The Real 'War on Rural Maryland'
Return of the Name the Critter Contest

Bill Would Ban Spreading of Manure on Farm Fields in Fall and Winter

ChickensLegislation to require better management of farm manure is not the kind of subject that is likely to attract attention from the general public, but it is critical for the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Why? Because in Maryland, for example, farm runoff accounts for 48 percent of the phosphorus polluting entering the Bay, and 37 percent of the nitrogen pollution, according to state statistics.

A bill proposed in Maryland by State Senators Paul Pinsky and Brian Frosh (Senate Bill 594) would prohibit most application of manure or “biosolids” (partially treated human waste from sewage treatment plants) on farm fields during the cold months, from November 1 through March 1. Starting in 2020, the legislation would also ban the spreading of these fertilizers from September 10 through November.

This ban during the fall and winter would be an important step forward in protecting the Bay. Spreading manure on fields that are frozen -– or that lack crops to absorb the nutrients -– allows rain or melting snow to flush pollutants into nearby streams and the Bay.

Farms with large numbers of chickens, cows, or pigs sometimes feel compelled to spread manure in the winter months, because they lack storage facilities to keep the waste out of the rain until springtime, when the fertilizer should be applied.

On Tuesday, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and several other environmental organizations testified in favor of Senate Bill 594 before the Maryland Senate Education, Health, and Environment committee.

“Largely voluntary actions since 1985 have not accomplished the state goals of reducing pollution and restoring the health of our waterways, so the entire Bay watershed was put on a pollution diet,”  CBF and the other groups, including the National Wildlife Federation and Environment Maryland, said in a joint statement.

Senate Bill 594 would help Maryland meet this diet, which is a pollution limit created by EPA and called a “Total Maximum Daily Load” or TMDL.

CBF and the other environmental groups do not all agree on the particulars of the bill.  For example, CBF wants the bill strengthened by taking out language that would allow wintertime application of manure or human waste as long as it is injected into farm fields.  CBF believes that applying these fertilizers in the winter is unwise, period.

But the legislation is helpful, because the debate process could help push forward draft state regulations to manage manure that have were discussed in the summer and fall and then dropped, because the various parties could not agree on the specifics.

Best to address these issues now and move forward with these vital protections for the Bay.

By Tom Pelton

Chesapeake Bay Foundation



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I think this is a good step in the right direction. However, who is going to enforce it? The same people who enforce the nutrient management plans? This is just another ploy by our great politicians to take the focus off of what really needs to be regulated. They are wasting their time drafting legislation like this. Why attack the poor farmer. Why not attack the companies like Perdue and Tyson who "own" these farms? The farmers are contracted to Perdue. But Perdue doesn't have anything to do with the way the farm is managed. They just get to reap the benefits of buying a chicken that costs 50 cents. They have to use the feed that Mountaire or Perdue requires them to use. The feed is loaded with nitrogen and phosphorus. So much that the bird cannot even absorb the nutrients in the digestion process and excretes 3/4s of the nutrients that the feed is laced with. This also affects the health of the bird, creating an irritated intestinal tract. Its just stupid to attack the farmers when everyday idiots buy scotts turf builder and put that on their lawns during the winter. Or the fact that in D.C., Salisbury and Baltimore, the water treatment plants contribute more nutrient pollution because our tax money has gone to funding the ICC or the express toll lanes project. Omalley is a retard and I dont know why anyone would favor him. He doesn't care about the environment, he just acts like he does so he can say he is a democrat. Whatever happened to just getting the work done, and not worrying about who is liberal and who is conservative. In the end, it doesn't matter who is who when our water is crap. I grew up on the bay and trust me... its not the lowly farmer who is the polluter. MDE really has a great sediment control plan and those silt fences are really doing their job. When it rains hard, the sediment still washes off of construction sites because the highly intelligent workers (who cant speak english) dont know how to put in the silt fence correctly

I completely understand the need to restrict nutrient discharge to the Chesapeake. I also see the connection between fertilizer use and eutrophication.
But is this bill enforceable? The bill text states: "When sludge is applied to
the soil in late summer or fall, sludge application must cease and a crop must be planted by October 31. In addition, sewage sludge may not be applied to agricultural land from November 1 through February 28 unless specified conditions are met." In order to issue a citation for the first prohibition, an enforcement official would need to have solid evidence that biosolids were applied in "late summer or fall" and then follow up with each farm to ensure that crops were planted "by October 31". There are loopholes there big enough to drive truck through. What if the farmer claims that there weather factors or shipment delays that prevented planting? Also, what's the implementation plan for this? Are there enough enforcement officers and record-keeping requirements to effectively deter possible violators? Even the straight prohibition from Nov 1 to Feb 28 requires direct observation and monitoring of every affected farm.
Non-point source pollution is a huge issue for Chesapeake Bay, but i hope this bill leads to a better model for restricting discharge. At a minimum there need to be serious discussions of the enforcement of this to prevent the law from being nothing but a paper tiger. Thanks as always for your hard work on behalf of the Bay.

Good points, Bradley. I'm sure enforcement will be a challenge, just as enforcement of -- for example -- wetlands and critical areas laws is difficult. But that doesn't mean the standards shouldn't be in place -- to send a strong signal of what is right and wrong for the Bay. Many will follow it, even if all do not.

Yes, enforcement is a challenge and may not be fully implemented, but a partial tax rebate based upon inspection results could encourage the farm communities to willingly and even joyfully comply with the law. Enforcement sticks in the craw of so many who directly impact our environment because they see it as government involvement in their private activities. Turning enforcement into encouragement could change that. The staffing to verify compliance would be the same and at the same cost as the staffing to verify and enforce the law. I suggest a move to the positive side of the process.

I think the bigger issue is biosolids, not chicken manure. The majority of chicken farmers already do not apply in the late fall and the winter. More and more are storing the manure until spring as it is extremely valuable fertilizer (have you seen the price of fuel lately?). The biosolids industry and wastewater treatment plants are generally opposed to this legislation (and lobbying against it). It's convenient to ignore the problems of overpopulation in the Bay, and the nutrients from people, "biosolids", are not attributed to people, but are consider farm fertilizer by the Bay Model. Biosolids, unlike chicken manure, are frequently applied to farm fields in the months proposed for restriction by the law. The University of Delaware just completed a study showing the EPA model significantly overestimates the amount of chicken manure by one third. Furthermore, they estimate that the chicken manure that actually exists has significantly less nitrogen than the EPA model shows. This reduction is likely a product of better feed use efficiency, which reduces the volume of manure and the nitrogen content. Are environmentalists and the CBF ignorant to reality? According to the University of Delaware the chicken manure problem is half of the issue environmentalists claim it to be. If CBF or the EPA have better data regarding the amount and nutrient content of chicken manure I’d like to see their evidence.

Roxarsone.... WHAT DID I SAY IN THE FIRST POST.... Regulate the quality/contents of livestock/poultry feed and all of this is a non issue.

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