April 11, 2016

(Annapolis, MD) –  At the close of the 2016 Maryland General Assembly session, the broad coalition of environmental groups that supported the Poultry Litter Management Act (SB 496/ HB 599) issued the following joint statement:

Agriculture is the single largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways; in fact, Maryland has some of the most phosphorus-impaired waterways in the United States as a result. The Poultry Litter Management Act highlighted an unfair system that does not make the large companies that own the chickens responsible for excess manure.

Recent Maryland Department of Agriculture data on phosphorus soil contamination show the seriousness of Maryland’s manure problem: close to 70 percent of farm fields on the three lower Eastern Shore counties have elevated phosphorus levels, based on preliminary data. The Poultry Litter Management Act would have required poultry companies to ensure excess waste from lower Eastern Shore counties was moved for alternate uses elsewhere.

The poultry industry and MDA need to answer several critical questions if Maryland is to tackle the problem of manure pollution. These include: just how large is the poultry industry’s expansion on the Eastern Shore? Where does manure come from and go to via the State’s taxpayer-subsidized manure transport program? How much does the industry contribute toward the transport program? How much manure is generated by large chicken houses that don’t have any land on which to spread manure, and where is all that manure going?

We will continue talking with farmers, legislators, local residents and scientists to determine how to address Maryland’s serious manure pollution problem. The problem isn’t going away, and neither are we.

An impressive number of legislative champions worked on this bill, which had 44 co-sponsors. We thank them all, especially bill sponsors Senator Madeleno and Delegate Lam. We also thank the Marylanders from across the state who generated more than 15,000 emails, letters and phone calls to legislators in support of the bill.

About 44 percent of the nitrogen and 57 percent of the phosphorus polluting the Bay comes from farms, and much of that comes from animal manure. A recent U.S. Geological Service Water report found the rivers of the Eastern Shore have concentrations of phosphorus that are among the “highest in the nation” – and increasing — due to agricultural operations.

The Poultry Litter Management Act was supported by number of organizations, including Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council, Fair Farms, 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).

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