O'Malley: Farmers are strong partners in cleaning the Chesapeake Bay

In their June 18 op-ed "No more half-measures for the bay," Parris N. Glendening, Bernie Fowler, Tom Horton, Gerald W. Winegrad, Walter Boynton and Thomas R. Fisher, great friends of the environment, acknowledge Maryland's efforts to curb "bay-choking nutrient pollutants" but blame Maryland farmers and population growth for the lack of progress in restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay. I disagree.

Over the last several years, Maryland's farmers have been some of the strongest partners in our efforts. Last fall, Maryland farmers planted a record 429,818 acres of cover crops, preventing an estimated 2.58 million pounds of nitrogen from entering the bay. Cover crops are widely considered to be one of the most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable ways to control soil erosion and reduce nutrient runoff in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries during the winter.

Additionally, the op-ed largely focused on the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA)'s proposed nutrient management regulations. The development of these proposed regulations has been a two-year collaborative process involving the BayStat Science Panel, as well as environmental, agricultural and municipal stakeholders. When taken as a whole, these regulations will significantly advance agricultural water quality management and Chesapeake Bay restoration.

Over the last seven years, we have invested in efforts to improve the health of the bay, setting goals for its recovery and implementing plans that will ensure that the bay is healthy for generations to come. To date, we have met or exceeded many of those goals. From wastewater treatment plant upgrades, to cover crops, to septics, to storm water, to oyster sanctuaries and aquaculture, to crab harvest curbs, to protection of the menhaden — these have been years of increased investment and increased action.

Our work hasn't been easy, but together, we have been able to make progress in the great work of restoring the Chesapeake Bay. We can only continue to move forward by making the tough decisions, showing a real commitment to genuinely changing the way we manage our land, our resources and the way we grow and develop. We have never before taken actions of the scale and breadth that we have now undertaken to save Maryland's groundwater and river systems of the bay watershed. We won't reach our next level of achievement by focusing on one group's reductions or one area's reductions more than another. We all need to work together toward a healthier, prosperous and more sustainable future.

Martin O'Malley, Annapolis

The writer, a Democrat, is Maryland's governor.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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