"I'm guessing you don't have the personal email of governors of DE or VA, so let me know when Buddy can/should be doing more to help you push stuff," O'Malley replied. "I'm serious. I'll have him call you Monday."

O'Malley also sought Frerichs' help in overcoming opposition among Perdue and other poultry industry officials to his plan for putting a commercial wind farm off Ocean City.  O'Malley's wind legislation failed last year and again this year.

Food & Water Watch's Hauter warned that O'Malley's closeness to the Perdue lawyer could undermine new farm pollution regulations his administration is about to unveil.

The state Department of Agriculture initially proposed last year tightening rules on when, where and how animal manure and sewage sludge could be used as fertilizer on crops, but withdrew them for more study after they were roundly criticized by farm and environmental groups. Farming groups generally questioned the practicality of the measures or need for new limits, while environmental groups differed over how strong they should be.

O'Malley administration officials privately briefed farming, environmental and municipal government groups Tuesday on changes they are making to the proposed rules, which have yet to be published. A PowerPoint presentation released after the session explained that the revised rules would aim to "strike a balance" between reducing polluted runoff from farms and mitigating the economic impact of the new restrictions.

Environmentalists remain divided on the changes, with some saying they would help clean up the bay while others contend the rules have been watered down and would not do nearly enough. Farm group representatives said the changes give them more time to comply and some flexibility but expressed concern that the costs of meeting the new restrictions could hurt all of the state's farmers, not just the poultry industry.

"I would not by any stretch of the imagination say farmers would be happy about them now," said Valerie Connelly, director of government relations for the Maryland Farm Bureau.

Annie Linskey, State House reporter for The Baltimore Sun, contributed to this article.

tim.wheeler@baltsun.com

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