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October 1-Changes to Maryland’s Nutrient Management and Confined Animal Feeding Operation

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

By Sarah Everhart

Corn Harvest from above on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Photo Credit Edwin Remsberg

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During the last legislative session the Maryland General Assembly passed Senate Bill 546 (SB 546) which enacted many changes to the Nutrient Management (NM) and Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Programs all of which are effective on October 1, 2019. Specifically, SB 546 increases financial penalties for farmers who are out of compliance with the Nutrient Management Program, adds supplementary reporting requirements on manure transport and land application, places new requirements on CAFOs, and requires water quality monitoring at nine sites on the lower Eastern Shore.

As of next month, farmers with late or missing Annual Implementation Reports (AIRs) may be fined, after notice of violation, up to $1,000. The fine for failing to implement a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) is now capped at $500 per violation and up to $5,000 per operator, per year. Both of these fines require the Maryland Department of Agriculture to consider, before assessing the fine, circumstances such as the willfulness of the violation, whether the violation is part of recurrent pattern of behavior, and in the case of failing to implement a NMP, any actual harm to the environment or to human health and the available technology and economic reasonableness of controlling, reducing, or eliminating the violation.

The legislation also creates new fines related to Maryland’s Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT). There will now be a $250 fine for anyone who applies phosphorus to land in violation of the PMT regulations. Additionally, licensed businesses and certified consultants must comply with all nutrient management reporting requirements including PMT implementation deadlines and submission of soil test data required by the PMT and failure to do so may result in a fine of $250.

SB 546 also modifies how MDA tracks manure movement both inside and outside of the State and created additional record keeping responsibilities on farmers, manure haulers, and brokers. The 2019 AIR will have an expanded section on manure transport and will require a farm operator using animal manure to include the following on the AIR:

  1. The amount of animal manure imported to and exported from the person’s farm;

  2. For any animal manure that was imported, the name and location of the sending farm; and

  3. For any animal manure that was exported, the name and location of the farm, alternative use facility, or manure broker that received the manure.

*If the farm operator receives animal manure through a manure broker, the broker shall provide the operator with the name and location of the sending farm.

SB 546 also requires CAFO operators to have coverage under the General Discharge Permit, issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), before construction on any CAFO may begin. MDE is also prohibited from issuing coverage under the General Discharge Permit to a person who began constructing a CAFO before being issued permit coverage. MDE must also now charge a one-time permit application fee of at least $2,000 for notice of intent to seek coverage under the General Discharge Permit for a proposed or modified CAFO that will have a house capacity of 350,000 square feet or more. These CAFOs will also be subject to an annual $1,200 fee for continued coverage under the General Discharge Permit.

Lastly, SB 546 also requires the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to conduct stream monitoring at nine sites on the Lower Eastern Shore.

Certified NM consultants, certified farmers and others who make nutrient management recommendations and/or need continuing NM credit should register for the Agricultural Nutrient Management Update Training, December 17, 2019, National Wildlife Visitor Center, Laurel, Maryland. Who Should Attend Farmers, consultants and anyone who makes nutrient management recommendations.

Anyone with questions about nutrient management or any other issue related to agricultural law may contact the Agriculture Law Education Initiative at 410-706-7377 or

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