Farmer cost for litter bill is unknown

Senior Editor

(March 29, 2016) One issue that keeps popping up in discussions of the controversial Poultry Litter Management Act in the Maryland legislature is how much it is going to cost.
Problem: No one knows yet. There’s no way to tell until it’s operable.
Even the bill’s sponsors are aware of that, but whatever it turns out to be, they contend, the cost should not fall to either the growers or the Maryland taxpayer.
The Poultry Litter Management Act would require poultry companies to take responsibility for the manure chickens produce.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and fellow sponsors argue that “excess” manure can saturate farm fields and pollute local creeks, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay if not handled properly.
“The legislation,” they argue, “will seek to protect Maryland farmers and taxpayers from costs that advocates say should be borne by the large poultry companies.”
While the bills in both the House and Senate are locked up in their respective environmental committees, members of the Eastern Shore delegation, concerned and angered by yet another attack on the broiler industry, met March 4 with Alison Prost, CBF’s executive director in Maryland and Kristin Harbeson, political director for the League of Conservation Voters.
In the wake of that meeting. Del. Charles Otto, chairman of the Eastern Shore delegation, sent this letter to Prost and Harbeson,
“I want to thank you for your presentations to the Eastern Shore delegation on March 4. As you know from the dialogue of our meeting, the delegation charged me to write you.
“The delegation unanimously wanted to offer each of your organizations the opportunity to show goodwill by withdrawing your support for HB 599/SB496, Poultry Litter Management Act, and to ask the sponsors to withdraw the bills. This would begin to sooth the animosity and frustration that has been developed between the agricultural community and your organizations.
“Please accept my pledge for continued dialogue and discussion.”
Valerie Connelly, Maryland Farm Bureau executive director, lauded the Eastern Shore delegation, for “their effort to protect family farm operations.”
She added that “the delegation’s request of the environmental groups to withdraw their support of the Poultry Litter Management Act is significant and we do not expect it to be taken lightly. The delegation is clearly frustrated with the continued attack on the family farms that are the economic base on the Shore.”
Asked to respond to the letter, Tom Zolper, communications director for the Bay Foundation in Maryland, said there were “no plans to withdraw” the measure.
However, he called “the big hang-up” which had become evident in the committee hearings, was the “lack of clarity” in the ultimate cost of the disposal of the litter.
“Somebody is going to have to pay (for the litter disposal) and everybody agrees that it’s going to cost the farmers something to take the litter somewhere,” Zolper said. “Nobody knows yet what it’s going to cost — that may be two or three years down the line — but we are being proactive in establishing a source (of funds) before it’s too late,” Zolper said.