SALISBURY, Md. - It was a packed house at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center Tuesday night, for the Maryland Department of Agriculture's public briefing on revised regulations for a phosphorus management tool.
The regulations are a proposed change to the current phosphorus index, which helps farmers determine how much fertilizer they can apply to fields, mainly so phosphorus does not run into nearby waterways. The movement is a part of Maryland's commitment to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
"We're doing these outreach meetings to sort of explain the process of the new regulation, and explain that to people, along with answering some questions about the new tool and how it works," says Buddy Hance, Secretary of Agriculture with the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
However, the proposed regulations could impact how farmers use chicken manure on farm fields, which tends to be high in phosphorus. The manure is often the only fertilizer used by organic farmers, and the main outlet for many poultry houses in Maryland to get rid of the waste responsibly.
"What we know so far is that they don't want us to spread any chicken manure, and it's a very good commodity and you need to be able to use it," says Alan Hudson, a Maryland farmer. "We're regulated enough, we don't feel that we need to be regulated anymore."
MDA officials are offering a 30 day public comment period on the proposal which is anticipated to begin on October 18th. Hance says they are still unsure as to how exactly it will impact the farmers, but the MDA is looking to give everyone adequate time to understand how the tool will work and what it means to an agricultural operation. Additionally, the MDA plants to meet with key stakeholders regularly to identify and address issues arising from the implementation of the regulations.
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