As previously reported by Conduit Street, new regulations from the Maryland Department of Agriculture that would restrict when farmers can apply phosphorus-containing chicken manure and sewage sludge to their fields continues to generate concern among the agricultural community. The regulations create a new phosphorus management tool (PMT) which will limit manure applications to soils that already contain excessive nutrients. An October 23 Easton Star Democrat article reports the ongoing concern of poultry farmers:
Chicken litter is valued by many crop farmers in Delaware and along Maryland’s Eastern Shore for its use as a nutrient-filled fertilizer, and poultry growers in the area often have excess litter from their chickens. [Delaware farmer Ray] Ellis took advantage of that supply and demand and turned it into a business, taking excess chicken litter from growers and selling it to local crop farmers.
But now, he fears that business could fall apart as Maryland prepares to implement new regulations on phosphorus in the soil. …“I’m concerned about my business,” Ellis said. “I’m concerned about the Eastern Shore.”
From the state’s perspective, the new phosphorus regulations are necessary to limit and better determine the amount of phosphorus entering the Chesapeake Bay. Soil tests bear that out, as a 2010 study from the Environmental Working Group showed that in places like Somerset and Worcester counties along the Lower Shore, over 75 percent of the soil tested was found to have excessive phosphorus levels, meaning it had more phosphorus than what’s needed for crop farming.
The article also notes that if farmers are prohibited from using chicken manure, they would have to consider switching to chemical fertilizers, which have the benefit of containing specified amounts of phosphorus but the drawback of added cost. The regulations could also spur increased interest in efforts to convert chicken waste to energy.