Tons of shipped ag manure quadrupled since ’12

Associate Editor

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Dec. 1, 2015) — The amount of manure moved through the state’s transport program has more than quadrupled since the legislature boosted funding for it in 2012, agriculture department data show.
More than 160,000 tons were transported last year, including nearly 120,000 tons in non-poultry litter and almost 60,000 tons in poultry litter, according to data shown Nov. 19 to the department’s Phosphorous Management Tool Transition Advisory Committee at its first meeting.
The total amount transported in 2012 — following years of state budget cuts — was 35,400 tons, almost all of which was poultry litter.
Most of the increase over the last three years has come from dairy farmers, said Norman Astle Jr., a department administrator overseeing conservation grants.
The state gave the transport program an additional $500,000 in 2012 to expand the program to non-poultry producers, including dairy, beef, swine and other livestock operations. The transport program costs $1.2 million, including $790,000 from the state, Astle said. Poultry integrators pay the remainder.
“Right now, we’ve got adequate funding,” he said. “When the PMT kicks in, it very well may not be. … We’re expecting a greater need for the program certainly down the road.”
The transport program was created in 1998 to help farmers cover the cost of transporting excess manure off their farms.
Animal producers with high soil phosphorus levels or a lack of land to manage their manure can receive cost-share assistance up to $18 per ton to transport the excess to other farms under an approved nutrient management plan or to an alternative use facility that can process it, according to the department.
For non-poultry farmers, the state pays for nearly 88 percent of the program’s cost, Astle said.
The transition committee was created to monitor the implementation of the PMT, which will be phased in between 2016 and 2024.
The PMT is a new procedure created to identify the potential risk of phosphorous leeching from land to water on farms across the state.
The program will limit how much manure and fertilizer some farmers can apply to their land.
The committee will make recommendations to the secretary of agriculture on how to better implement the PMT, including any changes.