Regulatory Information Center

The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) is responsible for a number of laws and regulations relating to environmental and consumer protection as well as the promotion of agriculture. 

MDA's Regulatory Information Center is designed to provide information to the public about enforcement actions the department takes in response to violations of state laws or regulations. This information includes administrative, civil and criminal enforcement actions. We invite you to learn more about the enforcement process that MDA follows. 

For more than 30 years, MDA has worked to ensure compliance with agricultural laws and regulations and to initiate enforcement action when warranted. Enforcement is one of the tools MDA uses - usually following education, technical and financial assistance if appropriate - to carry out its mission to assure consumer confidence, protect the environment and promote agriculture. Agricultural laws and regulations are established to protect and foster a healthy and sustainable future for agriculture while protecting and preserving the environment.  

MDA's enforcement options may include: fines and penalties; administrative actions, which are heard before the Office of Administrative Hearings; and judicial actions, which are civil or criminal proceedings heard in court. Administrative and civil actions can result in orders and/or penalties. Criminal proceedings can result in fines and/or imprisonment.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

Farmer's Guide to Environmental Permits

Maryland farmers play a key role in preserving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. With 2 million acres of land under cultivation, farming activities can have a direct impact on water quality throughout the state. In Maryland, a system of licenses, permits, and approvals has been developed to minimize negative impacts of agricultural activities on water quality. These state authorizations - required by law for certain agricultural activities - are issued by the Maryland Departments of Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources. A Farmer's Guide to Environmental Permits provides a quick reference to help determine when a permit is needed, how the permitting process works and where to go for help. 
 

Agricultural Nutrient Management Program

The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) regulates activities involving the application of nutrients on farmland and the management of animal waste to help improve the soil and water quality. The agency oversees a licensing and certification program for consultants, and education, training and compliance activities necessary to implement the Water Quality Improvement Act of 1998, also known as the nutrient management law. The law requires MDA to take several actions prior to imposing fines. Read more about MDA's nutrient management program and enforcement activities (see below).
 
Enforcement Actions
In 2013, MDA issued 1,417 warnings to farmers who failed to file their AIRs by the March 1 deadline, followed by 376 notices of pending fines and 153 default notices. By the end of the fiscal year, approximately 98 percent of regulated farmers managing about 1.3 million acres of land had submitted their AIRs. MDA collected $6,750 in fines for late or missing AIRs. During the year, MDA conducted 738 on-farm audits,  representing about 14 percent of regulated farms. Specialists issued 189 warnings to correct major violations and documented minor violations to be corrected. Follow-up visits confirmed that 37 percent of the operators had come into compliance, with the remaining operators progressing through the enforcement process. In FY 2013, MDA collected $1,700 in fines from farmers who failed to take corrective actions in a timely manner. 
 
In 2012, MDA issued 1,586 warnings to farmers who failed to file their AIRs by the March 1 deadline, followed by 451 notices of pending fines and 127 default notices. By the end of the fiscal year, 97.8 percent of regulated farmers managing 1,264,500 acres of land had submitted their AIRs to MDA. During the year, MDA collected $10,700 in fines against 43 farmers for late or missing AIRs. To verify that farmers' nutrient application records and receipts were in line with their nutrient management plans, MDA conducted 647 on-farm audits, representing 12 percent of regulated farms--an increase of nearly 30 percent over FY 2011. Specialists issued 189 warnings to correct major violations; 20 percent of the non-compliant operators corrected problems by the end of the fiscal year. MDA collected $1,100 in fines from six farmers who failed to complete timely corrective actions. 
 
In 2011, MDA issued 1,276 warnings to farmers who failed to file their AIRs by the March 1 deadline, followed by 439 notices of pending fines resulting in $13,250 in fines for nutrient management violations. Ninety-eight percent of Maryland farmers submitted annual implementation reports for the latest reporting period showing that they implemented their plans. To verify that farmers' nutrient application records and receipts were in line with the nutrient management plans, MDA conducted 450 on-farm inspections in 2011, issued 65 warnings to correct major violations and documented and issued timelines for minor violations to be corrected. MDA collected $1,400 in fines against four farmers who failed to take corrective actions in a timely manner.
 
Agricultural Complaints
MDA field specialists and local soil conservation district staff work jointly with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to assess farm management complaints and take action against polluters when necessary. Typically these involve concerns about odors, sediment pollution or manure management and livestock issues. The interagency team works cooperatively with farmers to address resource concerns, while establishing a timeline to correct problems. The Maryland Department of the Environment has legal authority to take action against polluters. 
  • In 2013, 102 agricultural complaints were received concerning agronomic issues, odors, manure, nutrient management and livestock concerns; 95 of these complaints were corrected or closed and seven complaints are pending. Six enforcement actions were initiated during the year.
  • In 2012, 105 agricultural complaints were received concerning agronomic issues, odors, manure, and livestock concerns. Ninety-seven of these complaints were corrected or closed, seven complaints are pending and one enforcement action was initiated. 
  • In 2011, 86 agricultural complaints were received; 80 complaints were corrected or closed, four complaints are pending and two enforcement actions have been initiated.

CONSUMER SERVICES AND ANIMAL HEALTH PROTECTION

Weights and Measures 

Maryland Weights and Measures Section officials inspect and regulate devices used in determining the quantity of commodities as diverse as fuel oil, food products, grain, and precious metals.

 

In FY08, field staff conducted more than 38,000 inspections of commercial weighing and measuring devices, inspected and tested more than 12,800 individual lots of prepackaged commodities (representing approximately 126,000 packages) offered for sale, and investigated more than 700 consumer complaints.

 

In FY07, field staff conducted nearly 50,000 inspections of commercial weighing and measuring devices, inspected and tested nearly 12,000 individual lots of prepackaged commodities (representing approximately 126,000 packages) offered for sale, and investigated more than 500 consumer complaints.

 

For more information or to file a complaint, click here or call 410-841-5790. Click here for enforcement actions.

  
 

Food Quality Assurance Program

The Food Quality Assurance Program consists of four sections that conduct a variety of inspections, audits, registrations and certifications of agricultural commodities and facilities to provide consumers with safe, high quality agricultural food products while maintaining fair trade practices and enhancing product marketability for the agricultural industry. All activities of this program are funded through fees charged to producers, processors and wholesalers. 
 

In addition to the services below, the program also conducts audits of fruit and vegetable producers and handlers through a cooperative agreement with USDA to determine compliance with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP).  

Grading Services: Inspects and certifies the quality, weight, production practices, processing practices and/or labeling of agricultural commodities such as eggs, poultry, meat, grain, fruits and vegetables.
Egg Inspection: Enforces the requirements of the Maryland Egg Law to ensure consumers are purchasing accurately labeled, fresh, high quality and wholesome eggs.
Grain Dealers Law: Administers the enforcement of the Grain Dealers Licensing Law. All persons purchasing grain from a producer are required to obtain a license annually.
Organic Certification: Inspects and reviews organic production and handling operations as a U.S.D.A. accredited certifier.

 

Click here to learn more about processing and selling value added food products in Maryland.

 

Animal Health 

The Animal Health Section is responsible for protecting animal health and consumer confidence in the safety of food products from Maryland. This involves surveillance for "reportable" animal diseases, which can cause significant health problems to animals and negative economic impacts on producers. 

MDA animal health regulatroy responsibilities include: 

  • Livestock Exhibition Inspections
  • Auction Inspections
  • Livestock Dealer Inspections
  • Hatchery Inspections
  • Drug Residue Investigations
  • Disease Investigations
  • CEM Quarantine Station Regulation
  • Accredidation of Veterinarians
 

Field veterinarians and agricultural inspectors enforce regulations related to animal and poultry health including those to prevent and control infectious and contagious diseases.

 

MDA, in conjunction with numerous agencies, is renewing and upgrading enforcement compliance activities to improve and ensure poultry health in the state. These activities impact anyone selling eggs, poultry and game birds. For more information, click here. Click here for enforcement activity.

 

Maryland Horse Industry Board

 

The Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB), originally the State Board of Inspection of Horse Riding Stables, was established in Maryland statute in 1968 to license and inspect stables operating as businesses in the state. Maryland equine stables that operate as boarding, sales, rental, instructional, rescue or training stables are required to have an annual license from the MHIB. Horse racing (Thoroughbred, and Standardbred breeding, training, or lay-up stables) and farms using horses for cultivating the soil or herding livestock are exempt from MHIB licensing. The Maryland General Assembly has given the MHIB criminal and civil penalty authority to enforce the provisions of Maryland State Statute §2-701 through 2-719. Any person who violates any provision of the law managed by the MHIB may have their license suspended or revoked by the Board. Any facility found guilty of violation of any provision of the Statute relating to the MHIB can be found guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction can be subject to a fine not to exceed $250 or imprisonment not to exceed 11 months or both. Operations found operating without a license can face civil penalties and may be fined up to $2,000 for failure to license. The Board may also impound horses to protect those animals from neglect or cruelty.

 

 

 
Maryland Horse Industry Board Activities
  2006 2007 2008
Stable Licenses Issued 463 528 518
Inspections Performed Annually 468 440* 376*
Facilities Inspected and in Compliance 99% 100% 100%
 

 

 

* Inspection numbers were down for FY07 and FY08 due to the loss of an inspector. Midway through FY08 a new inspector was transferred to the board by the MDA.

 

Maryland State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners

 

The State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners regulates the practice of veterinary medicine in Maryland, which includes filing disciplinary actions against veterinarians, registered veterinary technicians, and veterinary hospital owners charged with violating the provisions of the Veterinary Practice Act and its regulations. The board also licenses and registers veterinarians; licenses and inspects veterinary hospitals and humane organizations; registers veterinary technicians; provides disciplinary information to other state veterinary boards and the public; and submits licensure verification to other state licensing boards upon request.

 

In addition to suspending or revoking a veterinarian's license, the Board may impose a civil penalty up to $10,000. The Board also investigates consumer complaints, initiates investigations, and determines whether disciplinary action shall be taken against licensees or registrants.

 

For more information about veterinary licensing and practices, or to file a complaint, click here or call 410-841-5862. Click here for enforcement actions.

 

Pet Food

 

MDA's State Chemist Section also supports pet food recalls by issuing stop sale orders to retailers that carry the pet food, checking store shelves, removing the pet food products from sale if they are found, and urging anyone with the pet food in question to discard it.

 

PLANT INDUSTRIES AND PLANT MANAGEMENT

 

Pesticides

 

The primary function of MDA'sPesticide Regulation Section is to administer Maryland's Pesticide Applicator's Law, enforce federal laws on the sale and use of pesticides to prevent potential adverse effects to human health and the environment, and investigate pesticide accidents/incidents and consumer complaints on pesticide misuse.

 

In 2006, staff performed more than 800 routine business inspections resulting in nearly 200 businesses being cited for violations of the Pesticide Applicator's Law and Regulations. Additionally, during 2006, MDA's Pesticide Section investigated more than 70 pest control complaints and assessed six civil penalties totaling more than $7,000.

 

MDA has the authority to issue several pesticide enforcement actions ranging from a letter of reprimand to a civil penalty of not more than $2,500 for a first violation and not more than $5,000 for each subsequent violation.

 

For more information, or to file a complaint, click here or call MDA's Pesticide Regulation office at 410-841-5710.

 

Click here for enforcement actions.

 

 

 
Pesticide Regulation Section Activities
2006 2007 2008
Pesticide Businesses Licensed 1,374 1,354 1,631
Commercial Pest Control Applicators Certified in One or More Categories 2,852 2,947 3,113
Registered Personnel Employeed by Licensed Businesses and Public Agencies 45,311 47,719 13,981
Public Agency Permits Issued 299 301 321
Public Agency Applicators Certified in One or More Categories 1,000 996 1,054
Private Applicators Certified to Date 3,516 3,494 3,434
Dealer Permits Issued 157 149 141
Number of Businesses Inspected 823 801 975
Number of Businesses with Violations 199 203 363
Pesticide Dealer Inspections 81 78 77
Application Records Review 973 801 975
Consumer Complaints Investigated 74 79 54
Market Place Inspections 33 35 42
Producer Establishment Inspections 20 28 28
 

 

 

Turf and Seed

 

MDA's Turf and Seed Section conducts regulatory and service programs, including seed inspection, testing, certification and quality control services, designed to ensure the continued availability of high quality seed to Maryland's seed consumers. Maryland's seed inspectors visit both retail and wholesale seed dealers throughout the state. Lots found in violation of the Maryland Seed Law are placed under a stop sale order until they are brought into compliance. Corrective action may include relabeling, reconditioning, destruction of the seed lot or its removal from the state. Seed dealers who fail to comply with a stop sale order are subject to civil penalties up to $500.

 

Maryland's Turfgrass Law requires that all turfgrass sod, plugs and sprigs be accurately labeled. Due to the overall high quality of sod produced by Maryland sod growers, staff efforts are usually limited to responding to complaints, which are promptly investigated and resolved. In most cases, the problems are determined to be due to growing conditions rather than the quality or condition of the sod. In these cases, staff makes recommendations to remedy the situation. The Maryland public continues to be able to purchase some of the highest quality sod available anywhere.

 
Field Inspections
2011 2012 2013
Acres in Turf Certification Program 4,446 4,811
5,895
Acres of Crop Seed Inspected 10,878 10,951
13,534
Retail and Wholesale Seed Inspections
Number of Lots Sampled 1,092 995
1,053
Number of Regulatory Seed Tests Conducted 3,140
2,972
2,941
Seed Testing
Purity Service Tests Conducted 2,935 3,140
2,902
Germination Service Tests Conducted 4,020 4,439 4,121
 

State Chemist

 

The State Chemist Section regulates the sale and distribution of pesticides, feeds, pet foods, fertilizers, compost, soil conditioners and agricultural liming materials in order to enhance and promote agricultural production, protect consumers and the environment from unsafe products, ensure the sale of effective products and provide the regulated industry with a competitive marketplace. Regulation is accomplished by product registration, laboratory analysis, inspection, voluntary compliance and enforcement actions such as stop sale orders. The section is totally fee-supported.

 

Inspection: Field inspectors routinely inspect regulated products at retail outlets, distribution centers, warehouses, and formulating facilities. These inspections enable the section to maintain efficient regulatory control that ensures the sale, distribution and use of effective products that are safe for the consumer and environment, when used in accordance with approved label instructions. The inspectors sample a representative cross section of products for chemical analysis and obtain reliable data on the distribution, formulation and sale of these commodities. This enables the section to stop the sale or distribution of ineffective products or those that are harmful to humans, animals or the environment because of unacceptable levels of pesticides, plant nutrients, trace elements and/or toxic materials. In 2006, section inspectors performed approximate 1,412 on-site inspections.

 

Enforcement: Any regulated product determined to be ineffective, misbranded or deleterious to the public, agriculture, or the environment is removed from the market place. Determination for product removal is based on inspection, laboratory analysis of official samples, information received from federal or state regulatory agencies, products offered for sale but not registered for use or distribution in Maryland, and review of labels or other materials submitted by companies to support product registration.

 
Product Registration
2006 2007 2008
Pesticides 11,208 10,721 11,983
Fertilizers 3,383 3,483 3,778
Soil Conditioners 494 555 596
Fertilizer/Pesticide Combinations 550 689 779
Liming Materials 145 162 181
Feeds 12,515 13,209 14,555
TOTAL 28,295 28,819 31,872
Enforcement
Non-Registered Notices 227 757 495
Stop Sale Orders 167 217 195
 

 

 
  
 

Food Safety Activities

 

 Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE): The State Chemist Section continued a feed mill inspection program that began in 1999 to determine if feed mill operations within Maryland comply with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations pertaining to the prevention of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease. Feed mills and /or feed distributors are issued stop sale orders for products determined to be not in compliance with FDA regulations. 

In 2006, MDA's State Chemist Section completed 100 BSE feed inspections in the State of Maryland. All facilities that were inspected during this period were found to be in compliance with the FDA regulations pertaining to BSE.

 

Drugs and Additives in Livestock Feed: In order to help ensure the safe and effective use of drugs in livestock feed, the section has expanded its feed analysis program. Any feed products containing drugs that do not meet the federal requirements relative to use, over-formulation or deficiency are removed from the market place. Removal of violative products not only protects farm livestock but also provides protection to the public against exposure to drug resistant bacteria. In 2006, the section analyzed 169 samples of feed for 10 different drugs and 45 feeds for phytase. All feed samples tested for phytase were in compliance. Distributors and registrants of defective feed products were notified and either stop sale orders or warnings of potential regulatory action were issued to remove unacceptable products from the marketplace. In addition to monitoring animal feed for drugs and phytase, the section randomly samples and screens the ingredients that are used in the production of feed for pesticides and heavy metals.

 

Read more about Processing and Selling Value Added Food Products in Maryland

 

Plant Protection and Weed Management

 

The primary goal of the Plant Protection and Weed Management Section is to conduct regulatory, inspection, and educational programs that protect the health of plants and honey bees in Maryland. Maryland laws and regulations require anyone who advertises, sells, installs or produces nursery stock to be licensed with MDA. For more information call (410) 841-5920.

 

Nursery Inspection: Each year, MDA inspectors visit hundreds of the state's licensed garden centers, chain stores, landscape operations, nurseries and greenhouses to make sure that plant material is free from pests and diseases that could damage the health of the state's nursery stock. By law, and by reciprocal agreements with other states, plant material at each producing nursery is required to be inspected annually for freedom from dangerously injurious plant pests prior to its movement out of Maryland.

 

Apiary Inspections: Apiary inspectors work with beekeepers to help them maintain healthy colonies. Inspectors visit about two-thirds of Maryland's apiaries (sites where bee colonies are kept) each year and examine colonies for diseases and pests. Beekeepers are advised on how to treat problems found.

 

Plant Quarantines: MDA and the federal government can issue quarantines to prevent the sale or movement of a certain type of plant material. The introduction of a new or dangerous regulated disease or pest, such as the emerald ash borer, could devastate the state's industry, backyard landscapes, interstate and international plant trade, and the environment in general.