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TOP STORY, Oct. 28, 2014

‘Unforeseen circumstances’ further delay PMT study

 

By BRUCE HOTCHKISS

Senior Editor


ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Despite multiple plans to release it, the long-awaited economic impact study of implementing the Phosphorous Management Tool remains under virtual lock and key at the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
Slated to be shared with the public – and most urgently with farmers on the Lower Shore — on Oct. 23, the plans for briefings of both the media and the public were yanked about 15 hours earlier by the MDA, because of “unforeseen circumstances” the agency said.
The so-called PMT report is the work of Dr. Memo Diriker, director of the  Franklin P. Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University. It explores and analyses the economics of limiting Maryland  farmers’ use of phosphorous — a  fertilizing agent in poultry manure — as compared to the contribution that it would make in the effort to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
Farmers contend that limiting, or outlawing, their use of poultry litter, thus requiring them to purchase commercial fertilizer, could, in the long run, impact the agricultural economy of the Lower Shore.
Battle lines against the implementation of the PMT were first drawn more than a year ago.  Finally, MDA summoned Dr. Diriker this past summer, to bring his expertise to the table with the help of two advisory committees who, at his request, submitted 4,500 pages of opinion.
On the closing days of September, Dr. Diriker advised his committee members that “the project has taken longer than I anticipated and has proven to be much more difficult than I could have imgained.”
Still on Oct. 7, Diriker said he hoped to submit the report to MDA “within the next 48 hours. I am assuming it will be released simultaneously to the stakeholders.”
That of course did not happen.
Then, on Oct. 21, both Dr. Diriker and the MDA announced that the PMT report would be released on Thursday, Oct. 23, at 10 a.m.
Dr. Diriker’s announcement continued: “You will be able to access the report from MDA's website at  http://mda.maryland.gov. Please join me on Thursday, Oct. 23 from 3 to 4:30 p.m.at the Talbot County Community Center, Easton, MD 21601. I will present the study findings and answer questions related to the report.”
MDA’s announcement added a media briefing conference call and  included directions of how to connect both to the media briefing  from noon to 1 p.m. and a GoToMeeting presentation which would include the use of a  Power Point presentation.
All of that was cancelled Wednesday afternoon.
MDA said a new date for the PMT report release will be announced “as it is available.”