Maryland officials pulled back this week a proposed regulation aimed at reducing farm runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.  The state Department of Agriculture announced it had withdrawn its request to make immediate changes to rules governing where chicken growers may use manure to fertilize their crops two days before a scheduled legislative hearing on the proposal.

Agriculture Secretary Earl “Buddy” Hance said in a statement that Governor O’Malley’s administration wants to give farmers more time to adjust to the changes and intends to resubmit them next month after meeting with key stakeholders.  The rules, which would have taken effect this fall, would be put off until next year at the earliest.

The agriculture department has proposed emergency regulations in July that would require the use of a new tool developed by the University of Maryland for identifying which farm fields should not be fertilized with chicken manure.  Crop farmers, chicken growers, and others were concerned that uncertainty about where manure could be used for fertilizer, and the lack of ready alternatives, threatened to disrupt the poultry industry.