Majority of Farmers are in Compliance with Law
ANNAPOLIS (Feb. 24, 2009) The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has released the latest compliance figures for its Nutrient Management Program. Established by state law in 1998, the program requires Maryland farmers to protect waterways from farm runoff by following nutrient management plans when caring for livestock and applying fertilizer, manure or other nutrient sources to crop fields.
According to the programs newly released 2008 accomplishments report, as of Dec. 31, 2008, 98 percent of the states 6,000 eligible farmers have filed nutrient management plans with MDA. In addition, Annual Implementation Reports (AIRs) describing how farmers implemented their nutrient management plans during the preceding year have been submitted for 99 percent of Marylands farmland, or 1.2 million acres.
This report demonstrates that the majority of Maryland farmers are committed to protecting natural resources and are complying with the Nutrient Management Law, said Agriculture Secretary Roger Richardson. These plans not only protect the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries but are also valuable management tools that can help farmers save money on fertilizer while producing strong, healthy crops.
Nutrient management plans 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. All farmers grossing $2,500 a year or more or livestock producers with 8,000 pounds or more of live animal weight are required by law to run their operations using a nutrient management plan that addresses both nitrogen and phosphorus inputs. The requirement applies to all agricultural land used to produce plants, food, feed, fiber, animals or other agricultural products.
Nutrient management enforcement activities remained strong, with approximately 450 on-farm inspections. In 2008, MDA issued 1,700 warning letters to farmers who failed to file the AIRs, followed by 680 notifications of pending fines. Fines have been levied against 144 farmers who remain out of compliance.
In addition to farmers, MDA regulates approximately 700 individuals and companies that apply fertilizer to 10 or more acres of non agricultural land, including golf courses, public parks, airports, athletic fields and state-owned land such as recreation areas and highway right-of-ways. Collectively, these urban land managers apply nutrients to approximately 275,000 acres of land. They are required by Maryland law to take soil tests, follow University of Maryland Cooperative Extension guidelines when applying nutrients, and keep certain records of fertilizer applications.
According to the MDA report, in 2008 MDAs Urban Nutrient Management Program inspected 52 firms and issued 12 warnings ordering urban land managers to correct their programs. Failure to take soil tests was the most common compliance issue.
Excess nutrients that run off the land from rural, suburban, urban and industrial sources, are causes of Chesapeake Bay degradation. These excess nutrients fuel the growth of algae blooms that impact water quality and aquatic life. Maryland is taking a comprehensive statewide approach to reducing pollution from all sources, including wastewater treatment plants and septics, stormwater runoff, suburban lawns, and agriculture.
The Nutrient Management Programs 2008 annual report is available online at http://www.mda.state.md.us/pdf/nmar08.pdf. In a separate report, MDA announced that in 2008 its Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost Share (MACS) Program provided Maryland farmers with $11.3 million in grants to install 2,000 best management practices (BMPs) on their farms to control soil erosion, manage nutrients and protect water quality in streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. The MACS 2008 annual report is available online at http://www.mda.state.md.us/pdf/macsar08.pdf .
Source: Maryland Department of Agriculture