ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Chesapeake Bay area crop and livestock producers are in their second year of government-mandated nutrient management regulations.

Each state’s agriculture department within the Chesapeake Bay’s watershed is required to administer the federal requirements to meet nitrogen- and phosphorous-reduction goals.

Several members of the Illinois Corn Growers Association recently visited the Maryland Department of Agriculture to see how the program is implemented.

Under the mandate, all farmers who earn at least $2,500 a year or manage at least 8,000 pounds of live animal weight must, by law, operate their farms according to a nutrient management plan.

Farmers must submit copies of that plan to the state ag department, update it before it expires, take soil samples at least once every three years, obtain manure analyses, if using manure, and submit annual implementation reports documenting how they implemented their plan during the previous year.

Also, farmers who apply nutrients to 10 or more acres a year are required to attend a two-hour nutrient applicator course once every three years.

Nutrient management plans are science-based documents that help farmers manage their fields to maximize crop yields and minimize nutrient runoff. They stipulate how fertilizers, including animal manure, are applied to fields.

Nutrient management plans are written by trained and certified consultants.

Maryland trains and certifies these consultants, some of whom are farmers, to write nutrient management plans.

There were 5,382 farms in Maryland required to follow nutrient management plans last year.