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Maryland Farm Bureau Names New Executive Director

DAVIDSONVILLE, Md.- The Maryland Farm Bureau Board of Directors on Thursday announced the appointment of John Torres as the organization’s new executive director, effective mid-July 2019.

John Torres succeeds Valerie Connelly as the executive director of the Maryland Farm Bureau. Ms. Connelly, who has been with Maryland Farm Bureau for more than 25 years will serve as the vice president of government affairs and public relations for Choptank Electric Cooperative.

Torres succeeds Valerie Connelly, who has served as executive director since 2013. Earlier this spring, Connelly made the board aware of a new opportunity she would be taking to serve as vice president of government affairs and public relations for Choptank Electric Cooperative.

Torres has held several key positions within the Farm Bureau family since 2006. He has previously served as an organization director for the Ohio Farm Bureau, before joining the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C. to work as the director of leadership development. Currently, he serves as director of government and industry affairs for the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association in Delaware, Ohio, in which he oversees state and federal government relations; legislative and regulatory affairs; grassroots policy development and the organization’s political action committee.

Torres graduated from Ohio State University in 2005, where he majored in agricultural business and applied economics with a minor in agricultural education. He also holds the Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential from the American Society for Association Executives.

“John has a long history within the Farm Bureau family, both in Ohio and at the national level. We are so very fortunate to have someone with his breadth and depth of knowledge of what our grassroots organization is all about,” said MFB President and chair of the search committee, Chuck Fry. “We are excited to have John join our team, and we know that he will provide strong and innovative leadership as Maryland Farm Bureau moves forward.”

As executive director, Torres will serve as the chief executive of the statewide organization and lead efforts to advance its mission to protect and grow Maryland agriculture and preserve rural life.

Torres grew up on a northwest Ohio grain farm, and will be relocating to Maryland from Columbus, Ohio.

Maryland Farm Bureau is a non-profit membership organization, serving as the united voice of Maryland farm families. The organization is directed and governed by members at the grassroots level. Maryland Farm Bureau has more than 26,000-members that belong to the state’s 23 county Farm Bureaus.

Mental Health Workshops

Mental health is not a common topic of discussion in our industry, but did you know that farmers have one of the highest suicide rates of any job in the U.S.? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that farmers are among the highest risk professions for drug abuse and alcoholism.

The Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts (MASCD) has recently been awarded funding from the Rural Maryland Council (RMC) and The Franklin P. and Arthur W. Perdue Foundation to host workshops around the state focused on bringing awareness to Mental Health in rural areas.

In partnership with University of Maryland Extension, MASCD is hoping to make a change in the industry trends towards suicide, drugs and alcoholism in Maryland. A series of free workshops will be held in March, targeted towards, but not limited to, agricultural lenders, agribusiness professionals, crop consultants, extension agents, farm bureau leaders, nutrient management planners, and soil conservation district employees. Attendees will receive training to detect early warning signs and prevention methods for severe mental stress and substance abuse. Farmers and farm families are also welcomed and encouraged to attend.

The workshops will be held at four locations around the state this coming winter:

  • Chesapeake College on March 5
  • Harford County Public Library in Bel Air library on March 6
  • Frederick Community College on March 7
  • Charles Soil Conservation District on March 8

Register online for free:

MASCD hopes this project will benefit farm families across the state of Maryland. Stay tuned for more details as registration opens in the coming months. For more information, contact Danielle Bauer, 443-262-8491 or

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental stress, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Public Insight Sought on White-tailed Deer Management

Four Public Comment Meetings Scheduled

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comment on the state’s management of white-tailed deer. The input will be used to help revise the state’s deer management plan for the next 15 years, establishing long-term goals, and identifying specific objectives and strategies for achieving them.

Through Feb. 28, the public can provide comments online. The department is also accepting feedback by phone at 410-260-8540; by fax at 410-260-8596; or in writing to: Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Heritage Service, 580 Taylor Avenue, E-1, Annapolis, Maryland, 21401.

“We look forward to hearing from all citizens interested in one of Maryland’s most important wildlife species – the white-tailed deer,” Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Paul Peditto said. “Public input is vital to crafting a well-rounded plan that includes all opinions about deer and how they should be managed.”

A brief summary of the current status of white-tailed deer management will be presented at four public meetings:

Western Region
Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.
Mountain Ridge High School
100 Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick Lane
Frostburg, Maryland 21532

Southern Region
Feb. 12 at 7 p.m.
College of Southern Maryland, La Plata Campus
Room 113, Business and Industry Building
8730 Mitchell Road
La Plata, Maryland 20646

Eastern Region
Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.
Chesapeake College
Room 127, Health Professions and Athletics Center
1000 College Drive
Wye Mills, Maryland 21679

Central Region
Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.
New Town High School
4931 New Town Boulevard
Owings Mills, Maryland 21117

Meetings are weather-dependent, and will be postponed if schools are closed on the scheduled day. Attendees should check the department website for closure and rescheduling information.

Calvert Farm Bureau Welcomes New Board Members

New officers and board members were elected at the December meeting of the Calvert County Farm Bureau Board of Directors. Susie Hance Wells retired as president, as did long time board members and former Calvert County Farm Bureau Presidents Tommy Briscoe and Walt Wells. The board of directors elected a new president, Jason Leavitt of Wilson Dowell Farms in Owings, new vice president, Jamie Tiralla of Monnett Farms in Prince Frederick, and new secretary, Cathy Cosgrove of Horsmon Farms in St. Leonard. Two new board members are Donnie Bowen, of Bowens Farm in Prince Frederick, and Tom Hance, Jr., a legislative affairs specialist in Washington D.C. for various commodity groups.

Calvert County Farm Bureau Wins Silver Bowl Award

The Calvert County Farm Bureau was honored with a Silver Bowl Award at the Maryland Farm Bureau 101st Annual Banquet on Monday, December 5, 2016.

Outgoing president, Susie Hance Wells accepted the award in recognition of the county’s efforts in organizing the Southern Maryland Regional Leadership Workshop. Mrs. Hance Wells was instrumental in organizing and planning the event which included Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s Counties.

More than 50 young farmers attended the event, held at the College of Southern Maryland in Prince Frederick. The day’s agenda included several speakers presenting on leadership and business development topics. The keynote speaker, Randy Dwyer from the American Farm Bureau Federation, presented on how to be effective with legislators.

Ag News: HPAI Virus – Avian Influenza

The following is important news and updates about Avian Influenza from the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

From the Maryland Department of Agriculture:
Background: Avian influenza is a viral disease that can affect bird species throughout the world. The disease can vary from mild to severe, depending on the virus strain involved. The most severe strain is called highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). High path flu is characterized by high, fast moving fatality rates (more than 75%) within infected flocks. Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed many cases of HPAI in both commercial and backyard flocks. There are currently no known or reported cases of High Path Avian Influenza in Maryland. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low. This strain is spread by wild migratory birds but may also have other sources as well. Flock owners are urged to practice enhanced biosecurity to protect their flocks. If you have more than one sick bird or if several have died suddenly, contact MDA Animal Health at: 410-841-5810. 

“This strain of avian influenza could very well bring economic disaster to our largest agricultural sector if we don’t take steps to protect the birds now. We have every reason to believe that HPAI will enter Maryland this fall, and we are making every effort to keep it out of our commercial chicken houses and backyard flocks. I strongly encourage all flock owners and managers to take this disease as seriously as they have ever taken anything and to practice enhanced biosecurity at all times.” — Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder

When HPAI is confirmed, the state works with USDA and other federal partners to execute a response plan. Existing USDA avian influenza response plans follow five basic steps:

  1. Quarantine: Restrict movement of poultry and poultry-moving equipment into and out of the control area;
  2. Eradicate: Humanely euthanize the affected flock(s);
  3. Monitor region: Test wild and domestic birds in a broad area around the quarantine area;
  4. Disinfect: Kill the virus in the affected flock locations; and
  5. Test: Confirm that the poultry farm is AI virus-free. USDA also is working with its partners to actively look and test for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.

Poultry Exhibitions Update: To do everything possible to mitigate the risk of HPAI from infecting Maryland poultry flocks, MDA will prohibit poultry exhibitions at all fairs and show after Aug. 25, 2015. MDA has also issued an order requiring all hatching eggs and poultry entering from out of state to be tested within 10 days or come from certified clean sources. This quarantine order will remain in effect until at least June 30, 2016. Any questions, please call the MDA Animal Health Program at 410-841-5810.

USDA Website: Update on Avian Influenza Findings

From the Maryland Department of Natural Resources

The key is biosecurity at the farm and poultry house level to prevent access by rodents and mammals like raccoons, as well as migratory birds. We have advised DNR wildlife staff to avoid visiting poultry farms on and off duty and to adhere to basic biosecurity requirements.
Information below allows farmers to address the nesting of Canada geese on their farms: 
Resident Canada Goose Depredation Assistance Available to Maryland Landowners
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services are coordinating to offer Maryland property owners and farmers the necessary tools to manage problems caused by Resident Canada geese.

Under the Nest and Egg Depredation Order, private landowners and public land managers may now destroy Resident Canada goose nests and eggs on property under their jurisdiction between March 1 and June 30 if necessary to resolve or prevent injury to people, property, agricultural crops, or other interests. Before any goose nests or eggs may be destroyed, landowners must go on-line to register with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Landowners must register employees or agents that may act on their behalf. Registration is valid for one nesting season and must be renewed each year before nests and eggs may be destroyed. There is no fee for registration. No State permit is required to destroy nests or eggs in Maryland.

The Agricultural Depredation Order allows agricultural producers including landowners, operators, and tenants actively engaged in commercial agriculture to use certain lethal methods to control Resident Canada geese on lands that they personally control and where geese are damaging agricultural crops.

State authorization is required to conduct this control. A federal permit is not required.

Goose nests and eggs may only be destroyed between March 1 and June 30, and geese may only be taken between May 1 and August 31. All management actions must occur on the premises of the depredation area. Geese may not be taken using hunting methods such as decoys and calls.

Agricultural producers can apply for a free State permit, in person or by telephone at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, 1568 Whitehall Road, Annapolis, MD 21409, Tel. 1-877-463-6497.

Past efforts have shown Canada goose depredation control is most effective when a combination of techniques are used in concert: hunting seasons (special early and regular Resident Canada goose seasons and liberal bag limits), nest and egg destruction, non-lethal treatment methods like hazing with propane cannons, pyrotechnics and lethal alternatives.

For additional information about Resident Canada geese and other Maryland waterfowl visit the DNR web site at