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Agricultural Solutions for runoff, nutrients and water quality — Number 3

In the magazine SOIL published by Forester Magazines, there was an article in the June 29, 2017 issue.  The article discusses how the agricultural community is helping protect water quality through different grants, partnerships and on-farm actions.


This is the second section from the article titled Agricultural Solutions: The connection between nutrients, runoff and water quality.  This section of the article (copied below) is titled “Poultry Manure Technology Heats Up“.

[From SOIL, FORESTERMAGAZINES, June 29, 2017 issue (]

Maryland poultry farmers can benefit from a unique grant opportunity to manage animal manure, a problem they have been struggling with for decades. Offered through the Resource Conservation programs of the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Animal Waste Technology Fund (AWTF) helps farmers with beef, dairy, hog, and poultry waste

. Credit Judith Geiger

Louise Lawrence, program manager and chief of the Office of Resource Conservation, explains the genesis of the fund, which wasn’t always under the MDA’s purview. “The Animal Waste Technology Fund was authorized in 1998 as part of the Water Quality Improvement Act under the Department of Budget and Economic Development [DBED]. We began to anticipate that if farms ran across impediments to utilizing animal manure for crop fertilization, they would need alternatives or options to repurpose use of the manure. And new solutions had to offer both sound economic and environmental benefits.”

DBED maintained the AWTF for two years, but no funding was appropriated after fiscal year 2000. In recognition of challenges posed by new nutrient management requirements governing the management and use of manure, the legislature gave MDA the authority to administer AWTF in 2013 and, Lawrence says, “appropriated funding beginning in fiscal year 2014.”

Through the Resource Conservation program, the AWTF offers grants for demonstration of new technologies that provide alternative strategies for managing or using animal manure. Individuals or companies who apply for these grants must have a proven technology previously implemented, address water-quality protection objectives, and secure a demonstration site in Maryland.


Ideally, these projects should benefit farms in all phases of production. By using manure to generate electricity or energy, producers may gain benefits from a technology’s use on the farm or from the sale of electricity. Energy produced from the manure can help power the production process by heating animal enclosures or providing electricity for lighting, pumping, and more. Once these needs are met, energy can be sold back to the grid.

“We have a highly viable animal industry in Maryland, particularly poultry,” says Lawrence. “Addressing the nutrient management issues can result in an alignment of several state goals that merge the objectives of animal and crop production with natural resource conservation and water-quality protection.”

Lawrence says the program seeks cost-effective, sustainable technologies that are transferable. “Our objective with these programs is to make sure that the technologies answer business and conservation needs by aligning the economies that make sense for different farmers with different farm situations. Plus, we know that these demonstration projects will have growing pains, nothing is perfect out of the gate, so the projects are funded with the expectation that they may take longer to implement and need more funds than the eventual business model.

“But the final costs of the technology have to be reasonable, so that farmers who invest in these have a realistic time frame to pay for them, which means that the developers must demonstrate their commitment as to their efficient operation and maintenance.