At their November 12th meeting, the Maryland Farm Bureau Board of Directors discussed the pending Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulations. They concluded that farmers should not be asked to do more at a time when they are exceeding the ag sector’s cleanup goal for the TMDL Watershed Implementation Plan. They encouraged all Farm Bureau members to send comments before the November 18th deadline.
MFB strongly believes that it makes no sense to impose this burden on farmers when — at 130% — farmers are the only sector to reach their Bay cleanup goals in the most recent analysis. MFB thus understandably concludes that Maryland farmers are doing more than their fair share to clean up the Bay.
The Clean Water Act, under which the TMDL WIP and state proposed pollution restrictions are imposed, intended to protect Agricultural businesses from unreasonable economic harm in any effort to achieve clean water status. This intent is evidenced by the agricultural stormwater exemption in the Act. While the PMT is not related to the stormwater exemption, it is an example of unreasonable economic harm that will arise if implemented as proposed.
Other state agencies have backed off when proposed water quality regulations are expected to have an unreasonable economic impact on businesses. The most recent example is the Accounting for Growth negotiation at the Maryland Department of the Environment. MFB notes that when the development community balked at paying $30,000 per credit to offset Phosphorus in new development, the agency agreed that they would only have to address Nitrogen, and thus reasons that the farm community should receive the same consideration.
MFB is also concerned that replacing organic slow-release fertilizer with water-soluble chemical Nitrogen will have a much greater impact on the Bay. Chesapeake Bay Foundation indicated a similar concern in their October 2013 Pennsylvania Fact Sheet entitled, “Manure: Not the Leading Cause of Nitrogen Pollution to the Chesapeake Bay,” in which it was emphasized that “in the case of nitrogen pollution, manure is not the leading source; rather, chemical fertilizers applied onto agricultural lands are the leading source of nitrogen pollution…” MFB notes that no study has been conducted to analyze the potential impact of switching from organic to chemical fertilizer, it is possible that the effort to address a perceived Phosphorous problem on farms will cause a new Nitrogen concern.
MFB notes that this is a “perceived Phosphorus” problem primarily because the Chesapeake Bay Model does not currently give credit for most of the phosphorus control measures we have already taken on Maryland farms. MFB notes that it is possible that once the model is corrected and the new numbers are run, Maryland farmers will have already met their Phosphorus reduction goals, without the need to implement the onerous PMT.
MFB is requesting a withdrawal of this proposed regulation. MFB claims that the science is not ready and that the cost-benefit analysis has not been conducted. Furthermore, the fact that famers are already meeting their obligation by 130%, MFB strongly rejects the argument that they need to do more, noting that “if, after all the problems with the Bay Model are fixed and a true and accurate assessment shows there is still an agricultural phosphorous issue, we will work cooperatively with the state to address it in a way that does not threaten to destroy the business model of the largest economic sector on the Eastern Shore.”
Click here to view the proposal, along with the Extension Bulletin to be incorporated by reference in the Maryland Nutrient Management Manual.
Click hereto view Maryland Farm Bureau’s analysis of the proposed regulation from August.
Comments may be sent to:Earl F. Hance, Secretary Maryland Department of Agriculture 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway Annapolis, Maryland 21401 or emailed to Earl.Hance@maryland.gov or faxed to 410-841-5914
Comments will be accepted through November 18, 2013. A public hearing has been scheduled for November 20th at 2pm in Annapolis.