Majority of Farmers are in Compliance with Law
ANNAPOLIS (March 22, 2010) The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has released the latest compliance figures for its Nutrient Management Program. Mandated by state law in 1998, the program requires Maryland farmers to protect waterways from farm runoff by following nutrient management plans beginning in 2001when caring for livestock and applying fertilizer, manure or other nutrient sources to agricultural land.
I thank our farmers and urban land managers for their commitment to using sound nutrient management practices to protect water quality in the streams and rivers that feed our Chesapeake Bay, said Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance. It is important that everyone whose operation falls under the law comply fully and submit their annual implementation reports on time and update their plans. Our enforcement statistics show that filing late paperwork is causing too many violations. By and large, Maryland agricultural operations are strong stewards of our soil and water and are leading the way to a smart, green and growing future.
According to the programs newly released annual report, nutrient management plans have been submitted for more than 99 percent of Marylands farms in 2009. Following ramped up enforcement efforts by MDAs compliance team, the number of farmers without plans dropped from 133 last year to 12 as of December 31, 2009.
Additionally, 99 percent of Maryland farmers have submitted annual implementation reports for 2008 showing that they implemented their plans. In order to verify that farmers nutrient application records and receipts were in line with the nutrient management plans, MDA conducted 400 on-farm inspections in 2009. According to the report, 69 percent of the farmers audited were in compliance with regulatory requirements. MDA is working to bring the remaining operations into full compliance.
Cumulatively, MDA issued over 1,800 warnings followed by 144 enforcement actions resulting in $37,900 in fines for nutrient management violations in 2009.
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.
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 fertilizers 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 2009 MDAs Urban Nutrient Management Program conducted 63 reviews and issued 14 warnings letters and one fine. Failure to take soil tests was the most common compliance issue.
The Nutrient Management Programs 2009 annual report is available at www.mda.state.md.us/pdf/nmar09.pdf.
Source: Maryland Department of Agriculture