Thursday, February 27, 2014

Maryland Environmental Agency Grants for Ag Energy Efficiency Projects

MEA is once again supporting showcase energy efficiency projects in the agriculture sector. Through the 2014 Kathleen A. P. Mathias Agriculture Energy Efficiency Program (Mathias Ag Program), MEA will distribute grants ranging in size from $25,000 to $200,000 to assist with the costs of installing energy efficiency technologies in farms and businesses in the agriculture sector.  The measures must enable a minimum 20% energy savings in the buildings or areas where they are installed.  MEA will showcase these projects as case studies within the agriculture sector. MEA will award at least $1,000,000 in grants in 2014 and anticipates granting 6 to12 awards for this program. All projects should be designed to have construction completed by October 31, 2014 and invoices submitted to MEA by November 30, 2014.

Full details here:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Maryland Horse Council
Farm Stewardship Committee
Contributing to Healthy Horses and a Healthy Environment in Maryland

 Meeting Report

            The Maryland Horse Council Farm Steward Committee’s Winter Meeting was held on February 17, 2014 at the snow-covered “pool house” of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Phillip Merrill Environmental Center in Annapolis, Maryland, over looking the bay.  About 30 stalwart people came from across Maryland to discuss environmental issues and horse farm management in this beautiful setting.

            Jane Thery, chair of the committee, opened the meeting with an overview of plans for 2014, including adding at least 10 more horse farms to the Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program (FSCAP), completing a study of the state of horse manure management and composting funded by the Maryland Horse Industry Board, disseminating information on environmental laws, regulations and assistance programs, looking into options for naturalizing horse farms for flora and fauna preservation and exploring new techniques for reducing the “carbon footprint” of stables through the use of natural light, ventilation and alternative energy.  She thanked Dan Johannes and Doug Myers of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for hosting the meeting, Matt Curran of the Piedmont Group Insurance Solutions for sponsoring the refreshments and Maryland Horse Council president Jane Seigler for her continuing support of this initiative. 

            Steuart Pittman, our former president, spoke on his experience in representing horse farms on the  Maryland Department of Agriculture committee writing the regulations for the “Agricultural Certainty” programs setting the guidelines for which farms will be certified as compliant and receive a 10-year waiver for the implementation of new environmental regulations.  As in the case of nutrient trading, the benefits for horse farms of this program are not yet clear.  However, having a Horse Council representative at the table helps keep the horse community represented in important discussions among both the agricultural and environmental communities.  Steuart praised the work of the MHC lobbyist Frank Boston who is tracking legislation and highlighting issues of concern to the horse community.  For example, he helped with a rule revision to simplify the process of upgrading farm buildings.  Steuart reiterated the importance of having the Farm Stewardship Committee in place as a concrete expression of the horse community’s commitment to environmental issues. 

            Gerald Talbert, program director of the Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program (FSCAP), announced that 14 horse farms are now certified.  He is sending out a letter introducing the program to the state’s about 600 licensed stables to solicit more participants.  His goal is to significantly increase the number of horse farms that have been certified and to recognize them as quality stewards of their land.  New outreach efforts will also be made to the Thoroughbred breeders.

            Justin Garrity of Veteran’s Compost
presented the story of his operation’s founding and methods for composting primarily food scraps.   He has succeeded in bringing in foods scraps from a variety of sources, composting them with a simple method of piles and aeration, and screening the product for final sale.  Justin serves on the state committee determining composting regulations.  He uses his operation to demonstrate that composting can be done in an environmentally sound manner.  He is very interested in using more horse manure in composting but has some concerns about the issue of persistent herbicides which can kill plants and are sometimes found in horse manure.  Amy Burk, head of equine studies at the University of Maryland, said that there is no simple test available to identify if persistent herbicides are present but that the pesticide producers, such as Dow Chemical, should be able to do this.  Justin raised the option of composting horse manure in a separate pile for use on sod farms or golf courses. 

            Rob Schnabel of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s program on Buffer Strips, Steam Fencing and Cost Sharing made a presentation on the programs available for horse farms to fence off and restore streams to better absorb run-off and provide natural habitat.  There are significant funds available for these projects.  Rob is interested in including more horse farms in this program.
He also discussed the Grazers’ Network which promotes farmer-to-farmer technical assistance for grazing livestock.  This program is oriented toward raising livestock for consumption.  Amy Burk proposed the idea of establishing a parallel program for horse farms with links to the University of Maryland pasture management program.

            Everyone enjoyed the refreshments brought by Doug Myers!  The tentative date of the Spring Farm Stewardship meeting is May 15.  For further information, please contact Jane Thery at or 202-527-2145.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

MHC Farm Stewardship Committee
Winter Meeting
Contributing to Healthy Horses and a Healthy Environment in Maryland

Monday, February 17, 2014
 4:00 - 6:00 pm
Hosted By:
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Phillip Merrill Environmental Center
6 Herndon Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21403


·         Jane Thery, Maryland Horse Council Farm Stewardship Committee, Welcome and 2014 Committee Plans
  • Steuart Pittman, Maryland Horse Council, Environmental Legislative and Regulatory Issues
  • Gerald Talbert, FSCAP, Update on the Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program
  • Justin Garrity, Veteran’s Compost, New Composting Regulations
  • Rob Schnabel, Chesapeake Bay Foundation,  Buffer Strips, Stream Fencing and Cost Sharing

Refreshments provided by the Piedmont Group Insurance Solutions

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

MHC Comments on Proposed Composting Regulations

P.O. BOX 141
February 10, 2014
Ms. Hilary Miller, Deputy Director
Land Management Administration
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Blvd., Suite 610
Baltimore, MD 21230-1719
RE: proposed regulations 26.04.11 Composting Facilities

Dear Ms. Miller:
The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is a membership-based, umbrella trade
association of the entire horse industry in Maryland. Our membership includes horse
farms, horse related businesses, individual enthusiasts, and breed, interest and
discipline associations. As such, we represent over 30,000 Marylanders who make
their living with horses, or just own and love them.
MHC is pleased to submit the following comments regarding the above referenced
regulations that are being proposed by the Maryland Department of the Environment

The proposal would establish a broad and complex new scheme for regulating
composting facilities, which - at least in the non-farm context - have been largely
unregulated previously. However, agricultural composting has been facilitated and
overseen by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the local Soil
Conservation Districts for decades, and that history and practice should be used to
inform how these new MDE regulations would affect agricultural composting,
especially where manure is the primary feedstock.
As we understand it, under MDE’s proposal on-farm composting facilities must be
permitted unless:
1) the composted material is produced and used on-site or at a facility controlled by
the same operator, (hereinafter “on-site”) (section .05 B (2)), or
2) the composting facility is located on a farm that is required to register with MDE
because it uses greater than 5000 square feet “in support of composting,” accepts
materials from off-site, and uses that compost on-site (section .05 B (3)), or
3) is a Tier 1 (primarily yard waste) or Tier 2 facility (certain other materials
including animal manure and bedding) under 5000 square feet “in support of
composting,” that complies with certain specified general environmental standards
and whose windrows or piles are lower than 9 feet (Section .05 B (04)). It is not
clear whether this particular provision also includes horse farms that compost
animal manure and bedding, or whether it is intended to refer only to non-farm
Tire 1 and Tier 2 facilities. This confusion is also implicated in the provisions of
section .11 (General Permits)

MHC respectfully submits that the proposed regulations fail to take into account the
unique characteristics of composting as it typically occurs on horse farms.
• Many horse farms compost the manure and bedding that is removed from barns and
sheds during regular cleaning. This material is produced on-farm, although the
straw, wood shavings or other bedding material is typically purchased off-site.
Although the proposed regulations state that manure including bedding is a Type 2
feedstock, they do not make clear whether use of bedding that is purchased off-site
would preclude application of exemptions for feedstocks produced on-site. The
regulations should be clarified to state that animal manure that contains animal
bedding used on-site (regardless of its source) constitutes a feedstock that is
produced on-site.
• According to NRCS information, a 23 horse operation will use an 80’ x 60’(4,800
sq ft) pad for 180 days composting capacity. Thus, any operation with 24 or more
stalled horses will require a pad of greater than 5,000 square feet. There are dozens,
if not scores of horse farms in Maryland that meet this threshold. The proposed
regulations should be amended to increase the 5,000 square foot limit to
accommodate larger horse operations.
• The proposed regulations do not discuss what is perhaps the most typical model for
horse farm composting regulations, i.e., only on-farm generated materials (manure
and bedding) are composted, and the resulting compost is sold or given away to
other local farms, residences, landscapers, etc. The regulations should be amended
to make clear that composting facilities that use only materials generated on-site,
but distribute them off-site are exempt from the permitting requirements as long as
they are in compliance with applicable MDA regulations.
• In some cases, horse farms take in manure from other farms not owned or
controlled by them, who do not have the capacity to compost their own manure.
These facilities may distribute the final composted material to other farms,
residences or landscape companies. The regulations should be amended to increase
the 5,000 square foot limit for these facilities to, for example, 40,00 square feet as
consistent with the Forest Conservation Act, and exempt them from the permitting
requirement as long as they are in compliance with applicable MDA regulations.
Composted horse manure is a valuable and as yet under-utilized resource. According
to a 2010 equine census,* Maryland is home to 79,100 equine animals housed at
16,000 locations with 188,000 acres devoted strictly to horses. At an average rate of
55 pounds of manure excreted per horse per day,** Maryland’s horses produce an
estimated 1,443,575,000 lbs of manure per year. Horse manure is a good substrate to
use for compost. First, it’s drier than other livestock feces, therefore it’s easier to
transport from one location to another. Second, it has a 5:1:2 ratio of nitrogen,
phosphorous, potassium** and thus is relatively balanced in nutrients when it’s
applied as a soil amendment. Third, when the feces include animal bedding products
such as sawdust or wood shavings it is close to an ideal 25:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio.
It is in the best interest not only of horse farm owners, but of all Maryland citizens
and of our environment to ensure that this product is recycled to its highest and best
use, by minimizing barriers to that use. Unreasonable restrictions on manure
composting and distribution of the composted end product as a soil amendment will
only result in more manure ending up in landfills, rather than benefitting our soils,
crops, gardens and roadsides.
MHC appreciates the opportunity to comment on these proposed regulations, and
urges MDE to adopt the recommendations set forth here.
Respectfully submitted,
Jane Seigler
P.O. BOX 141
* MASS (Maryland Agricultural Statistics Service). 2002. Maryland Equine: Results
of the 2002 Maryland Equine Census. Annapolis, MD: Maryland Department of
** Lawrence, L., J.R. Bicudo, and E. Wheeler. 2003. Horse manure characteristics
literature and database review. In Proc. International Anim., Ag. Food Processing
Wastes Symp., Research Triangle Park, NC, Oct. 12-15., 277-284. St. Joseph, MI:
Am. Soc. Ag. and Biol. Engineers.