This Week’s Headlines
Maryland’s ag industry lauds governor’s PMT initiative
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (March 3, 2015) — Maryland’s major agricultural organizations and leaders of the farm community are hailing Gov. Larry Hogan’s phosphorous management intiative even as a bill by a leading Prince George’s County Democrat to codify the orignal PMT regulations began its trip through the legislative precess.
The Hogan re-write of the phosphorous management regulations, fashioned by the O’Malley administration, modify and delay the regulations and call for a trial to determine how the phosphorous levels in the soil are measured on farms and explore the economics of thephosphorous management system.
“The ban of manure application to land over 500 FIV may concern some,” said Kevin Anderson of Wimberly Farms in Princess Anne in Somerset County who has emerged as a leader in the farm community, “but it’s much better than 150 (phosphorous soil measurement) and we had to start somewhere. This let’s us structure the program to work toward the goal of 150 without turning the economy of the Eastern Shore and all of rural Maryland upside down.”
In what he labeled his “Agricultural Phosphorous Initiative,” Hogan used as his foundation the PMT regs he had pulled off the table within hours of his inauguration, and molded them into what he said would be a more workable and acceptable package.
A bill sponsored by Sen Paul Pinksy, which would revive the earlier version of tje PMT regulations fashioned by the O’Malley administration was given its first committee hearing early last week.
There had been some speculation that, in the wake of the modified plan, Pinsky would pull his measure , but he gave no indiciation he intended to do so.
He said he had not yet even read the Hogan initiative..
Tha initiative, the new API, in the words of the proposal, would
• Ensure adequate time for farmers to fully understand and plan for new requirements. The proposal shifts the seven-year implementation schedule originally proposed such that all farms will start implementing the PMT one year later, effective 2016, with full implementation in 2022.
• Assure agricultural producers that critical elements are available for implementation, including: markets to relocate additional amounts of manure; adequate infrastructure to handle and transport manure; and alternative uses and new technologies to begin to provide new outlets and markets for animal manures.
• Enact an immediate ban of additional phosphorus on soils highest in phosphorus. Upon adoption of the regulations, fields with a soil Fertility Index Value of 500 or greater will be banned from receiving additional phosphorus until the PMT is fully implemented, currently scheduled for 2022.
• Provide comprehensive information on soil phosphorus conditions statewide. Beginning in 2016 and every six years thereafter, soil test phosphorus data will be collected for all farms in Maryland subject to nutrient management plan requirements.
In addition, the Maryland Department of Agriculture will recruit 10 to 12 Maryland farmers to evaluate the economic impacts of implementing the PMT on a minimum of 1,000 acres.
These farms will collect and provide farm-scale cost and crop yield data related to PMT implementation.
The new Agricultural Phosphorous Initiative provides that the farms will represent “a cross section of farm types and geography and include poultry, dairy, grain, and organic operations. The farm scale economic data collected, combined with information from running both the PSI and PMT, will inform resource needs for a more effective PMT implementation statewide.”
Gov. Hogan’s Agriculture Phosphorus Initiative also includes funding for an Animal Waste Technology Grant Fund for new technologies to improve manure management, create new sources of energy and products made from animal manure, and improve water quality.