The following first appeared in the Bay Journal.
It isn't ideology. It isn't hyperbole. It isn't an attack on the family farmer or rural Maryland.
It is, simply, common sense. Science says we have far too much manure-based phosphorus being applied to land on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. You might call it a manure crisis.
Farm fields cannot absorb the phosphorus in the 228,000 tons of excess chicken manure applied annually. Virtually everyone agrees that this problem cannot be the status quo and that the problem of too much pollution, wherever it is, creates environmental, economic and human health havoc. Just look at the state of the rivers on the Eastern Shore.
The good news is that there is a simple, common sense solution to the pollution problem on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It is the Phosphorus Management Tool, and it has been offered not once, not twice, but three times. Each time it has been proposed, someone stands up and says, "I'm all for clean water, but not here, not now."
Our view at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is that the phosphorus management tool is the very least we should do to solve the manure crisis on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Our elected leaders in the legislative assembly and the governor-elect need to find the political will to make this simple tool a reality farmers can use to do what they say--and we believe--they want to do: the right thing.
And, our elected officials need to act now. We invite them to join us, have a look for themselves, and talk to the watermen whose catches are threatened by bad local water quality.
The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint 2017 mid-term pollution reduction goals are right around the corner. Maryland needs to accelerate efforts to meet its goals, especially on the Eastern Shore. Delaying the adoption of the phosphorus management tool further will only mean reductions will have to come from other pollution sectors, perhaps from wastewater treatment. And, achieving reductions from every other sector--is many times more costly.
Maryland has long been a leader in Bay restoration. The decisions and actions our leaders take concerning the simple, long-awaited, badly-needed, cost-effective phosphorus management tool will be a harbinger of the state's leadership role in the future.
--Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Director