Manure Manager

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A tale of poultry litter and Chesapeake Bay


March 7, 2008
By Marg Land

In early November, about 200
poultry industry members from the Delmarva Peninsula met with
environmentalists for the first ever Eastern Shore Poultry Summit,
sponsored by the Waterkeeper Alliance, a New York based environmental
group.

In early November, about 200 poultry industry members from the Delmarva Peninsula met with environmentalists for the first ever Eastern Shore Poultry Summit, sponsored by the Waterkeeper Alliance, a New York based environmental group. It was billed as an opportunity to ”talk about the challenge of reducing nutrient loads in the region’s waterways,” namely Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately, what resulted was “an event more symbolic than productive,” according to reporter Joseph Gidjunis of The Daily Times of Salisbury, Maryland.

According to reports in The Daily Times and the Baltimore Sun, there was much finger pointing and fist pounding during the all-day gathering, including calls from Maryland’s attorney general, Douglas F. Gansler, for tougher inspection and enforcement of nutrient management plans, increased fines for producers who don’t file one and demands for Maryland farm plans to be open for public scrutiny.

Poultry officials from the region defended their industry, describing steps taken in the past 10 years to decrease manure runoff into Chesapeake Bay, such as transporting excess litter out of the region and the development of the world’s largest litter recycling plant. Gansler and his top environmental assistant were even provided an opportunity to sit in on an inspection of a Queen Anne, Maryland area poultry producer’s nutrient management plan in an effort to show how the plans work and are enforced.

It was to no avail. According to the Baltimore Sun, following the inspection – which the poultry farmer passed – Gansler continued to express doubts in the nutrient management plan system, questioning whether the operation was a true representation of all Maryland poultry farms and whether the records accurately reflected what the farmer was doing in his fields.

It is a shame when organizations and industries, both with an interest and concern in an area such as Chesapeake Bay, can’t work together to solve problems. Events, such as the Eastern Shore Poultry Summit, should be used as opportunities for environmentalists and farmers to find common ground and work together on solutions, not as opportunities to make accusations and lay blame. It would appear that while the event was advertised as an opportunity to “talk about challenges,” it was really just an opportunity to attack the poultry industry.

Perhaps it’s time a summit is held looking at all factors affecting Chesapeake Bay, such as increasing housing and commercial developments, rather than just agriculture.


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