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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New PMT Regulation

I am disappointed to see, once again, that Maryland Farmers are being forced to comply with another nutrient management regulation that not only costs farmers thousands of dollars, but threatens to drive their businesses into bankruptcy. Yes, we could work together to comply with these new rules, but why should we?

There has been no documentation or proof that phosphorus [or any other nutrient for that matter] actually harms the health of the Chesapeake Bay. For the last 20 years, I am aware of only one event [the pfisteria case] that suggests nutrient run-off may have resulted in a fish kill. In the absence of good science, does it make sense to kill the farms in favor of the Bay?

The fact is that Algae blooms occur annually in all of our local ponds, beginning in May or June, when the ambient temperature increases to 70-80 *F. This happens in all local ponds irrespective of nutrient run-off [ponds that are spring fed are not exempt from algae bloom], and irrespective of whether chemical fertilizers or manures are used on the drainage fields. When the temperatures decrease below 70-80 degrees again in August and September, the ponds clear-up again. I believe the same phenomenon occurs in the Chesapeake Bay. Is the problem a result of temperature increases or nutrient increases? Is it possible that we are casting blame on nutrients, when the culprit is a natural phenomenon over which no one has control?

Here is some food for thought! Which is more important – (1) to pick farmers’ pockets and/or drive farmers out of business, or (2) to protect the Bay from an imaginary problem? Do we obtain the majority of our food from the land, or the sea? The correct answer = the land! If we render the land useless, what are we going to eat?

There is nothing I can say that will alter the misguided philosophy of some citizens that the Bay is more important than our farms. So, let’s assume for a second that farmers can comply with this new rule, stay in business, produce tons of vegetables, meat, milk, and eggs, millions of chickens, transport manures from point A to point B at exorbitant expense, and actually reduce the amount of phosphorus that migrates from the land to waters of the Bay. Will the Bay be CLEAN?

Let’s assume for a second that farmers are not able to comply with this new phosphorus rule, and put their farms up for sale to the developers who will build houses, shopping centers, roads, and infrastructures. Will the Bay be CLEANER?

The three major input costs for farmers are fertilizer, seeds, and fuel. Fertilizer [manure] is a valuable asset, that should remain on the land near its’ site of production. The manure transport program is less than intelligent. Farmers should have the right to use this valuable source of fertilizer on land they own. Why should Maryland taxpayers, integrators, and farmers pay for transporting manures from point A [on farm] to point B [elsewhere]? The least expensive distribution of manure to the land is next door! To ship manure to Iowa for use on corn land merely shifts the risk of run-off from the Chesapeake Bay to the Mississippi River. What economic sense, or environmental improvement, does that make?

Another point! WHAT IS THE PROPER PHOSPHORUS LEVEL IN SOILS? WHAT IS THE PROPER PHOSPHORUS LEVEL IN WATER? WHO IS QUALIFIED TO MAKE THAT DECISION? My biggest beef with the environmental cleanup agenda is the false pretense that phosphorus levels in the soil are to creating a problem in the Bay. Really! Where is the science? What is magic about 150 ppm of phosphorus in soils? What is the phosphorus level in the Bay waters? What should it be – zero? When we regulate on emotions rather than science, we err!

The chemistry of phosphorus is rather complex. Phosphorus binds to soils, and chelates with other nutrients. If it is bound to soils, it will be available for plant growth, rather than leach into the aquifer. An argument can be made that high phosphorus levels in soils are indeed a good thing. Until we have a fuller understanding of appropriate levels of phosphorus in soils necessary for plant growth, we should conduct adequate and well-controlled, scientific studies with proper replication before implementing rules that upset the status quo on the farm. Also, rather than assume that all phosphorus run-off to the waters of the Bay are harmful, we should conduct adequate and well-controlled, scientific studies with proper replication in the waters of the Bay before implementing rules that threaten the very fiber of the farm economy.

I urge Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) to ditch this rule until real science can be obtained. I urge MDA to “Protect the Farmer”, rather than “Protect the Bay” – just this one time, please!

Dr. Lonnie W. Luther, President,
Montgomery County Farm Bureau

Publishers Notes: The time to get your PMT comments into MDA and the AELR ends on December 31,2014. 


Anonymous said...

"There has been no documentation or proof that phosphorus [or any other nutrient for that matter] actually harms the health of the Chesapeake Bay."

No need to read after this statement which is 100% false. Farmers may want to find a better advocate for their cause as this dude loses all credibility making statements like this to anyone with any knowledge on the topic. When your position is strong, you shouldn't have to lie or distort the truth to support your stance.

JoeAlbero said...

"Credibility" starts by using your real name. Seriously, ANYONE could make such a statement anonymously.

Anonymous said...

The PMT hurts more than just farmers, as a lawn care professional we have follow similar rules. Its ridiculous because no proof or documentation has been provided. I have to carry 2 licenses and have someone on staff who is certified as well. I have to report and record what my fertilizer records are by the end of the year and have to show proof of why I used phosphorus in fertilizer if I did. I have talked to some reps about this issue and New Jersey was the first one to roll out their fertilizer law. I was at a continuing ed class not to long ago and the presenter from Maryland Dept. Of ag stated that they see that we as in lawn care and farmers are not contributing pollution to the bay. So we asked "then who is?" And the reply we all got, was "we do not know." So where is this extensive data and research that suggests fertilizer with phosphorus and nitrogen is harming the Chesapeake Bay?

Anonymous said...

I will not comply.And, 7:53, you are horribly wrong, and what is wrong with this country. You enviro weiners don't have a clue. Thinking GMO is bad? False. Glyphosate is in your food and is hurting you? False. You buy into the "Organic" "Non GMO" marketing ploy to make more money off of you. You don't read the fine print of the lobbyist test.

Sean said...

If I provide my name, will my comment be posted, which supports 7:53am's argument? I somehow doubt this...

“Excess reactive nitrogen compounds in the environment are associated with many large-scale environmental concerns, including eutrophication of surface waters, toxic algae blooms, hypoxia, acid rain, nitrogen saturation in forests, and global warming.”

If you are going to fight PMT, you have to do it with integrity. The writer tries to discredit verified scientific evidence (even though he really doesn't even have to). What a silly argument.