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TOP STORY, Jan. 27, 2015

Hogan wastes no time, pulls plug on PMT

 

By BRUCE HOTCHKISS

Senior Editor

 

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — “It’s not over but this is a start.”
That comment, by a Lower Shore poultry producer, seemed to capture the reaction of the Maryland farm community to the surprisingly abrupt action by Gov. Larry Hogan pulling the proposed new phosphorous regulations off the state’s nutrient management table for 2015.
After his election, Hogan pledged to farmers that stopping the PMT’s implementation would be one of his “first fights” after he took office.
“As your new governor, I am going to do everything I possibly can to make sure these ill-conceived regulations are never implemented as they are currently written,” Hogan told hundreds of the state’s farmers at the Maryland Farm Bureau’s 99th annual convention in December.
“We will not allow them to put you out of business, destroy your way of life or decimate your entire industry.”
He did not waste any time. He took the oath of office about noon on Jan. 21. He had until 4 p.m. that day to pull the PMT notice of implementation from the Maryland Register.
Declaring the regulations required a lot more study, he yanked them.
It didn’t take very long for the environmental community to begin to express its dismay.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation was among the first in line.
Alison Prost, CBF’s executive director for Maryland, declared, in a statement: “This is a sad day in the long fight to make Maryland waters clean enough for swimming and fishing. ... The new governor rolled back 10 years of progress when he withdrew the Phosphorus Management Tool, a common sense, science-based solution to the manure crisis.”
She added that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation “welcomes the opportunity to work with the administration to ensure farmers have the resources they need to implement the PMT. ... But we can’t compromise on science, or accept further delays on cleaning up Maryland’s rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.”
Kevin Anderson of Wimberly Farms in Princess Anne, who emerged as a leader of the PMT opposition, said Hogan’s action “is giving the agriculture community the opportunity to come up with a plan that we can work with to address some of the concerns of the environmental community.”
Anderson thanked the farm community for rallying against the O’Malley administration’s agenda (but) we cannot sit back now, there is still work to be done.”
Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmara Poultry Industry, Inc., representing the industry which would be heavily impacted by the new phosphorous regulations, commented that by yanking the PMT document from the Maryland Register, Gov. Hogan had decided “not to move forward immediately.”
During the campaign, Hogan pledged that the PMT regs would not, in their present form, become state policy.
“His pledge to study the issue further to make sure it is scientifically and financially valid is a wise one that we endorse,” Satterfield said.
“We have said all along that this risk management tool, even according to its developers, could not estimate how much less phosphorus might reach the Chesapeake Bay. It makes no sense to create costly regulations on all farmers throughout Maryland, not just Eastern Shore farmers who use chicken manure, without knowing what the environmental benefits might be,” Satterfield said
Chuck Fry, president of the Maryland Farm Bureau expressed his organization’s applause that Gov. Hogan had reigned in PMT “as one of his first actions in office.
“We look forward to working with the governor and Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder to evaluate the true impact of this proposal and others on the farm families of Maryland” Fry said.