On June 24, 2011, The Equiery posted here, on our blog (a news and opinion forum) an editorial submitted by a reader, based on a memo received from the Maryland Farm Bureau, about proposed changes to the nutrient management laws. This op/ed piece started a domino effect, and soon The Equiery blog had a lively comment section, with most horse farm owners expresses some level of alarm, and with certain legislators and other weighing in.
The Equiery has published hundreds of op/eds and articles, but not many engender as much response as did this one. While we have published stories about neglect and cruelty, apparently what really gets the dander up of horse farm owners is when you tell them they are going to have to put in more fencing. Now, not everyone who commented agreed with each other, nor were all commenters equally knowledgeable on the subject, but that merely demonstrates the need for the conversation and ongoing awareness efforts.
The ensuing dialogue (both on and offline) caught the attention of Maryland Secretary of Agriculture, Buddy Hance, who quickly issued a clarifying press release (scroll down). Hats off to our readers for speaking up! A citizenry willing to engage in conversation is critical to a healthy democracy. Don’t stop!
AGRICULTURE SECRETARY CLARIFIES
STATE’S NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT REGULATORY PROCESS
Proposed Changes will be Published in Maryland Register Followed by 45-Day Public Comment Period
Proposed changes to the State’s Nutrient Management Regulations are still being developed and discussed with the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Nutrient Management Advisory Committee and are nowhere near final as some rumors contend,according to Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance.
“The advisory committee has been internally reviewing scientifically based, proposed regulatory changes to the current nutrient management regulations. It appears that committee members reached out to various stakeholders for their comments as well leading some to think we were rushing a public comment period. We apologize for any confusion that resulted as a part of this review process. We have received a significant number of useful comments from various stakeholders that will be considered as we move through the process. We are not doing this in the cloak of darkness and we will provide public notice of the proposed changes and offer a 45-day public comment period when the proposals are complete,” said Secretary Hance.
The Nutrient Management Advisory Committee for the past year has been discussing proposed changes to the State’s Nutrient Management Regulations. A draft of the proposed revisions was sent to the committee for review in May. As a result of its input, a revised draft was distributed on June 16 with a two week comment period for committee members that ended on June 29.
Upon completion of the internal review, the Committee will submit the proposed changes to the Maryland Secretary of Agriculture. Once the secretary approves the proposed changes, he will send them to the Administrative and Executive Legislative Review (AELR) Committee, which will review the proposed regulations. If AELR approves the proposed regulatory changes, they will be published in the Maryland Register for a 45-day public comment period. After the comment period closes, MDA will review any comments. If MDA makes substantive changes as a result of the public comment, the revised regulations will be resubmitted to the AELR and the Maryland Register.
“As science evolves and we learn more about how to better manage farms, it’s appropriate to change policies. Maryland, like all of the Bay states, is dealing with increasingly stringent environmental regulations resulting in Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) and the Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) to address all sectors dealing with non-point source controls,” said Secretary Hance. “This is causing us to look inward to existing regulations. We are mindful that these changes may require new technology and we continue to offer farmers existing cost-share programs to help us meet the goal of a healthier Chesapeake Bay.”
Established in 1998 to develop and refine regulations and requirements for Maryland’s Nutrient Management Program, the 16-member Nutrient Management Advisory Committee includes representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, MDA, University of Maryland, Maryland departments of the Environment and Natural Resources, Maryland Farm Bureau, Delaware-Maryland Agribusiness Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, commercial lawn care companies, the biosolids industry, as well as local governments and the state legislature.
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