This Week’s Headlines
Ag community tries to get heard before PMT kicks in
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Dec. 9, 2014) — Maryland lawmakers on the joint Agricultural, Executive and Legislative Review Committee are getting increased pleas from the ag community to schedule a hearing on the proposed Phosphorous Management Tool regulations before they would become law.
That would not be possible after Dec. 31 when the 30-day public comment period ends and the AELR committee must decide whether there is sufficient substantive challenge to hold it for hearing or to release it to Gov. Martin O’Malley for signature.
Evan as the public comment continued, Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, at a swearing-in ceremony in Wicomico County, promised Eastern Shore lawmakers and farmers “a seat at the table” in his administration and added that he and his staff were already working on ways to address the burden of PMT regulations after he takes office Jan. 21.
Among the communications ending up on the desk of the lawmakers on the AELR committee was an urgent plea from Bill Satterfield, executive director of the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., on behalf of the peninsula’s poultry industry and those farmers who are growing the grain to feed the chickens.
Satterfield appealed first that the members of AELR “support a committee public hearing to allow persons to show why this proposed regulation will have unknown environmental benefits, will be costly over the next six years to Maryland’s farming community and the state’s taxpayers (if taxpayers’ money even will be available to help farmers because of the state’s huge budget deficits) and how it will impact the farming community in Maryland.”
Satterfield noted that the Phosphorus Management Tool “is not capable of determining how much less phosphorus will reach the waters of the state.
Without those data, it makes little sense to adopt a regulation just for the sake of adopting it.”
Satterfield also noted that over the next six years, the costs to Maryland’s agricultural community are estimated at $22 million, not including state assistance at $39 million, and he questions the state’s ability to kick in because of its “dire financial condition.”
Thirdly, Satterfield writes: “We submit that the intent of the General Assembly to require a ‘full economic impact analysis’ of the proposed regulations has not been achieved’ despite a months’ long exploration of the costs and effects of the PMT implementation by Dr. Memo Diriker of Salisbury University.
“It is our contention that the Salisbury University analysis falls way short of what the budget law requires and therefore the proposed regulation cannot move forward,” Satterfield wrote.
Satterfield’s lengthy appeal concludes that Maryland’s farmers are making progress on water quality improvements ahead of schedule as shown by the most recent analysis from the Chesapeake Bay Program office.
And as reported by the U.S. Geological Survey, water quality improvements due to better on-the-farm practices might not show up for years because of the slow movement of sub-surface water.
“Let’s allow the results of these earlier practices to show results before adding on another layer of mandates,” the DPI chief concluded.