ANNAPOLIS, Md. The Chesapeake and Atlantic Bays 2010 Trust Fund has earmarked $2.5 million to support pilot programs for managing Maryland agriculture’s animal waste problem and to encourage alternative technologies for managing animal waste. The money becomes available July 1, 2013, through the Animal Waste Technology Fund (AWTF) Maryland is putting its money where its regs are by encouraging farmers to submit individual plans or band together on more expensive and expansive project alliances.
The AWTF Advisory Committee, under Agriculture Secretary E. Buddy Hance’s direction, held its first meeting on June 24, 2013, in Annapolis. According to the Maryland Department of Agriculture website, “ the Committee is to develop program criteria for the Department’s administration of the Animal Waste Technology Fund. Further, the Committee reviews proposals and makes determinations for funding animal waste technology projects that improve the public health and the environment.”
A total of 23 members, alternates and staff have been appointed. They include representatives from the Maryland Farm Bureau, environmental agencies, Chesapeake Bay Commission, the dairy and poultry industries, University of Maryland, Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO), Maryland’s Departments of Agriculture, the Environment and Natural Resources, as well as the Maryland Energy Administration and Maryland Environmental Services.
Assistant Secretary for Resource Conservation, Royden N. Powell, III, chaired the meeting. Secretary Hance set the tone with his charge to the group that they devise an RFP that will encourage innovation and jump-start the program. “Current concerns about manure management have been inadequate,” Powell said. “The new technologies funded by AWTF can help create more energy sources and reduce our dependency on foreign fuels.”
Members have been charged by Hance with devising the wording for the RFP. If the RFP is to draw proposals that serve Maryland’s agricultural community and help solve problems such as energy dependency and waste management, then project scale, loans vs. grants, engagement with philanthropic organizations, sustainability, and multi-farm partnerships must be addressed, he said.
Assistant Secretary Powell said advisory committee must establish the scale, scope, financing mechanisms and competitive approaches that will become the criteria for evaluating the proposals. He reminded the committee members that a strong, clear RFP can encourage promising proposals.
Some of the $2.5 million may serve as seed money, and some may fund entire projects. All of the money must be earmarked by the end of the 2013 FY.