In response to the recent Environment Maryland report “An Unsustainable Path: Why Maryland Manure Pollution Rules are Failing to Protect the Chesapeake Bay”, Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance issued the following statement.

“Agriculture is a leading industry in Maryland and the single largest land use. Maryland farmers play a key role in protecting our state’s natural resources, especially the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland farmers are required by law to follow nutrient management plans, which are science-based documents that help farmers manage fertilizers, animal waste and other nutrient sources more efficiently to meet crop needs while protecting water quality in streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

Discussions are underway with agricultural, environmental groups, municipal interests, and Governor Martin O’Malley’s staff to iron out additional changes to the proposed nutrient management regulations that will make them both more effective at protecting water quality and easier to implement. The proposed changes aim to adopt the latest science and technology into our regulatory framework. Ultimately, the goal of the revised regulations is to help Maryland meet nitrogen and phosphorus reduction goals spelled out in its Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) for the Chesapeake Bay.

Compliance assurance and enforcement of Maryland’s Nutrient Management Law are key features of Maryland’s WIP. Currently 99.9 percent of the state’s 1.3 million acres of crop land and 99.9 percent of the state’s 5,700 eligible farmers are complying with the state’s nutrient management law requiring farmers to have a plan.  MDA is currently pursuing enforcement actions against two farmers who have not submitted nutrient management plans for 132 acres.

A number of environmentally-sound nutrient management alternatives are being studied for feasibility and implementation both on farms and as separate business enterprises. Effective December 31, 2000, all contract feed produced in Maryland for chickens must include phytase (or another enzyme/additive) to reduce phosphorus to the maximum extent feasible. Perdue AgriRecycle’s multipurpose facility includes numerous technologies (pelleting, composting, etc.) for the production of products from poultry waste, providing alternatives to land application of this material. Additionally, the State of Maryland is reviewing proposals for alternative energy uses for animal manure including a 10 megawatt facility. Since 1999, through Maryland’s Manure Transport Program, 719,000 tons of excess poultry litter and manure have been transported from areas with excess manure or high soil phosphorus levels to other farms or alternative use facilities that can use the product in an environmentally-sound manner.

Well-managed agricultural land provides many more environmental benefits than developed land. At a time when development pressure may be at its greatest, it is in the Bay’s best interest for Maryland to keep farmers farming the land.

The poultry industry is Maryland’s leading agricultural sector, accounting for $691 million (40 percent) of farm income in 2010. Maryland broiler production ranked eighth among states in broilers produced in 2010. Most of the grain grown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is used for chicken feed. According to the Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc., poultry companies operating on the Delmarva Peninsula employ 14,700 people. There are over 1,660 family farms that raise chickens in association with the five poultry integrators operating on the Delmarva Peninsula.”