Bay Advocate Questions Why Phosphorus Management Tool Took Decades To Enact

In an April 29 DelmarvaNow op-ed, Chesapeake Bay advocate Tom Horton questioned why it has taken decades to address phosphorus pollution generated by agriculture on Maryland’s Eastern Shore through the recent adoption of phosphorus management tool (PMT) regulations. As he analyzed the actions of various stakeholders on the issue, Horton was critical of almost all of the involved parties:

Why [did PMT regulations take] so long? Several reasons stand out. The culture of agriculture — which includes the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resource, and Maryland’s influential poultry industry — was, and is, primarily protective of farmers.

This might not matter if the Maryland Department of the Environment and the EPA had full and clear jurisdiction over agricultural pollution; but they don’t.

Post-1997, agricultural interests were never interested in gathering and making available the data on what was really happening on farms to control pollution. Accountability, transparency, verification — it was and still is like pulling teeth to get the true picture. …

Environmentalists, too, did not get their act together on the farm manure problem. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation was trying a less confrontational approach to agriculture. Other groups like Food and Water Watch seemed opposed to solutions that would perpetuate large-scale chicken farming. A failed lawsuit by other groups against a chicken farmer muddied any focus on solutions.

Horton also urged for rapid action against similar pollution from other Bay watershed states:

We must learn from the past, and it’s not about blame and hand-wringing. Bigger farm pollution problems than Maryland’s remain upstream in Pennsylvania, and in Virginia and Delaware. Solutions can’t wait for more decades.