Hogan's PMT Moves Forward As Compromise is Reached - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Hogan's PMT Moves Forward As Compromise is Reached

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 ANNAPOLIS, Md.- Over the past few years there's been plenty of back and forth over the Phosphorus Management Tool in Maryland.

A reminder, the PMT would lower the amount of phosphorus on farms by reducing the amount of chicken manure many farmers use now.  The PMT will force farmers to use more inorganic fertilizer, if their soil phosphorous levels are too high, which is more expensive.

Last month governor Larry Hogan put out his own version of the PMT to rival former governor Martin O'Malley's proposal.  Hogan suggested pushing back the timeline of implementing the PMT to 2022.  His plan would force farmers with excessive phosphorus levels to stop using chicken manure immediately.  It also calls for a study on farms during implementation.  Then comes an evaluation, making sure farms are keeping up with current regulations before moving to the next level.  Finally, every six years soil samples will be sent to MDA to track phosphorus levels.

Now there is promise of real compromise after two points of contention between farmers and environmentalists looks to be resolved.  Two fairly small changes to the regulation have been made, and now we appear to be closer than ever to a compromise.

When first proposed, the Phosphorous Management Tool got an icy reception from farmers, who felt they were being unfairly punished for bay pollution.

"The PMT came as somewhat of a shock to us. It first appeared that it would be a negative toward the farm industry, that a lot of people who depended on manure, their livelihood would be threatened," said Joe Layton, farm manager for Lazy Day Farms in Dorchester county.

Since governor Hogan's version of the PMT was announced, that reception has warmed, giving farmers more time to adjust to the change.

However, from an environmentalist standpoint, there was some concern over Hogan's wording, that a strong end date hasn't been enforced.  The regulation has been re-written to make that end goal more firm.  Farms will be divided into three tiers based on phosphorous content.  A new advisory board of 20 people from all interested parties from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., will assess how each tier is progressing toward implementation.  If farmers need more time, each tier can be given a maximum of two, one-year, extensions, making full PMT implementation by 2024 at the latest.

Farmers and environmental groups are pleased with the outcome.

"We think under governor Hogan, we will continue as regulations are written to have a say in those, and hopefully it will result in a program that is not as onerous as we first felt," said Layton.

"The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint calls for all practices to be in place by 2025. This compromise allows these regulations to go in place, get our eastern shore rivers and streams cleaned up, and meet the bay restoration goal. It's a good deal," said Alan Girard, eastern shore director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

A deal long fought over, but one that appears to have finally arrived.

The drafted regulation will be published on April 3rd and will be open for public comment for 30 days.  As part of this agreement, senator Paul Pinsky, who was pushing O'Malley's version of the PMT through the senate, has put that bill on hold.  An AELR committee hearing related to the PMT has also been canceled in light of this new compromise.

An MDA press release on the compromise can be found here.

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