Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New $#!* Rules Advancing Over Objections

Objections to new nutrient managment rules?  Those recalcitrant farmers, no doubt... Oh wait, its the environmental crowd:
The state Department of Agriculture plans to publish proposed changes to its "nutrient management" regulations on Dec. 2 in the Maryland Register, spokeswoman Julianne Oberg said in an email.

State officials have said the new rules, which deal with the spreading of animal manure and sewage sludge on farm fields, are intended to reduce polluted runoff from farms as part of Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay. Among the proposed changes are a ban on putting down any fertilizer in winter and tighter limits in the fall, requiring farmers to store their animals' waste until spring or find other uses for it.

The changes were generally welcomed by environmental groups when first announced three weeks ago. Some activists, notably former state Sen. Gerald Winegrad of Annapolis, thought they were still far too weak, but others saw them as a good first step toward tackling agricultural pollution.

On Monday, however, environmental groups issued a statement calling the changes "disappointing," and complaining that state officials have loosened the proposed restrictions that had been informally aired earlier this year. The public criticism comes after behind-the-scenes appeals to close what activists called a serious "loophole" in the new rules, or at least delay their publication for more discussion.
 So what was it they expected that they didn't get?
Jenn Aiosa, senior scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said that while activists still liked some proposed changes, they were particularly concerned about a loophole that would allow farmers to continue spreading animal manure or sludge in the late fall, when it's likely to pollute streams and ground water. The rules would allow late-fall application if a farm doesn't have room to store its animal manure until spring, she said.
OK, I see the problem.  But how about if we give the farmers a year or two to allow them to make the space  to store it out of the weather before we ban it entirely?  A good compromise leaves both sides unhappy.

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