No Extension for Phosphorus Management Deadline

The Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Phosphorus Management Tool Advisory Committee has decided not to grant a one year extension to the deadline for compliance with restrictions on the use of poultry litter on fields. The deadline remains July 1, 2022. 

Adopted in 2015, the Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) requires Maryland farmers with fields that have high levels of phosphorus to limit the spreading of certain fertilizers, poultry and other types of animal manure, and sewage sludge. Excess phosphorus can contribute to water pollution through runoff, and is much more likely to occur in fields where poultry litter or manure are used to provide the needed nitrogen for crop growth. Maryland’s Department of Agriculture (MDA) estimates that roughly 20 percent of farmland in the State has high enough levels of phosphorus to require use of the PMT.

Concern over how to best deal with the excess manure has led to debate, and some stakeholders have reservations regarding the timeline for PMT compliance.

From coverage by DelmarvaNow:

In a presentation to the committee in November, Memo Diriker of Salisbury University said the state simply isn’t equipped to move forward in 2022. Diriker suggested the state might need to spend about $10 million over three years to ensure there are enough trucks to transport the manure, as well as enough places to store and spread it safely. The state could also provide some financial help for farmers who, unable to spread manure, would have to buy more expensive commercial fertilizer to get the nitrogen their crops still need, he said.

Making sure that farmers don’t go out of business as a result of these mandates is a key goal, said Colby Ferguson, government relations director for the Maryland Farm Bureau.

Ferguson said that while the Farm Bureau supports moving forward now, they reserve the right to request a one-year delay next year if questions still aren’t answered about impact, particularly for vulnerable farmers on the lower Eastern Shore.

Other groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and the Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI) feel the schedule for compliance should not be altered.

“The connections between the excessive spreading of chicken manure on fields and Chesapeake Bay pollution are clear,” said Alison Prost, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Maryland director, in a statement. “Maryland officials know this and it’s the reason they developed the phosphorus management tool to clean up Eastern Shore waterways. The tool has been working and that’s why Secretary Bartenfelder should move forward with the committee’s recommendation and implement it on schedule.”

“DPI’s board of directors had voted to take the position of seeking no delay,” said DPI spokesman James Fisher. “From our point of view, what’s really important now is all the stakeholders involved coming up with a realistic action plan that will allow farmers to proceed and work as they need to work while meeting the implementation targets of the PMT.”

For more information on the Phosphorus Management Tool, visit the Department of Agriculture’s page.