they become law; the medal ceremonies (bill signings) will be held throughout May.

Once again, the dedicated volunteers of the Horse Council's Legislative Committee are monitoring the legislative goings on and taking action, as necessary, on behalf of Maryland horse people. Serving on this year’s committee are
Jane Seigler (immediate past president of the MHC, former board member for Potomac Valley Dressage Foundation, founder and former owner of Reddemeade Stables/Equishare, attorney with focus in federal regulatory matters);
Crystal Brumme Pickett (former MHC secretary, founder and former publisher of The Equiery, treasurer for the Maryland Steeplechase Association, jt MFH for Howard County Iron Bridge Hounds);
Jacqui Cowan (Plantation Walking Horses, Chesapeake Walking Horses & Trail Riders of Today);
Jennifer Webster (association manager for the Maryland Association for Wildlife Conservation);
Kim Egan (attorney specializing in federal regulatory matters and a foxchaser);
Christy Clagett (joint MFH for Marlborough Hunt Club; owner of and trainer for Larking Hill Farm, former board member for the Maryland Horse Breeders Association);
Steuart Pittman (former MHC president, current MHC vice president, founder of the Retired Racehorse Project, owner/manager Dodon Farm, candidate for Anne Arundel County Executive);
Joseph S. Michael (Deputy State’s Attorney for Washington County, serves on Wildlife Advisory Commission for Department of Natural Resources, foxhunter, sportsman and farmer);
Royce Herman (former treasurer for MHC, Tuckahoe Equestrian Center and Mounted Cowboy Shooting);
JoAnne Stone (foxhunter, pleasure rider and retired professional for Maryland General Assembly).

As we have in most sessions of the past decade and a half or so, MHC is responding to proposals to expand Sunday deer hunting with firearms, which was, until the early 2000s, prohibited in Maryland. Since that time, various bills have been introduced to allow Sunday deer hunting with firearms in certain counties, and then to expand it once it was initially allowed in those counties. MHC’s position has been that one weekend day per week should be preserved for other stakeholders (horseback riders, walkers, bikers, birdwatchers, etc.) to have quiet and safe enjoyment of the outdoors.

In recent years, most Sunday hunting bills have been focused on a specific county or counties. This year, a much more sweeping bill (SB 817, cross-filed as HB 1338) was introduced, and the vast majority of counties would see a big increase in full day Sunday hunting in both gun and bow seasons under these bills. In other words, this is the statewide, full day Sunday hunting bill that was defeated more than a decade ago.

The House Bill will be heard on Wed. March 7, and the Senate Bill will be heard on Tuesday, March 13. We need your help to fight these bills. If you can come to Annapolis for the afternoon/evening on either date, you can testify about how these bills will affect you. We will walk you through the process. If you don’t wish to testify, we still need you to come and help us “fill the room.” A strong grassroots presence is always impressive to our elected officials, because it means people care. If you are willing to come to Annapolis on March 7 or March 13, contact Jane Seigler at seigler.jane@gmail.com or 301-774-3756.

But there are more bills of interest to MHC than just Sunday Deer Hunting bills, and to date, we have been active on the following:

HB 222/SB 268 Vehicle Laws: Overtaking and Passing Bicycles, Farm Equipment, Farm Tractors, and Animal-Drawn Vehicles
We have filed comments expressing safety concerns, as these bills would allow drivers to cross a double yellow line to pass slower moving vehicles such as bicycles and farm equipment (including horse trailers).

HB 1037/SB 434 Creation of a State Debt: Talisman Therapeutic Riding Farm
We have filed testimony supporting a bond for the Talisman therapeutic riding center on the Eastern Shore – and we would do that for most bond requests for equestrian programs.

HB 7/SB 182 Income Tax Credit: Venison Donations
Our fellow farmers support this, and we have filed a letter to support them and these bills, which would provide a $50 tax credit to offset expenses for venison donated to the Maryland Food Bank or the Maryland Chapter of Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry.

HB 1232 Race Purses & Funding Retired Racehorses
On Wed. Feb. 28, the horse industry worked impressively together to showcase for the House Ways & Means Committee how Maryland is on the leading edge of aftercare and new careers for Thoroughbred racehorses. MHC, along with a host of other equine groups, submitted comments to point out some problems with this bill that would dedicate 1% of purse funds for aftercare of retired racehorses and sanctuary thoroughbreds. While all the horse groups believe this bill is well meaning, it is problematic and ill conceived and urged the committee give it an unfavorable review.

To find out which other bills MHC is monitoring, pick up the NEW March issue of MHC’s Equiery in a tack or feed store near you, or visit equiery.com and click on the digital issue in the upper right hand corner. (MHC Members will receive complimentary copies of The Equiery in the mail.)

To find more information about, or the current status of, any of these bills, to find out who your legislators are and how to contact them, and for more information on how bills are created and move through the legislative process, go to: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frm1st.aspx?tab=home.

Know of a bill you think we should monitor? Let us know! admin@mdhorsecouncil.org

For more information about how to make your voice heard effectively in Annapolis, check out MHC “Grassroots Lobbying Brochure:” http://www.mdhorsecouncil.org/images/grassrootslobbyingflyer2.pdf

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