Agricultural Certainty Regulations Adopted; Program Looking to Sign Up Farmers
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Regulations to adopt Maryland’s new Agricultural Certainty Program have been finalized and are now in effect, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA). The regulations were published in the Maryland Register on October 17, 2014 and open to a 30-day public comment period. The voluntary program gives qualifying Maryland farmers a 10-year exemption from complying with new environmental laws and regulations in return for installing best management practices on their farms that meet local or Chesapeake Bay Total Daily Maximum Load (TMDL) goals ahead of schedule.
“I am extremely proud of our Agricultural Certainty Program. It was developed specifically with conservation farmers in mind. These are the men and women who go the extra mile to protect natural resources on their farms and water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “The Certainty Program gives something back to these farmers by allowing them to conduct business in a predictable regulatory setting while providing certainty that agricultural pollution controls are in place.”
Authorized by the 2013 Maryland General Assembly, the Agricultural Certainty Program was developed with input from a diverse oversight committee which included farmers as well as representatives from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Commission, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Maryland Grain Producers Association, soil conservation districts, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, MDA, and the Maryland Department of the Environment among others.
This program allows interested farm operations to undergo a field evaluation and records review conducted by an MDA-certified verifier to determine compliance with local, state and federal environmental requirements. Once a farm is approved for the Agricultural Certainty Program, an agreement is signed outlining operation and maintenance practices consistent with current site conditions. The operation is then excused for a 10-year period from meeting new regulatory programs or standards that put further restrictions or performance standards in place to address nitrogen, phosphorus or sediment runoff. At the end of the 10 year period the operation must be in compliance with all current requirements. Participating farms must undergo inspections by a certainty verifier at least once every three years with oversight provided by MDE.
MDA is currently finalizing administrative policies and procedures for the Agricultural Certainty Program and anticipates accepting applications beginning early spring 2015. Interested farmers can prepare for the application process by making certain that they have an updated Soil and Water Conservation Plan and a current Nutrient Management Plan. In addition, farmers must be in compliance with all MDA nutrient management reporting and record keeping requirements. Ultimately, candidates should be prepared to demonstrate that they have addressed all potential nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment losses from the farming operation.
Interested farmers should contact Colin Jones, MDA’s Agricultural Certainty Program Coordinator at 410-841-5868 or their local soil conservation district office for addition information. Click here for more information on Maryland’s Agricultural Certainty Program.
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