WASHINGTON – The state has approved more than $2 million in grants and loans to help businesses find innovative ways to use animal waste from Maryland farms, according to a report sent to the governor this week.
But only $20,000 to $30,000 of that money has actually been given out in the program’s first two years because of delays and changed plans.
“It’s taking a lot longer than we anticipated,” said Brad Powers, assistant secretary of agriculture for marketing, animal industries and consumer services. “The companies that had ideas have had to make modifications, and rather than tell them never mind, we’ve been working with them” to adjust the terms of the funding.
Approved projects range from composting facilities to electricity generation. Six of the eight businesses chosen to receive money are headquartered in Maryland. The other two are in Ohio and Delaware.
The money comes from the Animal Waste Technology Fund, a three-year state effort to help farmers meet yet-to-be-established limits on how much animal waste can be applied as fertilizer. The fund was created by the legislature as part of the state’s efforts to reduce nutrient pollution in waterways.
Details about the fund were forwarded to the governor Thursday in a report from the Inter-Agency Nutrient Reduction Oversight Committee, which was obtained by CNS.
The only company to actually receive money so far is N-Viro International Corp. of Toledo, Ohio. It was approved for a grant of up to $73,114 over two years for a research project with the University of Maryland on alkaline-treated manure from poultry, cows and hogs.
So far, N-Viro has received only $20,000 to $30,000 of that money, said state officials involved in the process. Officials at the Department of Business and Economic Development, which administers the fund, could not be reached Friday to provide an exact figure.
Conectiv, the Delaware-based power company, won $122,820 to study the feasibility of using poultry litter to fuel its oil-burning power plant in Vienna. But it has since said it will not accept the grant, after it agreed to sell the Vienna plant as part of a deal with NRG Energy in Minnesota.
“We’re turning down the grant money. Any decision regarding the future of that plant is going to have to be made by the new owner,” said Matt Likovich, a spokesman for Conectiv.
An NRG spokesman could not say if, or when, the company would decide whether to study conversion of the Vienna plant.
A joint venture between Perdue Farms and AgriRecycle, a Springfield, Mo., fertilizer company, was to receive $500,000 toward a fertilizer plant in Maryland. But the project became ineligible for the grant when officials said they wanted to build it in Sussex County, Del.
Powers said the paperwork is almost complete to transfer a $51,700 grant to Hickory Hill Dairy Farm in Upperco, a family-owned operation that is using a new technology to separate liquids and solids in cow manure. The solids are used for compost, which is sold from the Baltimore County farm. The grant money would be used to upgrade the technology and demonstrate the technique to other Maryland dairy farmers.
The largest grant approved was $1 million for Eastern Shore Forest Products in Salisbury to purchase and install a manure-fueled boiler and construct a fertilizer plant. The project has run into delays, though, and the grant money is being held until the company submits a revised proposal and timeline.
Powers said that despite the uncertainty and delays, the fund is a worthwhile state investment.
“Absolutely. Sooner or later, 2005 comes and the people who have poultry manure have to have their phosphate plans in action,” he said.
“At that time there will probably be a number of producers who cannot apply manure (to their fields) because they don’t have a plan,” Powers said. Those farmers will have to find other uses for the manure.
Other approved funding includes a $37,500 grant to the Association of Forest Industries in Huntington for research on using poultry litter in timber production; a $25,000 grant to Mel McLaughlin Co. and Morgan State University for a pilot program using animal waste as combustible fuel; and a $300,000 loan to New Earth Services in Cambridge for a composting and fertilizer-bagging facility.