Industrial Mulching and Composting
Question from a Howard County Voter
“What is your position on the previous attempts to allow for increased flexibility on mulching and composting on land in Ag Preserve program? See CB60-2017.”
Thank you for your inquiry.
This is a very heated and complicated issue. As I see it, there are two distinct components that have sometimes been conflated in this discussion.
First, with regard to traffic and noise from existing operations, I believe that the County has been lax in its enforcement of existing nuisance laws. I support (1) vigorous enforcement of existing laws, and (2) restrictions on operating hours and conditions of industrial mulching operations. I am opposed to what has been described as "industrial mulching", but as is often the case, the devil is in the details. One resident's "industrial mulching" could be another farmer's "regular agricultural use". My opinion is that regularly trucking in, processing, and trucking out, wood and compost material as a sole operation is indicative of a non-agricultural industrial business as opposed to an agricultural use.
Second, with regard to the actual practices of composting and mulching, I am concerned that overly-broad regulations intended to rein in two large-scale operators could instead ensnare an ordinary farmer trying to carry on routine agricultural operations. The vast majority of my research on the subject has been highly favorable of the environmental impacts of composting and mulching. Composting produces soil amendments that help produce crops with naturally rich organic matter, reducing the need for petroleum-based supplements. Mulch is another by product of yard wastes and biodegradable materials, which many home owners use on their property to help prevent weed growth and to preserve soil moisture. Mulching and composting, properly done, are sound ecological practices that keep biodegradable waste from clogging up our limited waste facilities.
Furthermore, any regulations should not be limited to agricultural preservation land. Although the current problems have been encountered on agriculturally-preserved land, that may not be the case in the future. In addition, zoning regulations should be tied to the zoning area itself, and not be dependent on extraneous factors such as whether or not a property is in agricultural preservation. Despite the high levels of emotions on all sides of this issue, I remain optimistic that we can find a compromise that everyone can live with.