Agriculture sector only halfway toward 2017 goal for phosphorus pollution

January 16, 2015

Contact: Dawn Stoltzfus, The Hatcher Group, (410) 990-0284


(Annapolis, MD)–Claims by the farm lobby that Maryland’s agriculture industry is ahead of its Chesapeake Bay clean-up goals to reduce pollution are factually inaccurate. The Chesapeake Bay Program confirmed this week that as of June 2013 (its most recent data), Maryland’s agriculture sector is only 51 percent of the way toward meeting its 2017 goal to reduce phosphorus.

“The agriculture industry clearly has a long way to go to reduce phosphorus pollution,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, a member of the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition. “It is shameful how hard the poultry industry, its lobbyists, and others continue to fight commonsense and scientifically sound solutions.”

The Farm Bureau continues to object to the Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT), inaccurately and repeatedly stating agriculture is ahead of its goals. Federal experts tracking progress have established that the Farm Bureau is incorrect.

“What is undisputable and what should spur the General Assembly and Governor-elect Hogan into action is that not only is the agriculture industry the largest source of pollution to the Bay, but it is behind the curve,” said Joanna Diamond, co-chair of the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition. “Every year, Maryland produces enough poultry waste to fill both M & T Bank stadium and FedEx Field. We’ve simply got too much manure that farmers are spreading on already polluted fields. As a result our water quality is getting worse, not better.”

The PMT would reduce pollution by halting the excessive uses of manure on farm fields already contaminated with too much phosphorus.

“Experts say this is the best opportunity in 30 years to improve the Chesapeake Bay,” said Karla Raettig of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and a co-chair of the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition. “After ten years of scientific study and a legislatively mandated economic study, it is time for swift implementation of this pollution-reducing tool.”

Maryland’s 2010 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) committed the state to updating the Phosphorus Management Tool in 2011. A study by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation found that failure to fully implement Maryland’s plan to restore the Chesapeake Bay would result in a $700 million annual loss to Maryland’s economy, due in part to damage to fisheries and other ecosystem services.

Agriculture is the single largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland waterways, and more than half of Maryland’s phosphorus pollution comes from farms with failed manure management systems. Phosphorus pollution causes algae blooms that threaten public health; kill underwater grasses; harm aquatic life like blue crabs, oysters and fish; and create an enormous “dead zone” in the Bay.

View the infographic “How Manure is Contaminating Maryland Waters & the Chesapeake Bay” as well as a fact sheet for more information about the Phosphorus Management Tool.



The Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition is working to improve Maryland waterways and protect public health by reducing pollution, and increasing transparency and accountability, from agriculture and other associated sources of water degradation.


Anacostia Riverkeeper – Audubon Naturalist Society – Assateague Coastal Trust – Blue Water Baltimore – Chesapeake Climate Action Network – Clean Water Action – Common Cause Maryland – Environment Maryland –League of Women Voters of Maryland – Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper – Maryland League of Conservation Voters – Maryland Pesticide Network – National Wildlife Federation, Mid-Atlantic Regional Center – Potomac Riverkeeper – Sierra Club, Maryland Chapter – South River Federation – Waterkeepers Chesapeake – West/Rhode Riverkeeper


Download this press release (PDF)