Maryland Introduces Poultry Litter Management Act, Shifting Burden of Manure Removal from Chicken Farmers to Big Ag

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Last year, there was a lot of legislative turmoil surrounding the application of poultry manure on Maryland farmlands. Large-scale production of poultry is prevalent in Maryland, and on the Eastern Shore especially. Poultry manure is usually distributed on adjacent or nearby agricultural fields, which don’t necessarily need the excess fertilizer. Manure, high in phosphorus, therefore runs off into the Chesapeake Bay, contributing to nutrient pollution in the estuary.

While big companies such as Purdue supply many of the chicken farms in Maryland, it has been left to the individual farmers to deal with manure, and any of the associated costs of removal of excess manure. This is about to change. Maryland legislators introduced the Poultry Litter Management Act earlier this week. This Act aims to place the financial burden of excess manure removal in the hands of the big companies, such as Perdue.

According to the Baltimore Sun, poultry farms produce about 228,000 tons of manure per year that must be removed from agricultural lands. With last year’s updates to the Phosphorus Management Tool, further restrictions on amounts of manure that can be applied to fields are being phased in, and will increase the tonnage of excess manure that has to be removed.

Requiring the large companies to pay for removal will help the often financially-struggling chicken farmers, and the Maryland taxpayers that have been contributing to removal costs (as some of these costs are subsidized by the state). While poultry companies collectively rake in about a billion dollars each year, the new Act will only require the industry to spend about four million dollars per year.

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