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On behalf of 36,000 Maryland Farm Bureau families, I have to disagree with your editorial on the issue of the new phosphorus rules ("Phosphorus rules, finally," Nov. 18). Gov. Martin O'Malley did not get it right. In fact, this is effectively just one last tax increase he is trying to force on the citizens of Maryland on his way out the door.

The voters sent a clear mandate on November 4th — they oppose new taxes. The $22.5 million this new rule will cost farmers and the $39 million taxpayers are expected to kick in amount to nothing other than a new tax burden.

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The fallacy in the whole argument over the phosphorus rules is that nothing has been done to control phosphorus on farms until now and that phosphorous is "pouring" into the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, farmers have already made tremendous progress in phosphorus reductions. Working with extension researchers, farmers have reduced the amount of dairy manure and poultry litter applied to fields. What started out as 15 tons of litter to the acre decades ago was reduced to 5 tons per acre in the mid-1990s. Under the current nutrient management program, most farmers apply at the crop removal rate of 2 tons every three years. And new research is in the works to make farmers more efficient at less cost than is necessary under this new rule.

One other important point to consider is the impact on organic production. Growers tell us they will have to stop raising organic crops because they cannot get organic nitrogen without phosphorus attached.

Maryland farmers are ahead of schedule on the plan to clean up the bay. In fact, we are at 130 percent of our goal. Putting this controversial rule in place on his way out of office when he won't be around to sign the check he is writing on behalf of taxpayers is just wrong of Governor O'Malley.

Chuck Fry, Frederick

The writer is president of the Maryland Farm Bureau. He operates a creamery, dairy and grain farm outside of Frederick.

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