The following first appeared in the Daily Times.
A recent Daily Times editorial encourages compromise between farmers and environmentalists but offers no solution. In fact, the proposed state regulations to update existing nutrient management rules is a compromise solution.
The regulations, in the works for the past ten years and delayed repeatedly for the past three, will be phased in during six years under the compromise. No farmers would have to change their management practices until the 2017 growing season.
That additional delay also postpones cleaner water on the Eastern Shore, but it illustrates the balance these draft regulations sought to strike.
The O'Malley administration also has offered to increase taxpayer subsidies to help farmers cope with the updated rules, and the Department of Agriculture says sufficient funds exist to lend a big hand. That's the right thing to do.
We also think poultry companies who control all aspects of a contract growers operation but take no legal responsibility for the waste generated can play an increased role beyond the existing support of the manure transport program.
Environmentalists aren't blaming farmers for the manure crisis on the Eastern Shore--a fact continually lost in this debate and in the Daily Times editorial. Phosphorus was building up in farm soils long before many current farmers ever spread manure, and before science and poor water quality alerted us to the problem.
But we have a crisis. The state estimates 228,000 tons of excess poultry manure are spread each year on the Shore--an environmental catastrophe which fouls the creeks and rivers of the Shore.
What's the alternative to the updated rules? How else are we to reduce the amount of phosphorus from chicken litter being added to already saturated soils? Technology and private industry can play a role, but alone can't solve the problem. How else will we clean the local creeks and rivers on the Eastern Shore? Concrete, informed solutions are needed, not further rhetoric.
--Alan Girard, CBF's Eastern Shore Director