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November 29, 2011

New farm nutrient rules pulled back


Feeling the heat from farmers and environmentalists alike, the O'Malley administration has put on hold new rules on how and when farmers can fertilizer their fields.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture had planned to publish new "nutrient management" regulations on Dec. 2, but has now postponed them in order to meet with critics, including municipal officials.

"We were contacted by stakeholders on all sides (ag, enviros, locals) and asked to discuss a little more the draft regulations," MDA spokeswoman Julianne Oberg said in an email. "We're affording that opportunity, and will be resubmitting soon."

The new rules, aimed at reducing nutrient pollution of Chesapeake Bay, have been stirring furor since they were first floated last summer. Farmers complained about proposed limitations on putting animal manure in their fields in fall and winter, and about another provision essentially requiring fencing livestock out of streams. Municipal and county officials, meanwhile, objected to another provision barring the spreading of sewage sludge on fields in winter, which they said would require costly storage facilities.

Environmentalists joined the critics a few weeks ago, charging that agriculture officials had watered the rules down unacceptably in an attempt to mollify other critics.

Jen Brock-Cancellieri, deputy director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, emailed that she was "encouraged" the administration had pulled the regulations for further consideration.  Environmentalists had complained especially about a recent change that would let farmers keep spreading animal manure or sludge in the late fall, when it's likely to pollute streams and ground water.

The Dagger, a Harford County news site, had reported that MDA indicated it would try to hammer out some consensus among the various disputants over the next two months.  But Oberg said officials have set no time frame for the consultations.

Sen. Barry Glassman, a Harford County Republican who's complained the rules could hasten the demise of farming in Maryland, has said he's mulling introducing legislation to head off some of the provisions farmers most object to. 

He's focused in particular on the proposed ban on livestock in streams, which he contends would require that all water ways be fenced. That would amount to a regulatory "taking" of private property, Glassman argues, because farmers couldn't use the fenced-off stream buffer and couldn't get paid for it either under federal farm conservation programs.

(Photo: Barley blowing in wind near Hillsboro.  2008 Baltimore Sun photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 3:00 PM | | Comments (2)


Does Sen. Glassman believe that farmers have some god-given, constitutional right to pollute our streams! he states that fencing livestock out of stream is "taking" the of private property. The farmer still owns the land and possibly under certain circumstances the area could be flashed grazed or hay made off of it. EVERY farmer should be in "baseline" compliance. That is have a conservation plans, a nutrient/manure management plan, exclude livestock from streams and manage the runoff from animal concentration areas (barnyards, feedlot, sacrifice lot, etc.). I hope that when MDA holds these meeting to discuss the changes to NMPs that the general public can attend.

I 'm so glad they are taking there time.Farmer's are not the problem. I will bet you more ferterlizer was sold at Home Depot,Lowe's and the clubs (sam's ,Bj and costco) than all the farm store's in the state of MD. The state does not care because they are getting the sales tax. As anybody done a study from all chemical's that are put down the winter? Where do people thinks this stuff go? If it melts the snow what do think it does to the water? Before people judge take a look at the big picture.

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About the bloggers
Tim WheelerTim Wheeler reports on the environment and Chesapeake Bay. A native of West Virginia, he has focused mainly on Maryland's environment since moving here in 1983. Along the way, he's crewed aboard a skipjack in the bay, canoed under city streets up the Jones Fall from the Inner Harbor, and gone deep underground in a western Maryland coal mine. He loves seafood, rambles in the country and good stories. He hopes to share some here.

Contributor Christy Zuccarini has been blogging about the local DIY craft scene for a year for She brings her pespective on all things handmade to B'More Green, where she will highlight projects you can do yourself as well as crafters who are integrating sustainable methods and materials.

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