cafo

Photo credit: USGS

Agriculture is the single, largest source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay – and in Maryland, agriculture is dominated by the poultry industry. As farming practices have become more industrialized, chickens are increasingly being raised in large-scale Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, known as “CAFOs.” These enormous poultry houses enable farmers to keep large numbers of chickens contained in confined spaces. In our work to reduce pollution from agriculture, MCAC advocates for regulations to keep pollution from CAFOs in check.

More, bigger chickens = more manure

The number of poultry houses is expanding on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and across the Delmarva Peninsula. Data shows that the number of chicken houses on Delmarva has jumped by more than 300 houses since 2011. These houses can hold more chickens than ever before – and the chickens themselves are bigger than ever. This will create more manure even as the state is actively trying to REDUCE the amount of manure spread on farm fields.

For more information, view our fact sheet on CAFOs.

Air emissions

It’s not just manure – factory farms produce toxic gases, including ammonia, which pose threats to human health. Unfortunately, local governments on the Eastern Shore as well as the state do not have adequate monitoring of these emissions or public health ordinances that would create protections against threats to air quality and drinking water from industrial-sized poultry operations.  Meanwhile, childhood asthma, lung cancer and lung disease rates on the Lower Eastern Shore are some of the highest in the state.

We need better data on air emissions from CAFOs to protect residents from their harmful effects. For more information, see our testimony in support of the Community Healthy Air Act.

Who is responsible for the waste?

Big chicken companies make large profits but aren’t legally required to bear responsibility for the waste they produce. Instead, Maryland taxpayers and farmers pay to dispose of hundreds of tons of poultry litter each year. The companies own the birds, control the feed and have complete oversight and control of on-farm practices but leave contract growers with responsibility for the poultry litter.

MCAC has advocated for legislation to require big chicken companies to take responsibility for their own waste product – just as other industries are required to do. For more information, view our fact sheet on the Poultry Litter Management Act.

Updated: February 2017