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Delaware Nutrient Management Commission moves to close phosphorus monitoring loophole

Delaware’s Nutrient Management Commission – responsible for regulating use of fertilizers like poultry waste to limit groundwater pollution – voted to move forward with rare changes to the state’s nutrient management rules this week.

Nutrient Management Program Director Chris Brosch says the state only changes nutrient management rules roughly once every ten years – roughly the pace of advances in soil science.

He says the most notable proposed change would close a loophole that could allow consultants hired by farmers to create state-mandated nutrient management plans to skip an assessment of phosphorus risks.

“The code – as it is today – has some dubious language that provides a loophole for consultants to not run the phosphorus site index if the farmers took an alternative," he said. "Basically, self-regulation.”

Brosch underscores his team has found no concrete evidence consultants have taken advantage of the loophole but says that closing the loophole is still necessary.

But the General Assembly will ultimately be responsible for adopting the rule change; so far, the proposal hasn’t faced opposition.

Brosch adds while the overall cost of farm consultants' services are rising, changes to nutrient management requirements aren’t a main driver of those cost increases; farmers rely on the consultants for an array of services, but the state only subsidizes the cost of developing nutrient management plans.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.