November 21, 2011

The Honorable Martin O'Malley
Governor of Maryland
State House
Annapolis, MD 21410

Dear Governor O'Malley:

We are sincerely disappointed at the direction the state's nutrient management program is taking based on the most recent set of regulations sent forward by the Department of Agriculture to the AELR Committee.

Since its inception, nutrient management planning on farms has been site specific and has taken into consideration the individual soil types, cropping schedule, nutrient needs and land characteristics of individual farms. When the program became part of the regulatory structure in 1998, the plans maintained their site specific characteristics, even when assessing the risk of phosphorus loss using the P-Site Index.

The regulatory proposal put forward by MDA, without the support of the Nutrient Management Advisory Committee, will turn our site-specific farm management tool into a one-size-fits-all prescription for farming that will force crop farmers to accept lower yields and livestock operators to take thousands of acres out of production because the cost of fencing every mile of stream that meanders through a pasture is not economically feasible. The manure application restrictions are likely to cause higher risk to the environment and complaints from neighbors when 12 months of manure is applied in a 2-3 week period in the spring. In addition, the one-size-fits-all "setback" in the proposed regulation is a "taking" of agricultural land without compensation and will disqualify Maryland farmers from participation in the highly successful federal CREP conservation program in the future.

Frankly, it appears to the farm community that the most recent proposal to change nutrient management guidelines are designed to simply "check off boxes" in the state's TMDL requirements rather than as reasonable, economically feasible, practices that take into consideration the varying factors on each farm in the state. Farmers in every county are working with their local WIP planning group and are committed to implement the Best Management Plan options laid out in each county. This regulatory proposal short-circuits the TMDL/WIP process.

Farmers are frustrated by the whittling away of their ability to make farm-specific decisions to be productive while meeting nutrient reduction goals. The speed at which Maryland is placing mandates and restricting farm practices makes it impossible for good scientific research and cost/benefit analysis to be conducted. When you met with our Board of Directors during the summer of 2010, you pledged not to put Maryland farmers at a disadvantage compared to growers in other states. I can assure you this proposal will do exactly that. We are calling upon you now to uphold your pledge.

Listed below are some of our concerns about the most recent regulatory proposal to change the nutrient management program:

In conclusion, Maryland Farm Bureau urges you to direct the Maryland Department of Agriculture to withdraw or redraft many of the proposed nutrient management changes in a way that allows the site-specific characteristic of the program to continue. We urge you to protect the diversity of our industry and allow for scientifically-proven agronomic practices to improve, not hinder, our ability to produce the highest quality food and fiber for consumers in Maryland and around the world.