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The public deserves anti-pollution programs that work

Justice System

A recent article reported a serious problem in the implementation of Maryland's agricultural nutrient management program, which was designed to help protect the Chesapeake and coastal bays from agricultural pollution by requiring farmers to submit manure and fertilizer management plans to the state ("State's oversight of farms criticized," Feb. 3).

I was concerned to read that 30 percent or 40 percent of the plans Maryland's Department of Agriculture audits are found to be non-compliant and that only about 10 percent of the farms are checked. It was also disturbing to read was that, in at least one case, a farmer ignored the law and manipulated the content of his pollution management plan.

One might expect big fines, but in fact the fines are few and minimal. How can a $350 fine encourage compliance?

The Farm Bureau insists that all is well and farmers are complying with the law. But how can we check on that or on state enforcement when farms' pollution prevention plans are not available for public review?

More accountability, enforcement and transparency are needed if we're to have rivers and bays that are swimmable and fishable. The public deserves a program that works.

Mary Ochse, Bishopville

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