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Chickens on a poultry farm in Denton. (File photo)

Hogan vows to fight fertilizer regulations

ANNAPOLIS — Gov.-elect Larry Hogan on Monday vowed to fight fertilizer regulations that critics say would hurt farmers.

Hogan, speaking at the Maryland Farm Bureau’s annual convention in Ocean City, said he would make the proposed regulations his first fight when he enters office Jan. 21. He criticized outgoing Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration for pressing ahead with the regulations in the waning weeks of his tenure.

“We won’t allow them to put you out of business, destroy your way of life, or decimate your entire industry,” the Republican said.

Supporters say the regulations are crucial to reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay by limiting manure applied to farm fields with excess phosphorous levels. They say the latest version of the regulations include several exemptions for certain farms and will be phased in over six years. Phosphorus pollution is significant, because it causes algae blooms that kill underwater grasses and harm aquatic life such as blue crabs, oysters and fish.

The Center for Progressive Reform, which supports the regulations, released a map on Monday with the Chesapeake Commons based on 60 concentrated animal feeding operations in six counties on the Eastern Shore obtained from public planning documents from the Maryland Department of the Environment submitted between 2008 and 2014. The group says the map demonstrates that the new phosphorus management tool is desperately needed.

“Maryland has a huge stake in restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and it won’t get there without addressing the phosphorus pollution running off of farms,” said Rena Steinzor, the organization’s president.

A study by Salisbury University released last month found that compliance with the regulations could cost chicken growers, farmers and businesses between $22 million and $53 million over six years.

The regulations have been proposed three times in the last two years, but they have been delayed from implementation due to opposition.

Last week, the proposed rules were published in the Maryland Register to start a 30-day public comment period.