Prior to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, programs already existed to implement some aspects of water quality improvement, but no program was in place to specifically address nutrient management planning. Nutrient management planning is (1) a series of Best Management Practices (BMPs) aimed at reducing nutrient pollution by balancing nutrient inputs with crop nutrient requirements and (2) considered one of the most effective means of controlling excessive nutrient applications.
Maryland Nutrient Management Program (MNMP)
In 1989 the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland/Maryland Cooperative Extension established the MNMP. The primary focus of this program was to place 1.4 million acres of Maryland farmland under nutrient management plans by 2000. Nutrient management plans are documents which incorporate soil test results, yield goals, and estimates of residual nitrogen to generate field-by-field recommendations.
Water Quality Improvement Act (WQIA)
In 1998 the Maryland legislature enacted the WQIA which mandated sweeping changes for Maryland's agricultural community and land managers, and requires:
nitrogen and phosphorus-based nutrient management plans;
reduction of the phosphorus in manure via feeding regimes;
provisions for transporting animal manure from fields showing excessive phosphorus to fields needing additional nutrients;
increased scrutiny of record keeping; and
additional evaluations of the phosphorus nutrient.
Licensing, Certification, and Training
Since 1992, legislation has required the certification of nutrient management consultants and has enabled licensed, private sector nutrient management consultants to play a major role alongside those in the public sector. Certification, examination, and licensing are administered by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) in consultation with a Nutrient Management Advisory Committee.
Continuing education courses are also conducted as a joint effort between the University of Maryland Extension Agricultural Nutrient Management Program and the MDA.