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Senate committee passes agriculture certainty bill

ANNAPOLIS — A Maryland senate committee has approved an agriculture certainty bill that has split support from environmental groups.

The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted 7-4 to pass the bill Wednesday.

Supporters say it will give farmers more certainty about how Chesapeake Bay restoration regulations will affect them. Farmers would be exempted from new regulations for 10 years if they agree to meet bay restoration goals and submit to inspections of their farms. Supporters argue it is a way to engage farmers and collect data on restoration efforts. Opponents note it could shift the burden onto others if more needs to be done to meet bay restoration goals.

The bill is being supported by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, but a number of other environmental groups are opposing the measure.