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Hogan plan retools phosphorus regulations

(March 6, 2015) Gov. Larry Hogan last month introduced his own version of the controversial Phosphorus Management Tool even as the version he pulled from the register makes its way through the State Senate.

Hogan, in a prepared release, outlined four major differences from the previous version. First, the full implementation date has been delayed one year, to 2022.

Next, the state will assure farmers that infrastructure to manage the new needs to transport manure and new or better technologies will be in place, with evaluations taking place in the lead-up to full implementation.

Third, the governor will enact an immediate ban on additional applications of phosphorus in soils testing above 500 in Fertility Index Value until full implementation.

Finally, the governor’s plan will require, beginning in 2016, the collection of soil test data for all farms requiring nutrient management plans to help the Maryland Department of Agriculture monitor trends. This data will collected every six years.

“It’s my intention to support this plan, although I reserve the right to review as we move forward. The fact that the industry and environmental groups were able to broker cooperation heartened me that we were moving in the right direction,” Sen. Jim Mathias, a vocal opponent of the previous Phosphorus Management Tool regulations, said.

Mathias said it was an important step to have everyone in the same room, and he agreed with the governor’s decision to pull the older version of the plan “to examine them and find the most effective way forward.

He said he was also glad to see the inclusion of a pilot program selecting 10 farmers covering an area of at least 1,000 acres to test the new regulations.

“These farms will collect and provide farm-scale cost and crop yield data related to PMT implementation. The farms will represent a cross-section of farm types and geography and include poultry, dairy, grain and organic operations,” the release read.

Joining Mathias’ support is Delegate Mary Beth Carozza.

“Gov. Hogan’s Phosphorous Management Tool regulations take into account the concerns of both the agricultural and environmental communities, and strike a balanced approach for limiting phosphorous,” she said.

“Gov. Hogan’s PMT regulations give farmers more time and ensures that adequate infrastructure is in place before moving forward with implementation of the regulations,” she said.

Former Worcester County Commissioner Virgil Shockley, however remains opposed to the tool.

“It’s a shame we’re dealing with chicken manure when we should be dealing with the bull manure coming out of Annapolis,” Shockley said, “They changed some words and dressed it up, but it’s everything I’ve fought against for the past 16 months.”

Shockley decried a lack of consensus, and said there wasn’t a meeting the general public could attend. He said there were just a few people in a room making all the decisions about the revised plan.

“We’ve got a Republican governor elected by the rural vote. He must be laughing now,” Shockley said.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, sponsor of the bill enacting the previous version of PMT regulations, could not be reached for comment.

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