Inside the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s effort to cut red tape for farmers

The watermelon and strawberries at the produce stands that dot the roadway along the Eastern Shore’s portion of Route 50 are not the only things there that are red, if you ask Martin Proulx, a newer addition to the state’s government.

Red tape has been holding back the state’s agriculture industry, Proulx, the state’s value-added agricultural specialist who was hired last year, told the Maryland Agricultural Commission during a June 12 meeting at the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Annapolis headquarters.

“We’ve had produce stands off of (Route) 50 on the Eastern Shore selling watermelon and strawberries, (who) want to sell yogurt in a cooler be told, ‘they need to enclose the stand, put cement on the floor, install a septic system, and a hot water heater,’ ” Proulx said. “How many yogurts do you have to sell to make that a feasible opportunity?”

Proulx, whose job was created in 2023 by the Maryland General Assembly to help farmers to increase the monetary value of their raw agricultural products, put it succinctly in his presentation to the multi-dozen member commission on Wednesday.

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