Maryland Department of Agriculture Announces New Strategy at Nutrient Management Summit
Details revealed following statewide listening sessions
ANNAPOLIS, MD (July 17, 2023) – The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) held a much anticipated Nutrient Management plan writing summit on Monday, July 17 at Anne Arundel Community College to present the overview of the re-imagined and improved nutrient management program. Following a June 1st announcement by MDA of changes to the way plans are written as well as listening sessions held throughout the State in the weeks following, MDA and the University of Maryland (UMD) have made the joint decision to reevaluate and reframe how the program is managed. Farmer and industry input contributed greatly to this decision.
During the July 17 Summit, MDA shared goals and objectives including:
- Evolving the nutrient management plan model through industry input to adapt to modern farming practices and operations;
- Improving the plan writing process through cost-free plans available to farmers;
- Grow and support plan writers by increasing the emphasis on Farmer Training Certification (FTC) Program;
- Incentivize individuals and organizations to offer plan writing services throughout the state;
- UME will remain engaged in this program by continuing to offer free nutrient management plan support as in the past.
“Throughout this process tough decisions and conversations had to occur to get us to this point of creating a solid plan going forward,” said Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Kevin Atticks. “I thank our industry and their representatives for providing critical input throughout the listening sessions. In addition, I want to thank the University for stepping up and addressing our concerns. We look forward to further partnership as this process moves forward with renewed and enhanced engagement through University of Maryland Extension.”
Maryland law requires all farmers grossing $2,500 a year or more or livestock producers with 8,000 pounds or more of live animal weight to follow nutrient management plans when fertilizing crops and managing animal manure. Nutrient management plans specify how much fertilizer, manure or other nutrient sources may be safely applied to crops to achieve yields and prevent excess nutrients from impacting waterways.
Because of their complexity, these plans must be prepared by a certified University of Maryland specialist, certified private consultant, or farmer who is trained and certified by the department to prepare his or her own plan.
“I want to thank the Maryland Department of Agriculture for working with us on priority changes to the statewide nutrient management program,” said University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Craig Beyrouty. “We are very encouraged by the progress that has been made to re-introduce University of Maryland plan writers so that we may continue to offer the support our Agricultural community has come to trust and rely upon. I’m thrilled that the University of Maryland Extension (UME) will administer this new program. They provide research-based education with a deep understanding of farmers’ operations and environmental needs and will be excellent stewards for this important work.”
Lastly, the Department announced a new 30-member Farmer Taskforce, convening in August to provide guidance to MDA and UMD regarding ways to improve the nutrient management plan to be more practical for farmers to implement. The Task Force’s recommendations will be considered by the Nutrient Management Advisory Committee.
For more information and full details about the changes, please visit www.mda.maryland.gov and click on Nutrient Management Plan Writing updates.
Follow Maryland Department of Agriculture on Twitter @MdAgDept
The following details were also presented at the Summit:
Framework of Tentative New Agreement:
- MDA and UMD will enter into a 3 year MOU to continue funding UMD Nutrient Management plan writers to be renewed annually, contingent upon funding;
- The new program will be administered day-to-day by UMD Extension.
Funding & Staffing:
- Both MDA and UMD will seek more permanent funding to sustain the program. Currently the program is funded primarily by the EPA;
- The UMD will seek ways to increase salaries and offer benefits for plan writers. Currently, UMD plan writers are hired on a contractual basis because of the uncertainty of continued annual funding by EPA.
Nutrient Management (NuMan) Software improvement:
- Build a more modern software program that helps our industry meet its environmental stewardship roles by ensuring better inclusion of today’s modern agricultural production systems, incorporation of the latest research and incorporating web-based accessibility on a variety of devices.
New Nutrient Management Oversight Committee:
- MDA and UMD, chaired by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Dean of UMD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources will be created to:
- Oversee the plan writers
- Draft annual reports on the program that includes data such as number of engaged farms/farmers, number of plans developed, acres represented by plans, and reduction of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus entering waterways as a result of the plans;
- Set goals for increasing the percentage of plans written through UMD.
Expanded Training Opportunities:
- MDA will hire a NM Training Coordinator;
- More training opportunities will be available for both Farmer Training Certification (FTC) and developing and delivering classes for consultants;
- Develop online training modules.
- UMD will work with MDA to develop educational programs directed to producers to encourage greater participation in the nutrient management program.