Outcry Leads To State Farm Plan Fizzling Out

BERLIN — The Eastern Shore farming community breathed a collective sigh of relief last week after the Maryland Department of Agriculture announced it was postponing the implementation of the controversial Phosphorous Management Tool (PMT) and was going back to the drawing board on the controversial issue.
The new tool developed by the University of Maryland would have determined acceptable levels of phosphorous in the state’s farm fields that leach into streams and tributaries and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Under the proposal, if phosphorous levels taken at farm fields all over the state and particularly on the Eastern Shore exceeded the new standard, farmers would not be allowed to use organic chicken manure as farm fertilizer and would be forced to purchase much more expensive chemical fertilizers.
The PMT appeared to be on the fast track for approval, despite overwhelming concern raised by the state’s farming community. Earlier this month, however, the Maryland Department of Agriculture announced it was postponing the implementation of the PMT after considerable public outrage was expressed at various public forums across the shore this fall and decided to go back to the drawing board with the plan.
“The O’Malley-Brown Administration remains committed to adopting the PMT through rule making and developing an approach that further considers comments raised by policy makers and citizens alike,” said MDA Secretary Buddy Hance. “MDA is confident that the PMT science is sound, based on 20 years of evolving federal and state research to better understand soil phosphorous and managing risk of loss to our rivers and streams.”
For Eastern Shore farmers and poultry growers, the MDA’s decision to postpone the implementation of the PMT was welcome news.
Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI) officials said this week with PMT was one of the most contentious issues facing Maryland farmers in recent memory.
“No other regulatory or legislative issue in recent years has mobilized the agricultural community as much as this and our voices have been heard,” said DPI President Jenny Rhodes. “We appreciate Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance and Governor Martin O’Malley for listening to our concerns and allowing this matter to go back to the drawing board.”
Mary Beth Carozza, an Ocean City Republican seeking the new District 38C seat, which includes much of Worcester and a part of Wicomico, attended the hearings in Salisbury and Easton and supported postponing the implementation of the PMT.
“After listening to individual families on their farms and attending the MDA briefings in Salisbury and Easton with approximately 400 concerned citizens at each forum, I joined in calling for the immediate withdraw of the proposed phosphorous regulations to allow time to work with the farm community on an economic evaluation as well as an extended phase-in based on sound science,” she said. “I also join with those elected officials who have expressed cautious optimism about the MDA’s decision to withdraw the proposed phosphorous regs and encourage the farm community and all constituencies to stay engaged and vigilant when MDA introduces new regulations in the future.”
Many state lawmakers from the across the shore reflected the positions of their constituents on the proposed PMT regulations and voiced pleasure in the state’s move.
“The department is making the right move by withdrawing them,” said Upper Shore Republican Senator Stephen Hershey, Jr. this week. “These regulations were not ready for prime time and they may never be. This is a victory for the farming community of the Eastern Shore. They fought back hard against these regulations.”