Proposed Phosphorous Regulations Create Protest Amongst Farmers - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Proposed Phosphorous Regulations Create Protest Amongst Md. Farmers

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

SALISBURY, Md.- There is a growing debate over phosphorous usage in farming in Maryland. The Maryland Department of Agriculture has proposed regulations on the nutrient, something that would greatly affect the usage of chicken manure on the Eastern Shore. In response to the proposed regulations, more than 500 Maryland citizens flocked the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center on Tuesday to learn more about this change.

Phosphorous could be tremendously dangerous to the Chesapeake Bay if it were to leak into the water, according to the MDA. But limiting the amount of phosphorous could be a great financial burden on the people making a living on the Eastern Shore.

Charles Wright, a farmer in Hebron, was one of the people at the meeting. He said the regulations may force him to buy more expensive fertilizers on top of the chicken manure that is allowed.

"The problem is that they're taking a product. It's chicken manure," he said. "It's a commodity. So what am I supposed to do? Let the crops suffer, lose money, lose yield?"

According to the MDA, the limits in phosphorous only apply to farms with a high enough level of the nutrient. Those with small levels of the substance in their land will have little cost due to the change. Wright, who owns a large property, said he is not sure those numbers will apply to the larger farms.

"You're looking at a minimum - a minimum of 100 bucks per acre," he said. "That's a minimum. Could be as close as 200 maybe."

The change follows new work coming out of the University of Maryland. In a recent study, they found that farms are actually a larger contributor to phosphorous pollution than previously expected.

But at the public hearing, there was a lot of concern not about the environmental future of the community but the financial one. The poultry industry has a tremendous impact on the economy of the Eastern Shore and Maryland as a whole.  

"It's nice to be first on a lot of things," said one man. "But it sure as hell isn't nice to be first when you're the state of Maryland and you're getting regulations pushed down your throats that other states don't have."

In response, a representative from the MDA said that the higher regulations were just part of the responsibility associated with living so close to the Chesapeake Bay.

"The EPA holds Maryland to a different standard than other states because of it's relative location to the Chesapeake Bay," he said. 

This isn't the first time debates over chicken manure have happened on the Eastern Shore. Most recently, a similar debate occurred this summer when regulations were proposed as an "Emergency Regulation." After an outcry from local farmers, the regulations were temporarily pulled back.

Now the plans are being discussed once again. There is another public meeting set for Tuesday, Oct. 15 from 6-8 p.m. to further discuss the regulations at the Talbot County Community Center in Easton.

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