Letter to MDA Expresses Need for Revision of Proposed Nutrient Management Regulations
Garrett County Commissioner Gregan Crawford expressed the frustration of Garrett County
farmers in a letter to the Maryland Department of Agriculture protesting the recent proposed
nutrient management regulation changes. The proposed regulations would require farmers to
exclude portions of their farms from nutrient application, soil inject nutrients, apply no
nutrients in the winter, and fence streams.
Over 50 people attended a meeting last week to learn about the proposed regulation changes.
The meeting, hosted by University of Maryland Extension, Garrett County Economic
Development, Garrett County Farm Bureau, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and
Garrett Soil Conservation District, included information about how the regulation changes could
impact Garrett County crop and livestock farmers.
In particular, the injecting of nutrients is problematic in Garrett County, where clay soils filled
with rocks can make injection impossible. Injection is used extensively in the Eastern Shore of
Maryland, where sandy soils are prevalent.
By requiring no nutrients be applied in the winter, farmers with animals must store manure
until the spring. This would require the addition of manure storage facilities on almost every
livestock farm in the county. For small farmers with few animals, the capital outlay would be
too great. The options for small farmers would be to comply and get an off farm job to pay for
the facility, or stop farming. The latter option is what concerned the commissioners the most.
“If you look at the big picture, all of Garrett County’s farmers are ‘small’ farmers,” said
Commissioner Crawford. “We cannot put these folks out of business – we would be losing an
entire sector of our economy and we would be losing the pristine open space these farms
provide, something we all enjoy.”
Another concern with the proposed regulations is the rigid dates for the application of nutrients
in the fall. In order for Garrett County farmers to achieve the full cover required for application
of nutrients before November 15, cover crops would need to be planted at least by October 15.
For farmers in Eastern Maryland, this is fine. Garrett County farmers often cannot harvest corn
before then unless they dry the grain. The new regulations would, in effect, cause farmers to
pay more for grain drying, increasing their costs and reducing profitability.
The final paragraphs of the letter sum up the sentiment: A vast majority of our farmers do a
wonderful job – they work with the soil conservation district, they keep their farms running
smoothly, they try to make a living doing the best job they can. Punishing these hard-working
folks because of a few farmers that don’t try as hard appears to be overkill. It seems the limited
resources of MDA could be better spent by finding the farmers who need help and helping them
become better stewards of the land. The bottom line is, Garrett County farmers are already at a
disadvantage, with the harsh climate (cold winters, short summers, high rainfall, etc.) and
topography (mountainous terrain, little ‘flat’ land, etc.) If you add in additional regulations that
were written tailored to the climate, soil types, and typography of the eastern part of Maryland,
I know many of our farmers will be gone.