Agriculture Department Reaches Agreement With Farm Community on New Phosphorus Regulations

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Maryland Department of Agriculture withdrew proposed emergency regulations that would have required farmers to use a new phosphorus management tool (PMT) when creating or updating their nutrient management plans.  The new PMT would have reduced the ability of farmers to apply chicken and other animal manure on their fields, causing concern among both the farm and poultry communities.  The Department also committed to working with affected stakeholders before reintroducing the regulations.

The September 16th edition of the Maryland Farm Bureau’s  Government Relations Bulletin reports that the Department has agreed to redraft the PMT regulations to address farmer concerns.  The PMT will now be phased-in, giving farmers until January 1, 2015 to adapt to the new fertilizer calculations.  From the bulletin:

The old and new tool come into play during nutrient management planning for farm fields with soil test phosphorous measurements above 150 FIV. Researchers anticipate that the fields on the lower Eastern Shore and in the Piedmont region in central Maryland will be most affected.  These are fields that have primarily been fertilized using local organic material from poultry litter or dairy manure.  …

With the implementation of the new PMT in 2015, many farmers will have to switch their source of fertilizer.  Those using organic fertilizer on high-P fields may have to buy commercial nitrogen.  And hopefully, farmers who have traditionally used commercial fertilizer will consider using poultry litter or dairy manure if they have fields that are not high in P.

In meetings with Farm Bureau and other commodity groups, the Department of Agriculture agreed to provide new resources to help move poultry litter and dairy manure to fields where it can still be used under the new PMT.  MDA also agreed to undertake several educational efforts aimed at both the general public and farmers.  In the campaign to the general public, it is important to emphasize that poultry litter and dairy manure are good, useful fertilizer sources and stockpiling on fields until the spring is an approved and desired conservation practice.

The bulletin indicates that the new regulations will be published in the Maryland Register on October 18, followed by a 30 day public comment period.  The bulletin also lists a series of three public hearings that will hosted by the Department to explain and answer questions regarding the PMT.  For more information about the public briefings, contact the Department’s Nutrient Management Program 410-841-5959.