Tuesday 21 May 2019

Agriculture (34)

The two-hour meeting in a school lunchroom was tense at times, its 250 attendees divided over whether the county could protect its poultry-based economy as well as the rebounding aquaculture, tourism and wildlife of the Chesapeake Bay. In the end, the county passed the new setbacks -- but didn't seem prepared to do much else. That was frustrating for Accomack native Jay Ford of the nonprofit Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper. But he recognizes it's not all the county's fault. "It's not a problem that the localities can, or should be expected to tackle," he says. "It's unfair that the state is leaving rural localities that are understaffed for such a technical problem to try and tackle it with the limited tools they have because of right-to-farm laws." He thinks the EPA is dragging its feet on evaluating the health and environmental impacts of big poultry operations. Without region-wide data, Ford says, there can't be much coordination. READ MORE: Delmarva Public Media, March 4, 2016
All that feces being produced saturates the Eastern Shore with phosphorus and nitrogen, said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of the organization Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “A little bit of chicken manure can be great. You can use it as a fertilizer,” she said. “But when you have too much, it runs off into our waterways, causing excess pollution.” Nicholas said the pollution can kill fish, create algae blooms, and even affect the waterways that provide drinking water to the Baltimore and Washington metro areas. The new bill would require the companies that own the birds to clean up the waste in an environmentally friendly way. READ MORE: WYPR 88.1 FM, February 23, 2016
Waterkeepers Chesapeake signed on to testimony before the Maryland General Assembly in support of the Poultry Litter Management Act, a 2016 bill that would require poultry integrators to be responsbile for excess manure from their contract growers. The bill was heard on February 23 before the Maryland Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. The Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition (Waterkeepers Chesapeake, numerous Riverkeepers and Fair Farms are partner organizations) held a rally before the hearing. Despite the rain, Sen. Rich Madaleno and Del. Clarence Lam, sponsors of the bill, addressed the crowd. View the YouTube video of the rally HERE. Below is the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition testimony submitted to committee:  Agriculture is the single largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland waterways. About 44 percent of the nitrogen and 57 percent of the phosphorus polluting the Bay come from farms, and much of that comes from animal manure. A recent U.S. Geological Survey water report found the rivers of Maryland’s Eastern Shore have concentrations of phosphorus that are among the “highest in the nation” due to agricultural operations. Phosphorus pollution causes algae blooms that threaten public health, kills underwater grasses, harms crabs, oysters and fish and contributes to the enormous “dead zone” in the Bay. Chicken manure in particular is a big problem for Maryland waterways. The Maryland Department of Agriculture has estimated about 228,000 tons of excess manure are currently applied to crop fields in Maryland. That is enough poultry litter to fill M&T Bank Stadium two times. The…