New state nutrient management regulations could have an adverse effect on farmers throughout Maryland, if they're upheld by a review committee.
The Joint Committee on Administrative Executive and Legislative Review met Tuesday in Annapolis to look over the regulations approved by the Maryland General Assembly during this past legislative session.
The regulations will govern when farmers can spread manure on their fields and require them to keep livestock away from streams. Harford County farmers have long opposed both for their intrusiveness and the cost involved.
It is the state's hope that the new regulations will help Maryland meet nitrogen and phosphorus reduction goals and restore the Chesapeake Bay.
Sen. Barry Glassman, a Republican who represents northern Harford District 35, said he feels the short notice of the hearing is "disrespectful" to the agricultural industry and is "disappointed" that it was not postponed to a day and time that didn't conflict with a farmer's schedule.
Furthermore, Glassman believes the new regulations will affect an already hurting farming industry.
"We're fighting an uphill battle, unfortunately," Glassman said Monday.
The senator, whose district includes thousands of acres of crop and livestock farms, described the regulations as "part of this overall pollution diet that the feds [federal government] have pushed down to the state."
Glassman explained that two of the regulations deal with stream fencing and, what he called, "time of spreading prohibition."
If the committee upholds the regulations, farms will need to have a fence at least 10 feet away from surface water to keep out livestock.
In addition, Glassman said there would be a "time of spreading prohibition," which means during certain times in the fall and winter a farmer will not be allowed to spread manure and must store it on-site.
"Regardless of what kind of site they [the farmers] have, they'll have to basically build storage facilities," the senator said. "And this is where they [the regulations] will impact the counties."
He added there are some exceptions for dairy farmers.
Glassman also commented on the lack of notice for Tuesday's hearing in Annapolis.
"For something this major, it just seems disrespectful to the industry," he said.
"The Joint Committee on Administrative Executive & Legislative Review, (AELR), sent the July 10, 2 p.m. hearing notice on June 29 before the July holiday week," a press release from Glassman's office sent Monday read. "Glassman alerted the Democratic leadership of the short notice, and the fact that the timing was right during a dairy farmer's evening milking, notwithstanding the travel time to Annapolis."
There was also a public meeting Tuesday night at Harford Community College by the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
On Wednesday, Glassman wrote in an e-mail that both meetings "went pretty well."
"We had close to 150 farmers at [the] HCC meeting," he noted. "I think we made some headway with the Department of Agriculture to pull the mandatory [regulations] in lieu of working in a collaborative way on new best management practices the way we have done in the past to achieve all of our reduction goals."
Henry Holloway, owner of The Mill in Bel Air, said: "If the nutrient management regulations stand as they are or they become more stringent it will hasten the exodus of livestock and dairy animals from the state."