New Fertilizer Restrictions Get Some Farmers Heated

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Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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WHITE HALL, Md. (WJZ) — Since people began saving seeds and growing food, they have used animal waste for fertilizer.

Now, as Mike Schuh reports, the government is citing safety to restrict such practices.

Organic farms, by their nature, don’t use synthetic fertilizers.

Nature provides abundant poultry droppings.  Some farmers spread manure onto fields.

But food safety issues have the FDA trying to put a stop to that.  It’s set to direct farmers to use composted manure. The heat generated by the composting kills harmful bacteria.

“And the population of bacteria gets so high, that it creates heat. It’s like packing a lot of people into a room,” said Drew Norman, One Straw Farm.

Compared to raw waste, compost is three to six times as expensive.

So, to afford it, Norman makes his own.

In a little over a month, manure and hay are turned into a stable natural stabilizer that doesn’t run off the soil.

“We use this as much as anything to inoculate our soil with good biology,” said Norman.

He puts back what his crops take away.

While One Straw is already composting, Norman has told the FDA its rules are too restrictive.

“Well, our position is it doesn’t make a lot of agronomic sense,” he said.

Tighter compost rules are also coming, something Norman says is unnecessary.

“No one has come back to me and said your food has gotten me sick,” he said.

For a few more weeks, Norman’s work appears at farmers’ markets and restaurants, but he wonders if next year’s crop will be grown under different rules of nature.

Farmers had until Friday to get their comments to the feds about the proposed rule changes.

The FDA couldn’t say when it will make final changes to its rules, but it could take a year or longer.

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