Proposed changes to nutrient management laws are onerous to horse farm owners

By Pam Saul

Below you will find the list of changes to the Nutrient Management Plan, which have been proposed by the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Deadline for commenting on the proposed changes is Wednesday, June 29, 2011.

Every horse owner needs to know about proposed change #3, which requires that all livestock (including horses) must be fenced out of all continual and intermittent streams. What this means is that if you have a dry creek that runs through the middle of a paddock, then horses are not allowed access to it and you must fence it off.

This is a serious change and one that will certainly have drastic changes to a majority of the horse farms in this area.  I hope that all horse farm owners will take a hard look at these proposed changes and send their comments into MDA by June 29, 2011.

From the June 24, 2011 Maryland Farm Bureau’s Government Relations Bulletin

Maryland Department of Ag Proposes Changes to Nutrient Management Program

MDA is proposing to change the nutrient management plan requirements in the Manual and Guidelines issued to consultants.  The changes include:

1. No fall application of commercial fertilizer to fall planted small grain crops unless a soil nitrate test shows less than 10ppm for wheat or 15ppm for barley. (This will allow all small grain crops to count as cover crops in the TMDL calculation.)

2. A uniform 35-foot setback from the edge of surface water for all broadcast fertilizer and vegetated buffers. (Effective January 1, 2014)

3. Stream fencing – A uniform 10-foot setback from water (including continual and intermittent streams) for pastures and hayfields.  No nutrient can be applied mechanically or deposited by livestock within the setback. (Effective January 1, 2014)

4. From March 1st – September 9th all manures and other organic nutrient sources must be injected or incorporated within 72 hours.

5. Operators and generators of livestock manures must make plans to have “adequate” storage to eliminate the need for winter application by July 1, 2016.

6.  Until July 1, 2016, winter application of manure due to lack of adequate storage must be injected only and applied only to existing vegetative cover or significant crop residue.

7.  No application of any nutrient sources shall be made between November 16th and February 28th after July 1, 2016.

8.  All soil conditioners, soil amendments, waste materials or effluent applied to agricultural land must be registered with the state chemist and applied using all restrictions contained in the nutrient management law.  This means sewage sludge applications will not be allowed to be applied from November to March under the same conditions that apply to manures and other organic nutrients.

MDA has asked for preliminary comments by June 29th.  Sometime after that date MDA will forward the proposal to the AELR Committee of the Legislature and publish it for public comment as required by law.  MFB’s comments will be finalized on Tuesday, June 28th and filed with MDA.  If you would like to file comments of your own, please email them to  Please copy so we can include your thoughts in our official comments as well.

Pam Saul is the manager and an owner of Rolling Acres Farm in Montgomery County, is the president of Farm & Equine Business Services, LLC, and has served on numerous agricultural boards and committees, including but not limited to, the Governor’s Intergovernmental Commission for Agriculture; Maryland Rural Enterprise Development Center (MREDC); Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO); Maryland Farm Bureau Political Action Committee; Maryland Farm Bureau Equine Advisory Committee – member  (Past Chair); Montgomery County Soil Conservation District; Montgomery County Farm Bureau (Vice President); Montgomery County Ad Hoc Agricultural Policy Work Group.