State’s poultry measure seen adding more regulation

Calling the Poultry Litter Management Act “a solution in search of a problem,” Delegate Mary Beth Carozza is opposing it because, she said, it would “add another layer of unnecessary regulations.”

The bill would require poultry companies to haul away litter – a mixture of bedding and chicken manure — from the property of farmers who grow chickens for them, if the farmers don’t have plans for that litter. Those plans would have to be approved by the state.

Environmentalists say the poultry industry puts an unfair burden on farmers, who are already tasked with reducing pollution, and worry about chicken manure greatly harming the bay.

However, Carozza and Shore delegation colleagues oppose the Poultry Litter Management Act, as do the Maryland Farm Bureau and Delmarva Poultry Industry.

“We all agree about meeting our environmental goals and protecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the coastal waters. That’s a given.

“However, all the stakeholders need to work together to achieve that goal instead of placing the burden on one industry. We made great progress in getting the Phosphorous Management Tool last year – six months ago – and we have to give it time to work without adding more legislation,” she told the Salisbury Independent this week.

Opponents of the bill are “unaware of any farmers who have expressed problems or dissatisfaction with the current system, she said. Now, farmers can sell the litter and use it to fertilize fields.

Bill Satterfield, executive director of the Delmarva Poultry Industry, in a Feb. 23 letter to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, called the bill a threat to the future of farm families on the Eastern Shore.

“If the cost of growing chickens in Maryland is increased because of the costs of this legislation, chicken companies might decide they no longer want to grow chickens in Maryland. They can find growers in Delaware and Virginia. While they won’t necessarily move their headquarters, administrative, and other facilities from Maryland, they could stop placing birds in Maryland and it will be the farm families that will suffer,” he wrote.

“If chicken companies are forced to become owners of manure, what are they to do with it? Store it? Where? We suspect that the first groups that would oppose zoning-government permit applications to build and operate a storage site-alternative use facility would be in the environmental industry,” Satterfield wrote.

Spokesmen at Perdue Farms have said that company will certainly remove excess manure from a farmer’s property, if asked. Spokesmen have also said Perdue is looking into converting chicken manure pellets into energy, to find use for it.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, thought, states on its Website the bill is necessary because the poultry industry is expanding, with 200 new poultry houses coming to Delmarva. That will mean  10 million more chickens producing 20 million more pounds  of manure every year.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation stated 70 new poultry houses will be built in Somerset County, and that there will also be growth in Worcester and Wicomico counties.

But Satterfield said the bill won’t improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

“Making the chicken companies responsible for the chicken manure is akin to making the national restaurant companies or other national retail businesses responsible for trash, used cooking grease, and other items that the franchised restaurants and stores now are responsible for. It sets a dangerous precedent for all types of businesses in the state,” he wrote in the letter to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.

It would not reduce the burden of handling manure but, instead, “create more government interference with some costs to some growers while forcing the chicken companies to have control of practices outside of the chicken houses,” he said.

Although bill supporters claim the chicken companies have done nothing to help growers, “voluntary chicken company contributions to the Maryland manure transport program have exceeded $5 million since the program began,” Satterfield wrote.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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