Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) has agreed to a firmer deadline for fully implementing regulations that limit the amount of chicken manure farmers can use as fertilizer, ending tense negotiations among his administration, state lawmakers, Eastern Shore farmers, and environmentalists concerned about the health of the Chesapeake Bay, according to an article in The Washington Post.

“We have agreement on a solution that represents one of the most important steps forward in environmental policy in the last decade,” said Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Governor Hogan. “We thank all parties for their hard work on this critical issue.”

The regulations are working their way through a final approval process and are expected to be in place soon. By 2022, all farmers will have to adhere to the new rules, although some farms could be granted an extension until 2024 if major problems arise. An advisory committee will oversee the phase-in process and must approve any extensions.

During the tenure of former governor Martin O’Malley (D), state agriculture officials developed a phosphorus-management tool to help farmers calculate how much manure they could safely spread on their fields — and slowly reduce the amount used in the region. Farmers argued that the tool would force them to instead buy more expensive fertilizer, and chicken producers said it was unclear how they should dispose of the manure if it is not used on fields.

O’Malley waited until late in his term to finalize and begin the process of implementing his manure regulations. On Governor Hogan’s first day in office, he halted final implementation of O’Malley’s regulations, drawing criticism from environmental groups.

Last month, Hogan unveiled his own regulations, which differed from O’Malley’s in a few key ways: Farmers whose land is already highly saturated with phosphorus would have to cease using manure as fertilizer right away, but everyone else would have extra time to adjust. How much extra time was not clear.

Senator Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) said Hogan’s proposal had too much flexibility and could result in the regulations never being fully implemented and in the continued flow of phosphorus into the bay. Hogan’s “regulations, we felt, had a permanent off-ramp,” Pinsky said.

In response Senator Pinsky introduced legislation that would turn O’Malley’s regulations into law — superseding anything Governor Hogan proposed. That legislation was modified last week by a Senate committee, which stripped out most of the language and focused heavily on setting a deadline for all farmers to comply with manure limits.

With the bill headed to the Senate floor, where the bill likely would have prompted a charged debate about pollution in the bay and the challenges facing the farming community, the Hogan administration began discussing options for a compromise. Senator Pinsky has not yet withdrawn his bill. However, he asked the Maryland Senate on Wednesday to delay discussing his bill until the compromise with the Hogan administration is finalized.