Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Farm Nutrient Rules Come Down

New farm rules curb manure, sludge use to help Bay
The rules would sharply curtail spreading of manure and sludge in fields in fall and winter, when crops are dormant and unable to absorb the nutrients in the fertilizer. They also would require farmers at other times of the year to work manure and sludge into the soil within 48 hours of spreading it, to reduce the chances it would wash off in a rainstorm. And no “organic” fertilizer could be put within 10 to 35 feet of rivers, streams or drainage ditches, which also would require most farms to fence livestock away from water.

Farm runoff is a major source of the nutrient pollution that spurs algae blooms and a huge dead zone in the Chesapeake every spring and summer. Animal manure accounts for 15 percent of the nitrogen fouling the bay and 24 percent of the phosphorus, according to Environmental Protection Agency computer modeling.
All this fuss for 15%? 
State officials said in tweaking the rules they tried to strike a balance between reducing pollution and easing the cost and practical challenges for farmers. Most of the restrictions would not take effect until 2016, for instance, to give farmers and local governments time to adapt.

The rules also would allow farmers to fertilize crops planted in fall if tests show it's needed, but growers would have to use chemical fertilizer, not poultry manure or sludge. Officials plan to bar fertilizing from Nov. 1 to March 1 for Eastern Shore farms, but gave Western Shore farms an extra two weeks until Nov. 15 to allow for later fall planting schedules there. And they said farmers could avoid the cost of fencing off their streams if they could come up with other ways to keep animals back.
Interesting; for home owner, they banned chemical fertilizer with phosphate, but allowed "natural" fertilizers.  Of course, the algae in the bay don't know or care if their nitrogen atom comes from chemical fertilizer or cow $#!*.
The changes made in the rules since last year, though, failed to win over farming and local government groups concerned about their cost and practicality, while environmentalists are split over whether they go far enough.
So both sides are unhappy?  A good sign...

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