(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), issued this statement today following introduction of SB 257 by lead sponsor Senator Paul Pinsky which codifies in legislation a common-sense and science-based solution to a crisis on the Eastern Shore caused by too much chicken manure. On his first day in office, Gov. Hogan pulled pending regulations that would have accomplished the same goal as SB 257. That action prompted over 3,300 CBF members and friends and counting to send more than 15,000 messages telling Gov. Hogan and Maryland leaders, "Don't Backtrack on the Bay."
Seven members representing a majority of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee were among the 14 co-sponsors of SB 257. Delegate Stephen Lafferty on the House Environmental and Transportation Committee is the lead sponsor in the House of Delegates and will be introducing the cross-file of SB 257 in the coming days. Many other senators and delegates of the Maryland General Assembly already have voiced support for the bill.
"Maryland legislators of both political parties have a history of joining together to support practical solutions to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams in Maryland. We're cautiously optimistic this initial wave of support to reduce agricultural pollution will continue to grow.
"Maryland farmers have done a lot to clean up the Bay and our local waters but science tells us agriculture needs to do more if we are to reach our clean up goals. No one is asking farmers to do more than their fair share.
"The Maryland Department of Agriculture estimates 228,000 tons of excess poultry manure is applied each year on Eastern Shore fields. The excess poop ends up in our water. In fact, we are not seeing improvement in many Eastern Shore rivers. In at least one, phosphorus pollution levels are going up. Scientists offered a tool to help farmers apply the correct amount for their crops so that excess manure would not end up in our waters. Gov. Hogan pulled that tool before it could reach farmers. The legislature can now ensure farmers have access to the resources they need to correct this pollution problem so that all Marylanders enjoy cleaner water.
"The cost of this solution can be shared. The state has offered to increase subsidies to farmers to help with any financial impacts from implementing the tool. CBF believes the large poultry companies also should play a role. There are also new technologies waiting in the wings to take what is currently a source of pollution (manure) and turn it into a valuable commodity, bringing new investments to our farm economy. Farmers also can help themselves by using conservation measures such as cold weather cover crops that help curb excess phosphorus in manure."
"This legislation will be a long term win-win for both farmers' bottom lines, and the health of polluted Eastern Shore rivers such as the Choptank, and the Bay. Less poop on our farm fields means less pollution in the water resulting in safer swimming areas, more fish, crabs and oysters. "
The lead sponsors of the Senate and House bills issued these statements:
"Neither the Chesapeake Bay's water quality nor its rich bounty will improve with kind words. It will take action. The largest contributor to the deadly quantity of phosphorous entering the bay is agricultural runoff, largely resulting from spreading unnecessary levels of chicken manure. We need to measure this over-saturation and reduce it. Anyone opposing these efforts makes them part of the problem rather than part of the solution." —Senator Paul Pinsky
"Maryland has been a leader on environment issues, but we are behind on this issue, and falling further behind each day we delay. Phosphorous from the application of litter as a fertilizer is increasing in our farm soil. That is detrimental to all who enjoy the waters of the state." —Delegate Stephen Lafferty