First hours promising from Hogan (Editorial)

(Jan. 27, 2015) The die was cast: On Friday, Jan. 16, Earl “Buddy” Hance,” secretary of agriculture for the State of Maryland, announced that he would resign from his position, effective Jan. 20, one day before the new governor, Larry Hogan would be sworn into office.
Hance, a fourth generation Southern Maryland farmer, was appointed secretary by Gov. Martin O’Malley in May 2009.
Prior to taking the position, he had served as deputy secretary from 2007-09.
But before saying farewell, Hance signed the “Notice of Final Action” for the Phosphorus Management Tool regulations and submitted it to the Maryland Register, slated for publication in the Jan. 23 issue.
The regulations would become effective 10 days after publication, on Monday, Feb. 2.
That would be it. The new regulations which would limit, and in some cases ban, the use of phosphorous fertilizer by Maryland farmers, would become part and parcel of the state’s nutrient management guidelines, slated for full implementation in 2016.
But during his campaign, Gov.-elect Larry Hogan had pledged his allegiance to Maryland farmers and had voiced, on several occasions, his distrust of the so-called Phosphorous Management Tool and its ability to perform any real and lasting benefit in the effort to clean up the Bay.
On Jan. 21, Hogan took the oath of office at noon. The Maryland Register was slated to go to press at 4 p.m. that day.
Gov. Hogan had slightly less than four hours to get some work done. He pulled the PMT regulations, and four others scheduled for implementation, from the Register prior to their release for publication.
That effectively halted a process which seemed to be assured when outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley gave his final blessing to the PMT, fulfilling a pledge he made to his faithful in the environmental community.
Hance’s departure marked the end of the environmental reign of O’Malley who had vowed to assure the implementation of the new PMT regulations into law just prior to his leaving office.
Hance skirted any specific mention of PMT in his final remarks, although he came close.
“Maryland farmers are recognized as national leaders for their conservation efforts,” Hance said. “The future for Maryland agriculture is and will continue to be bright and prosperous. I will especially miss visiting farms across the state, seeing new technology being implemented and the diversity of value-added enterprises that are helping to keep our farms viable for the next generation of Maryland farmers.”
That responsibility now falls to the new ag secretary, Joe Bartenfelder, who no doubt will be involved in the task of exploring the science of phosphorous as it relates to the Bay, apart from the political pressures which O’Malley had imposed upon it.
As one Lower Shore poultry grower remarked when Hogan pulled the PMT plug, “It’s a start but it’s not over.”
And then there’s this: Any revisions or impediments to the course of the clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay will not go unchallenged and are likely to end up in the courts.
Count on it. It’s going to be an interesting year in Maryland agriculture.