Sheep graze in a pasture. Photo by Patricia OBrien

New Rules Must Require All Farmers Do Their Fair Share to Clean Up the Bay

Regarding your recent commentary on animal waste and pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, I would like to point out that agriculture is not a monolithic industry uniformly opposed to the regulation of harmful nutrients that foul the Chesapeake Bay.

I am a farmer in Frederick County who took the time from my operation to go to Annapolis to testify in support of legislation to require better management of farm animal manure and sewage. I raise sheep, goats, hogs, and poultry whose manure would be subject to the new rules.

Our farm is bordered by Tom's Creek, which feeds into the Monocracy River and which ultimately drains into the Chesapeake Bay. Our watershed is one of many in the region that suffers from excessive runoff of nutrients from agriculture.

We follow voluntary best management practices recommended by the state, and although we get some financial and technical assistance, implementing these best practices still costs us time, money, and the use of land adjacent to creeks and drainage swales that we have to take out of production.

It is frustrating to do all of this only to drive off my farm and see cows standing in the creek, barren fields without any cover crops, and farmers spreading manure on frozen ground in violation of state regulations.

Worse yet is to leave my driveway on warm, wet winter days and see black/brown water running into the drainage ditch along the road, which then dumps into the creek. The soil in our part of the county is orange, not black/brown, so this is not sediment coming off our fields.

Taxpayers are footing the bill to fund best management practices on farms across the state. The problem is you cannot have a patchwork in which some farmers try to prevent the runoff of nutrients into the bay, while others do nothing. We're all on the same body of water, and we will never clean it up unless we all do our fair share.

Voluntary, incentive-based approaches have failed. We've tried that strategy for more than 30 years now. The reality is speed limits are for speeders, not for people who never drive above 55. Rules are for people who aren't following them. Right now, we have a lot of farmers who are not following the rules.

If we are serious about cleaning up the bay, what we need are a set of uniform—and uniformly enforced—rules for all farmers to abide by.

—William Morrow (Emmitsburg, Maryland)

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