News from the fields, farms and beyond…

Mill Creek Lumber/Polo Pallet Manufacturing, an Elkton company, worked with researchers from Virginia Technical Institute on a way to protect wood for export without using chemicals.

The method being tested with support from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the US Department of Agriculture uses steam and vacuum to remove fungi and parasites.

Zhangjing Chen, lead researcher at VTI said the steam and vacuum method is faster — taking hours instead of days — and does not use a fumigant called methyl bromide. The chemical is already banned for most uses in the United States and European Union except for certain forest products.

Use of methyl bromide makes American forest products unwelcome in the export market so the success of the VTI research is vital.

“A recently drafted Economic Adjustment Strategy identified development of this technology as a critical component of retaining and growing Maryland’s forest-based industries,” said Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources. “We were pleased to support this initiative recognizing steam vacuum treatment as an environmentally-friendly method to get Maryland products to the market, potentially through our own ports.”

Don Beazley, owner of Mill Creek Lumber on East Old Philadelphia Road, said he was contacted by Maryland Department of the Environment about using his business for a test run.

“They said they were treating logs for export out of the country,” Beazley said.

Upper Shore Regional Council provided grant funding for the project that would become the first test shipment out of the US to the Czech Republic.

“This is a test for the industry to prove that treatment of logs with vacuum and steam will work,” said Ron Mack, commodity treatment specialist with USDA.

Methyl bromide treatment takes days and soaks a log completely. However Zhangjing said that’s not necessary since the organisms of concern live in the outer 2-3 inches of the logs. The steam/vacuum takes three hours.

Once the testing is complete in Europe it would re-open exports, increase business at the Port of Baltimore and open markets to forest industry in the US for wood products here, which are used in veneers in Europe.

“The science behind the process has taken years to develop, but the system itself is simple to use,” Beazley said. “Its adaptability to different wood products, including the pallets we produce, can bring about new export opportunities to Maryland’s small businesses.”

Once the testing is completed and the result published in 2022 those doors will open.

“This is a key moment for international commerce in Maryland,” said Kelly M. Schulz, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce. “This innovative technology process will reestablish Maryland and the Port of Baltimore as a destination for veneer log exports, which is a billion-dollar industry in the United States.”

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President Biden’s “Build Back Better Act” will hurt rural America according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, making its displeasure known in a letter to the US House of Representatives.

AFBF President Zippy Duvall said the spending package will do more harm than good.

“While some elements of the reconciliation package would benefit agriculture, the massive amount of spending and tax increases required to pay for the plan outweigh the gains we would see in rural America,” the letter, signed by Duvall, reads. “We appreciate House efforts to protect farmers and ranchers by leaving key tax provisions untouched. Thousands of small businesses, however, would still be affected by tax increases, forcing them to pass increased costs to families across the nation.”

In the letter dated Nov. 16, Duvall said the federation “stands in opposition to the legislation.”

“The economy is still recovering from the pandemic, supply chains are stressed, and inflation is putting pressure on America’s pocketbooks. Now is not the time to put an additional burden on families struggling to make ends meet. We urge lawmakers to find common ground and work in a bipartisan manner to address the challenges facing our nation.”

You can read the full letter at https://tinyurl.com/yxybcv7u

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Courtney Schrader from Earleville was among the recipients of scholarship money from the Maryland State Fair.

Schrader, now a student at Salisbury University, was one of four recipients of the F. Grove Miller Scholarship. Miller, also a Cecil County resident, served on the fair’s board of directors for many years.

To win the $2,000 award Schrader, Kylan Keehan from Bel Air, Md., Allison Stoner of Taneytown, Md., and Lynne Thomas of Fallston, Md. had to write an essay and make a video explaining how each benefitted from participating in the Maryland State Fair and how winning the scholarship would help with their ag-focused career goals.

Dylan Hill of Kennedyville, Md. won the 2021 Marlin K. Hoff Scholarship.

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Simply put: ‘Buy Local.’ That’s the advice from Maureen Fitzgerald, Agriculture Coordinator for the Cecil County Office of Economic Development.

Shipping port congestion and truck driver shortages are impacting every segment of business including agriculture, Fitzgerald said.

“Unfortunately, our farmers are seeing an increase in the cost of inputs, raising the cost of production. This increase in costs is felt pretty much across all sectors of ag,” Fitzgerald said. “On the flip side of this, we are also still seeing an increased demand for local foods. As grocery stores remain empty and supply lines bottlenecked, local consumers are finding comfort and value in our direct-to-consumer farms across the county.”

Consumers can buy local meats and seasonal vegetables, fruits and products all over Cecil County right from the farm or in local stores who carry these products.

There’s an interactive map available at cecilgrown.com showing you where to find fresh, local meats, fruit, vegetables and other locally grown or produced products.

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Hardening the Food and Agriculture Supply Chain Against Threats is the focus of a Dec. 5 Cyber Ag Symposium being hosted by the Maryland Farm Bureau.

This Cyber Sunday event will begin at 11 a.m. and is offered free of charge ahead of the 2021 Maryland Farm Bureau Conference.

During the symposium topics to be discussed include recognizing threats, protecting against them, avoiding threats and responding to those threats to the farm community.

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Hopkins Farm Brewery on Rider Lane in Havre de Grace is taking Small Business Saturday a step further and declaring Nov. 26 through Nov. 28 Small Business Weekend.

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Small Brewery Sunday will be marked with specials on gift card purchases. On Sunday Aaron Hopkins will offer tours on the brewery as well.

Mark your calendar for Dec. 11 and be at Hopkins Farm Brewery to have Beers with Santa.

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Blue Elk Vineyard is offering a Christmas Cookie Decorating Class Dec. 3 from 6 until 8 p.m. at the business located at 88 Rivers Edge Road in North East. The class size is limited. Tickets are $40 per person and includes all materials.

Go to blueelkvineyard.com for more information or to get tickets.

If you have a farm or natural resources related event, idea or story you’d like to share in AgriCulture contact Jane Bellmyer at jbellmyer@cecilwhig.com or 443-245-5007

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