(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—Environmental organizations released the following statement today, in response to the Maryland Department of Agriculture's new information about preliminary soil samples showing how many farm fields are over-saturated with phosphorus and may not be able to accept further manure applied, as the state implements the Phosphorus Management Tool:
We are pleased that MDA is releasing more information about their ongoing soil data testing collection. It's important to point out that this information is not complete. For example, on the Lower Eastern Shore, where the most farm fields with high phosphorus levels are likely located, we have information for just half of all farm fields.
However, even looking at this preliminary data, the seriousness of Maryland's problem with excess manure is apparent. Close to 70 percent of farm fields on the three lower Eastern Shore counties have high levels of phosphorus (FIV levels over 150).
This clearly shows the need for the Poultry Litter Management Act, which would require poultry companies to move excess waste from lower Eastern Shore counties for alternate uses elsewhere. According to this preliminary data, there are places like Western Maryland where poultry companies could easily move manure within the state where it can be used responsibly without an impact on the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways.
The Poultry Litter Management Act would go a long way toward protecting clean water by making sure excess chicken manure is utilized or managed properly.
The Poultry Litter Management Act (SB 496/ HB 599) would require poultry companies to take responsibility for excess manure produced by their chickens. Farmers would be able to keep and use manure for fertilizer or for alternative uses.
Poultry companies own the 288 million broilers produced in Maryland each year, as well as the feed and most aspects of production. Yet the companies are not required to pay to clean up the chickens' manure, and subsides from taxpayers pay to transport some of the manure. While some companies voluntarily recover excess manure from contract growing operations, if requested to do so, the bill levels the playing field among big chicken companies by making excess manure recovery mandatory, not voluntary.
The U.S. Geological Survey recently released a report showing that Eastern Shore waterways have levels of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that are among the "highest in the nation," and increasing, due to agricultural operations.
Read a fact sheet about the Poultry Litter Management Act here.
The Poultry Litter Management Act has strong support from a growing coalition of organizations, including Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council, Food & Water Watch and the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition (Anacostia Riverkeeper, Assateague Coastal Trust, Audubon Naturalist Society, Blue Water Baltimore, Center for Progressive Reform, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Clean Water Action, Environment Maryland, Environmental Integrity Project, Fair Farms, Gunpowder Riverkeeper, League of Women Voters of Maryland, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Potomac Riverkeeper, Sierra Club - Maryland Chapter, South River Federation, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, West/Rhode Riverkeeper).