November 19, 2012, Annapolis, MD – The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has issued new guidelines for farmers and wastewater treatment operations outlining immediate actions necessary to comply with the state’s newly revised nutrient management regulations, which took effect October 15, 2012.
The revised regulations redefine how a farm nutrient management plan is developed and implemented while changing the way organic nutrient sources and other materials are managed. They are designed to help Maryland meet nutrient reduction goals spelled out in its Watershed Implementation Plan to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
“MDA has implemented a transitional approach to the revised regulations which will allow the 6,000 farmers and hundreds of wastewater treatment operations time to secure the financial and technical resources necessary to comply with the most immediate nutrient management provisions,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance.
The new guidelines issued by MDA address the implementation requirements affecting the remainder of the 2012-2013 season which is now well underway. The guidelines address three broad areas of nutrient management:
Nutrient Management Plan Updates
The first area addresses new requirements for nutrient management plans (NMPs). These science-based management plans are required for all farmers grossing $2,500 a year or more or livestock producers with 8,000 pounds or more of live animal weight. Under the new guidelines, existing nutrient management plans will be “grandfathered” through the time period for which they were developed. NMPs that were current as of October 15, 2012 will be considered valid until they expire. This guideline applies as long as there are no changes to an agricultural operation that would otherwise require a revision to the farm’s NMP.
For example, if a NMP was developed for the 2012 calendar year for spring and fall crops, it will expire on December 31, 2012 and will require an update for the 2013 crop season. In this case, the updated NMP developed for 2013 shall be developed and implemented in accordance with the revised requirements outlined in Maryland’s Nutrient Management Manual.
New Timing Requirements for Fall Nutrient Applications
The second set of guidelines addresses new timing requirements for fall nutrient applications. Maryland’s revised nutrient management regulations require organic nutrient sources applied in fall to be incorporated into the soil within 48 hours. They also limit fall nutrient applications to small grain crops and call for cover crops to be planted when organic nutrient sources are applied in the fall. Because the 2012 fall harvest and cover crop planting season has passed, farm operators will not be required to adopt new management requirements this fall season.
Manure Injection or Incorporation Requirements for Winter Applications
The third set of guidelines addresses new provisions requiring injection or incorporation of manure or other nutrient sources applied to fields in the winter. MDA advises that winter nutrient applications must be made in accordance with a farmer’s current and valid nutrient management plan. Nutrient applications made during the winter of 2012-2013 should be accordance with new injection and/or incorporation requirements to the best extent possible. There are some exceptions in the regulations, including those for established pastures. MDA will be developing and posting additional information on the MDA website at www.mda.maryland.gov to further clarify the requirements.
Under the guidelines, operations with the equipment needed to meet new injection or incorporation requirements should follow new requirements. In situations where the required equipment is not available, nutrient applications should occur on land with existing vegetative cover. In situations where both equipment and existing vegetative cover are not available, nutrient applications will be limited to cropland that has a minimum of 50 percent crop residue coverage prior to application. This 50 percent residue coverage must be maintained until March 1, 2013. All other conditions of winter nutrient application apply.
Other requirements outlined in Maryland’s revised nutrient management regulations, including the creation of no fertilizer application zones next to waterways, the installation of fencing or other pasture-based best management practices, and a winter ban on nutrient applications will take place according to the phased implementation schedule outlined in the revised regulations which are available at www.mda.maryland.gov/pdf/finalnmregs.pdf