Friday 22 March 2019

Agriculture (32)

Bill would help implement the Phosphorus Management Tool, improve industrial agriculture permitting and reinstate Eastern Shore water quality monitors ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Maryland Senate voted 32-15 today to approve SB 546, a bill that would give the state more information about agriculture practices, manure transport and water quality on the Eastern Shore. It would also change the discharge permitting process for constructing new industrial agriculture Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to ensure more transparency and discontinue the decades-long waiver of permit fees.  “We need to collect better data and ensure we are enforcing the laws we have to reduce pollution,” said Senator Paul Pinsky (D-22), lead sponsor of SB 546 and chairman of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. “Most Maryland farmers are doing their part to protect waterways, but the fact is that agriculture remains the single, largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. We need to make sure the entire system is working effectively so we can protect clean water.” Maryland has several laws on the books to help prevent pollution from agriculture, including the Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulations passed in 2015 to stop overapplication of manure on farm fields. However, advocates say that progress to reduce pollution is hamstrung by a lack of useful data, as well as a dysfunctional permitting system. “The Chesapeake Bay is showing signs of progress, but many threats remain,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “The PMT and other nutrient management laws are our best chance…
Agriculture is the single, largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, and it contaminates local waterways. Maryland is working on solutions, but our progress is hamstrung by a lack of information and a dysfunctional permitting system. Agriculture Tracking and Improvement Act (SB 546/HB 904) would help Maryland get information currently lacking about agriculture practices, manure transport and water quality on the Eastern Shore, and it would improve transparency and fairness in the State’s industrial agriculture permitting program.     Specifically, the bill would: help the agriculture industry comply with the state’s regulation to reduce the use of phosphorous (known as the Phosphorous Management Tool); create a voluntary system to track manure transport and land application by private companies; update the permitting timeline and fees for industrial poultry operations (know as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs); reinstate water quality monitoring stations on the Lower Eastern Shore. Take Action and send an email to your Maryland representatives to urge them to vote YES on SB546/HB904. All sectors of our state --  business, cities, agriculture, residents – need to do their fair share to reduce pollution in our local waterways and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Click here for more information about the bill.

Maryland’s 2018 Legislative Session Wrap-Up Featured

With the 2018 Maryland Session coming to a close earlier this month, we’d like to let you know about the important legislative victories we achieved along with some of the policies we may revisit in 2019. Over the past few months, Waterkeepers Chesapeake partnered with Maryland waterkeepers and other environmental organizations in the General Assembly to increase public access to government records, increase public participation at the Public Service Commission (PSC), prevent the use of harmful chemicals, decrease the amount of foam in local waterways, and close loopholes under current law that enable the net loss of forests in Maryland -- to name a few.   Legislative Victories Thanks to the work of Fair Farms and others, we were able to secure funding for the Maryland Farms and Families program.The Maryland General Assembly included $200,000 in the final budget for this program that matches purchases made by low-income Marylanders using federal nutrition assistance like SNAP (food stamps) at participating farmers markets. While the Governor still needs to allocate the funds for this program -- you can ask him to do so here -- we are now one step closer to having Maryland fund a successful program that directly supports small farmers, food-insecure Marylanders, and our local economy. This past session the General Assembly also legalized hemp production in Maryland. Hemp has a number of benefits for our environment, provides a new income stream for farmers, diversifies our state’s agricultural system, and may bring new jobs and opportunities to Maryland. You…