Poultry Litter Management Act Heard in Maryland House and Senate

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The Poultry Litter Management Act, which shifts the burden of storage and transport of poultry manure from contract growers to the chicken industry (companies like Purdue, and Tyson Foods), was heard in the Maryland House and Senate this week. Senate Bill 496 was heard Tuesday afternoon (2/23), and House Bill 599 was heard on Wednesday (2/24).

In addition to shifting the responsibility of manure storage and transport from farmer to the poultry industry, these companies must work with their contract farmers to create nutrient management plans, to determine how much manure may be kept on surrounding agricultural fields as fertilizer. These nutrient management plans are to be completed before a contract grower is provided poultry.

If a farmer has too much manure, the poultry company (referred to as the integrator in the Bills) must ensure the contract grower is able to properly store the manure, until the manure can be transported to an appropriate location. Transport will be paid for by the poultry company, and not by the farmer or by taxpayer dollars (as transport is currently subsidized in part by the state of Maryland).

While the Act will shift burden of responsibility away from individual growers, there has been some backlash from agricultural groups in Maryland. A major complaint is that the Act gives poultry companies expanded powers over independent farmers, and takes away a farmer’s right to sell excess manure as fertilizer. Some fear that taking away the loss of the current cost-share system of poultry transport will create financial losses for contract growers.

Benefits, however, include expected improvements to water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. Over-application of manure in Maryland, and particularly on the Eastern Shore, results in tons of phosphorus runoff polluting local tributaries, and the greater estuary. Ensuring poultry manure transport to areas where fields are not inundated with phosphorus should reduce runoff and pollution issues in Maryland and in the overall watershed.

The Act is set to be implemented in October 2016, dependent on its passing in the House and Senate. While the Bills were heard, the Act has yet to be voted on. Updates to follow.

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