‘Environmental jihadists’ blamed for litter bill

Associate Editor

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Feb. 16, 2016) — Maryland Agricultural Commission members protested last week bills that would re-regulate poultry litter management and restrict the sale of seeds and plants treated with neonicotinoid pesticide.
The proposed Poultry Litter Management Act would push poultry integrators into the role of enforcing nutrient management plans, which are currently monitored by the state department of agriculture.
The bill would also make poultry companies responsible for removal, transportation and delivery of all excess manure.
“I liken this to environmental jihadists,” said Andrew McLean, one of the commission’s poultry industry representatives, at its Feb. 10 meeting. “They’re trying to economically behead us.”
Lawmakers supporting the bill have said they believe poultry integrators and not contracted family farmers should be responsible for manure transportation and pollution caused by it when it’s used excessively as crop fertilizer.
But the industry has long resisted any change to its contractual relationship.
A rundown of legislation the agriculture department is monitoring was given to committee members. The poultry litter bill, the rundown said, would institute “co-permitting,” which would require poultry integrators to verify farmers follow state-mandated regulations before birds could be placed on the farm.
“In this case, the poultry company becomes more powerful over an independent farmer, and a farmer is in jeopardy of losing revenue during the time it takes the poultry company to conduct its inspections of documents already regulated by the state,” the rundown said. “A delay in bird placement can cause significant financial harm to independent farmers.”
“It’s scary,” said Jason Myers, one of the commission’s dairy industry representatives. “It could affect all of us.”
The bill was cross-filed in both houses with a Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., D-Montgomery County, and a House bill sponsored by Del. Clarence K. Lam, D-Baltimore and Howard counties. Matthew Teffeau, the agriculture department’s director of intergovernmental relations, encouraged farmers to volunteer to fight the bill.
The bill “would, one, have a negative impact environmentally, and it would take away from the (agriculture) department,” he said.
Another bill, named the Pollinator Protection Act of 2016, would require the agriculture department to prohibit a person from selling in the state seeds and plants that have been treated with a neonicotinoid pesticide unless they bear a label or are close to a sign with a warning statement.
The bill’s supporters believe the measure will protect non-target organisms, including bees and other pollinators, birds, earthworms and aquatic invertebrates. The bill would also prohibit anyone from applying the pesticide unless that person is a certified applicator, farmer or veterinarian.
If passed, it would require an increase in the general fund budget of $198,500 to pay for three inspectors to enforce the regulation, according to the state’s department of legislative services.
Marion Mullan, the commission’s nursery industry representative, and others said the pesticide isn’t harmful when it’s properly used.
“It should (say) ‘improperly applied neonicotinoids kill bees,’” Mullan said about the proposed sign requirement.