By Margaret Todd
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A bill going through Maryland’s General Assembly this session, SB 118, would create a model definition for a local jurisdiction to adopt in their land-use laws for “agricultural alcohol production.” The bill was filed by request of the Maryland Department of Agriculture and already passed its third reading in the state Senate with full support. Like when the Maryland General Assembly adopted the model definition for “agritourism” in 2018, this legislation could offer some clarity for on-farm breweries, wineries, and cideries in the State and guide counties and local zoning and permitting agencies dealing with agricultural operations.
The proposed law would define “agricultural alcohol production” as an activity that (1) is carried out by an alcoholic beverages manufacturing license holder; (2) occurs on agricultural land; and (3) is related to the manufacture, packaging, storage, promotion, or sale of alcoholic beverages that use ingredients produced on the agricultural land or any associated agricultural land, and includes the use of an area to provide tastings of alcoholic beverages or accommodate the license holder’s customers.
Maryland farmers often find the need to diversify their businesses, and many are looking toward value-added productions such as breweries, wineries, and distilleries. In the fiscal year 2019, 298 alcoholic beverages manufacturers licenses issued in the State.
Currently, only Carroll, Charles, and Frederick counties have adopted definitions for agricultural alcohol production, while Baltimore and Washington counties are in the process of working to adopt similar language. Without zoning codes that give farm alcohol producers a clear designation that indicates what the county requires of them to make and sell alcohol, along with other agritourism services, operations might be boxed into commercial use designations or must go through a lengthy special exception or variance application process with the local board of zoning.
If SB 118 passes, counties will still need to adopt the definition by ordinance, resolution, or rule and include agricultural alcohol production as a permitted use in certain zones within the jurisdiction.
For more information on opening a farm distillery or brewery, check out ALEI’s Publications Library under Agritourism and the University of Maryland Extension’s Rural Enterprise Development Center. ALEI also created a series of videos on the Maryland farm brewery law and a state-wide CSA survey, available on ALEI’s Vimeo’s page at https://vimeo.com/umaglaw.