New phosphorus regulations bring local relief

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The Delmarva Poultry Institute is applauding new Phosphorus Management Tool regulations announced by Gov. Larry Hogan this week.

A statement issued at  mid-week stated Hogan’s plan will improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay “while recognizing the needs of Maryland’s farmers and chicken growers.”

In a news release, Hogan said implementations of his regulations would begin next year, with full compliance by 2022.

He promised the regulations address concerns of the agricultural community while  protecting the environment.

The regulations are:

*Ensuring time for farmers to understand and plan for new requirements, giving them two years to develop nutrient management plans, using the Phosphorus Site Index and the new PMT.

*Assuring farmers elements are available for implementation.

“The state will evaluate key elements that need to be in place, including markets to relocate additional amounts of manure, adequate infrastructure to handle and transport manure and alternative uses and new technologies to begin to provide new outlets and markets for animal manures,” Hogan said.

*Banning additional phosphorus on soil already high in the element.

When the regulations are adopted, Hogan said, fields with a soil fertility index value of 500 or higher  will be banned from additional phosphorus until the PMT is fully implemented.

*Providing information on soil phosphorus conditions statewide.

Kurt Fuchs, president of DPI, said DPI and other agricultural groups have been working with Hogan to “develop a workable, sensible, affordable program to improve water quality.”

“We appreciate being at the table during these discussions and look forward to working with Gov. Hogan and members of the General Assembly to continue the agricultural community’s already considerable progress on environmental protection,” he said.

He said he is pleased Hogan’s program “calls for accelerated initiatives to investigate alternative uses of chicken manure and when prudent, support for on-the-ground alternative use facilities.”

According to a DPI statement, Maryland Department of Agriculture has provided grants for two on-the-farm manure-to-energy pilot projects, but state-investigated regional manure-to-energy projects have failed.

“If in a few years there is not adequate capacity to handle chicken growers’ manure because new alternative use facilities are not operating, there will be a relief valve to help those growers through reconsideration of the regulation phase-in schedule.  This is an important part of the governor’s program that Delmarva Poultry Industry. sought.  We appreciate its inclusion in the new water quality improvement initiative,” Fuchs said.

Hogan said his administration listened to the agricultural and environmental communities “to find a fair and balanced plan for limiting phosphorus.”

Beginning in 2016, and at six-year intervals, soil test phosphorus data will be collected and subjected to nutrient management requirements, he said.

“The enhanced phosphorus management tool regulations and the broader Agriculture Phosphorus Initiative will protect water quality in the Chesapeake Bay while still supporting a vibrant agriculture industry in Maryland. We are providing immediate action to limit pollution, investing in new technology, seeking alternative uses for manure, and improving on-farm management of animal manures, none of which were included in the previous proposals,” he said.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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