Nutrient trading, a market-based approach for protecting and improving water quality, is going into effect in Maryland.   The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) will run the nutrient credit-trading program.

Goal of the Nutrient Trading Program is to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus run-off into Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.   House Bill 974, authorizing the program, passed the Maryland Assembly by a unanimous vote.

roadside-stand-featured.jpgIt was one of a dozen agriculture-related bills signed into law last week by Gov. Martin O’Malley.  Other measures define “locally grown” and “local” for agricultural product sales, streamline regulations for farmers markets, reform Maryland winery laws, and offer more ways for landowners to preserve farmland.

Maryland expanded its prohibition against mobile sales of seafood on state highway right of ways without a state license.  However, in its package of farm bills, the state assembly excluded farmers’ markets from its definition of what is a “food service facility.”

The new laws also give farmers the right to prepare and offer samples of their products at farmers markets, an issue Maryland farmers have wanted addressed for years.

Colby Ferguson, Frederick County’s agriculture development specialist, says meat producers were not previously allowed to offer tastings of their products at farmers markets.  Now they will be able to do so, a change Ferguson says will help sell cuts of meat at the farmers markets.

O’Malley said the state’s goal during this Assembly session was to “expand and enhance” Maryland’s agriculture industry and “preserve its open space and locally-grown food industry for a smart, green, and growing future.”

The buying and selling of nutrient reduction credits is only the latest step Maryland is taking to control the runoff of livestock manure and poultry litter into Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries where nitrogen and phosphorus levels are dangers to water quality.

Since 1999, Maryland has removed 576,975 tons of excess poultry liter and manure from areas with excess levels to other areas.

MDA has now kicked off a training program to teach rural property owners how the new nutrient trading program will work.  Those sessions on May 25 in Frederick, June 2 in La Plata, and June 3 in Wye Mills, will introduce the web-based trading system.

The agenda for each meeting will include the following:

-Background information on challenges posed by restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and the role of nutrient trading.

-The development of nutrient trading policy, protocols, and tools.

-The general features and requirements of Maryland’s trading program.

-How the nutrient trading program works and how to participate.

-Using the trading tool to establish eligibility and generate tradable credits.

-Getting credits certified, verified, and registered.

-Executing a trade.

-The financial incentives and environmental benefits from the growth of a comprehensive ecosystem marketplace.

-Carbon offset and stacking opportunities from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

-Creation of a Maryland Carbon Sequestration/Trading Advisory Committee.

To make a reservation for one of the meetings or to obtain more information, contact  Susan Payne, Maryland’s coordinator of ecosystem markets, at 410-841-5865.