PMT delays could outlast O’Malley administration

Senior Editor

(July 1, 2014) Even as an intricate study continues in Maryland on the economic impact of the proposed Phosphorus Management Tool, it has become apparent that the ultimate implementation of the new nutrient management regulations could be delayed until well beyond the first of the new year.
That would put it off until after Gov. Martin O’Malley leaves office. The PMT’s importance to the restoration of the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the priority it has received in the affairs of state is providing O’Malley with political ammunition as he treds the path to a bid for national elective office.
After repeated proposals for implementing the tool for use in farmers’ nutrient management plans were withdrawn last year, O’Malley remained committed to having a plan for implementation in place before he left office.
The PMT impact studies are underway at Salisbury University, members of the state’s Nutrient Management Advisory Committee were informed recently by Royden  Powell, assistant secretary of the Maryland Deparment of Agriculture.
The studies are under the direction of Dr. Memo Diriker, director of the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business’ Business Economic and Community Outreach Network. An advisory committee of farmers and other interested parties met late last month and formulated plans for the study.
A micro-scale committee will help Diriker look at the economic impact on individual farmers while a macro-scale study group will look at regional issues. Powell indicated he would share with the Nutrient Management Advisory Committee the list of persons in each group.
The economic impact study results are due to be presented to the Maryland Department of Agriculture in September with a peer review of the results.
At that point, existing Maryland law could temporarily apply the brakes to the study.
Powell said the Maryland budget law contains a requirement that MDA must submit the results to the department and the results would be shared with the legislatures’ environmental committees before MDA puts forth a proposed regulation.
Because of this budget law language, implementation of the new regulation might be delayed beyond O’Malley’s term in office.
Powell added, however, there could be a process in place to adopt a regulation rather than the regulation itself being in effect.
An observer for the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. noted that language in the state budget law prohibits the Maryland Department of Agriculture from expending any money “for final development and submission” of the regulation to the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review until the impact study is completed and submitted to the General Assembly budget committees and environmental committees.
Then the committees have another 45 days to review and comment on the economic analysis.