• Department of Agriculture Proposes New Phosphorous Management Regulations
  • November 7, 2013
  • Law Firm: Gordon Feinblatt LLC - Baltimore Office
  • The Maryland Department of Agriculture (“MDA”) recently proposed new regulations governing how and when farmers can apply chicken manure, which is rich in phosphorous, to their crops.  University of Maryland scientists developed the new Phosphorous Management Tool (“PMT”) to analyze areas where there is high risk of phosphorous getting into nearby waterways and to develop agricultural land management practices that will reduce the movement of phosphorous into sensitive streams and other water bodies.  Although the PMT will only apply to farms where the soil fertility index value is 150 or more, a significant number of farms on the lower Eastern Shore have high phosphorous levels and will meet this criterion.  The PMT will be included in the Maryland Nutrient Management Manual (which is incorporated by reference into the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR)) and will replace the Phosphorous Site Index that is currently used.
      
    The regulations were originally proposed in December 2012 and revised in July 2013, but were withdrawn by MDA after farmers raised concerns about the impact of the new regulations and uncertainty about how they would be implemented.  MDA then met with agricultural and environmental stakeholders to clarify and revise the regulations.  The revised regulations were published in the Maryland Register on October 18, 2013.

    The revised regulations now include a one year phase-in.  During the phase-in, farmers’ nutrient management plans will be developed using both the existing Phosphorous Site Index as well as the new PMT.  Using the new tool before it becomes effective will help farmers understand and plan for the management changes that will be necessary after the PMT is implemented. All nutrient management plans developed after October 1, 2014 will be required to use the new PMT.  After January 1, 2015, all nutrient management plans will follow the PMT, regardless of when the plan was developed.  Although the phase-in will help, farmers have still expressed concerns about the timeline for implementation, costs of compliance, logistics of moving manure quickly, and possible issues with stockpiling.

    Comments on the proposed regulations are being accepted through November 18, 2013.