Authorized by the Water Quality Improvement Act (WQIA) of 1998, the Nutrient Management Program protects water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries by ensuring that farmers and urban land managers apply fertilizers, animal waste and other nutrient sources in an effective and environmentally sound manner. The program receives guidance from the Nutrient Management Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from agricultural interests, environmental groups, the turfgrass industry, biosolids firms, the University of Maryland, and a host of local, state and government agencies.
Agricultural Nutrient Management Program
All farmers grossing $2,500 a year or more or livestock producers with 8,000 pounds or more of live animal weight are required to follow nutrient management plans when fertilizing crops and managing animal waste. These science-based plans help protect water quality by taking into account a variety of factors to determine how much fertilizer, manure or other nutrient sources may be safely applied to crops fields. Nutrient management plans are required for all agricultural land used to produce plants, food, feed, fiber, animals or other agricultural products.
To ensure the quality of nutrient management plans, the NMP oversees a certification and licensing program for nutrient management consultants, a farmer training and certification program and continuing education and applicator training programs and workshops.
MDA’s nutrient management specialists verify that farmers are following their plans, conduct site visits, and investigate complaints involving manure and other nutrient sources. Violators face fines and penalties of up to $2,000 a year and loss of MDA cost-share grants.
On October 15, 2012, MDA’s Revised Nutrient Management Regulations became effective. The revised regulations modify how a farm nutrient management plan is developed and implemented and change the way organic nutrient sources and other materials are managed. The new requirements—which will be phased in over the next several years—are designed to help Maryland meet nitrogen reduction goals spelled out in its Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) for the Chesapeake Bay.
Urban Nutrient Management Program
Under the WQIA, approximately 700 non-agricultural nutrient applicators, including lawn care companies, commercial landscapers, golf course managers and public groundskeepers, are required to take soil tests, keep fertilizer records, and follow University of Maryland guidelines when applying nutrients to lawns, athletic fields or other urban landscapes. MDA reviews the records of these organizations to verify program compliance and is authorized to impose fines for violations.
Beginning October 1, 2013, the Fertilizer Use Act of 2011 will require more than 1,500 urban land managers statewide to be trained and certified by MDA before they can apply nutrients to non-agricultural properties. In addition, both lawn care professionals and do-it-yourselfers will be required to obey fertilizer application restrictions, observe fertilizer blackout dates, employ best management practices and follow University of Maryland recommendations when fertilizing lawns. For more information on Maryland's new Lawn Fertilizer Law, click here.