The Maryland Department of Agriculture is shaking up its approach to Nutrient Management Plans, shifting to a more educating, training, and empowering model.
Last week the Maryland Department of Agriculture announced a shift in its Nutrient Management Plan Writing Program that will focus on a new approach to education, training, and farmer empowerment. The decision to move to this new options-rich model comes as a greater demand for plan writing has increased following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nutrient management plans are intended to help farmers understand how much fertilizer they need to apply to meet crop-yield goals. Maryland law requires all farmers grossing $2,500 a year or more or livestock producers with 8,000 pounds or more of live animal weight to follow nutrient management plans when fertilizing crops and managing animal manure. The plans are designed to prevent fertilizer overapplication, which harms waterways when chemical fertilizers and animal manure containing nitrogen and phosphorus are washed into streams and rivers due to rainfall. Runoff from agricultural fields and urban areas is the primary obstacle to achieving Maryland’s Bay clean-up goals.
Because of their complexity, these plans must be prepared by a certified University of Maryland specialist, certified private consultant, or farmer who is trained and certified by the department to prepare his or her own plan. Driven by input from industry, the nutrient plan writing program will expand Maryland farmers’ access to nutrient management plan writers and plan writing services, helping farmers meet their environmental stewardship needs and grow compliance with statewide regulations.
The new program features a progressive approach that includes the following:
- Access to beneficial cost-share programs that will provide partial funding to all eligible farmers in Maryland to access plan-writing services from industry professionals;
- Opportunities and workshops to help nutrient management advisors become aware of plan writing employment through the private sector;
- Assisting current University of Maryland planners obtain business licenses to write plans privately;
- MDA funded UMD specialists providing expanded nutrient management plan writing workshops across the state for ALL Maryland farmers (underserved, small, medium, and large). Support may also be provided to write nutrient management plans for smaller operations;
- New opportunities for Maryland-based agricultural organizations to build alliances with privatized nutrient management planning services.