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MDA Proposed Phosphorus Management Tool Regulations

30-Day Public Comment Period Open through December 31

ANNAPOLIS, MD  – The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced that proposed Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulations were published in today’s Maryland Register. MDA will offer a 30-day public comment period on the proposal ending December 31.

 “At the direction of Governor Martin O’Malley, MDA has proposed regulations to implement a phased-in Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT),” said Secretary Buddy Hance. “While Maryland farmers have met all of the nitrogen goals under the Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), there are concerns with obtaining agriculture’s phosphorus goals. The Governor has been committed to adopting the regulations to fulfill Maryland’s commitment to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Maryland’s WIP to update the current phosphorus risk assessment tool (the Phosphorus Site Index).”

The proposed regulations are based on a risk, management and time-phased approach to incrementally change farm management to reflect the latest science in assessing risk of phosphorus loss from farm fields. The tool only applies on farms where soil phosphorus has a Fertility Index Value (FIV) of 150 or more. The FIV is a measurement, determined by a soil test, of how much phosphorus is in the soil compared to how much is needed to grow crops. Generally, farmers with high FIV soils will be required to reduce or eliminate the application of additional phosphorus to their fields.

The current proposal includes a six year phase-in of the PMT, which allows more time for infrastructure development and farm operations planning. The incremental change will be more easily adopted by the farm community and will help spread incremental costs, both public and private, over a longer time frame. The new proposal reflects input resulting from extensive discussions with stakeholder groups to help identify the best way to move forward.

The new proposal also includes several conditional provisions:

  • Based on limited cost effective alternative sources of crop nutrients, organic producers may apply limited amounts of phosphorus under certain conditions.
  • Using tissue sampling under certain conditions, farmers will be assured that the phosphorus needs of the crop will be met.  
  • Vegetable and tobacco crops with proven higher phosphorus needs in their diet have additional flexibility under the proposal.
  • Farmers adopting new technologies to reduce phosphorus in animal manure will have additional management options under the new regulations.

The proposal is available on the Proposed Regulation section of the MDA website. Comments may be sent to Buddy Hance, Secretary, Maryland Department of Agriculture, 50 Harry S Truman Parkway, Annapolis, MD 21401. Secretary Hance may also be contacted at 410-841-5881 (phone), earl.hance@maryland.gov or 410-841-5914 (fax). Comments will be accepted through December 31, 2014. A public hearing has not been scheduled.

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