As head of the agency responsible for Maryland's nutrient management program, I would like to correct a few misconceptions presented by one reader ("Maryland fertilizer regs leave a bad odor," June 7). In fact, the new draft regulations include provisions that address his concerns. These provisions are scientifically-based and allow for the use of the newest technology and best management practices.
The regulations provide an exception for incorporating manure for hay and pastures acres, no till, or highly erodible conditions and allow spray irrigation of nutrients on existing crops and allow winter grazing of livestock. Further, the regulations allow for fall fertilization of small grain crops depending on soil test to evaluate residual nitrogen. This is based on four years of University of Maryland field research replicated in three locations across the state that demonstrates fall fertilizer is not cost effective in increasing yields.
Regarding fencing, the regulations allow for Soil Conservation District staff to evaluate each site to allow for the use of alternative best management practices, such as stream crossings, alternate watering facilities, pasture management, or vegetative exclusion that are equally protective of water quality. We know that a "one size fits all" approach is not always best and that this provision may provide more cost-effective solutions for the farmer.
In crafting the nutrient management regulations, Maryland considered recommendations of Gov.Martin O'Malley's BayStat Science Panel as well as concerns raised by environmental, agricultural and municipal stakeholders. The goal of the process is to achieve consistency in the way all sources of nutrients are managed. These draft regulations strike a balance between maximizing water quality benefits and practical needs of implementing requirements in the field and assuring economic impacts are manageable.
Buddy Hance, Annapolis
The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture.