Failure ‘not an option’ in Land Litter Challenge

Senior Editor

(Dec. 13, 2016) A powerhouse, tri-state coalition is up and running and focused on its mission to abate the nutrient pollution of the Chesapeake Bay and at the same time, and with the same vigor, protect the economic backbone of the Delmarva Peninsula — agriculture.
The so-called Delmarva “Land and Litter Challenge” steering committee claims representation by 25 organizations, agencies and services in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia in any way touched by the agricultural industry or the environmental issues in the watershed of the Bay.
In a news release earlier this year, the land and Litter Challenge framed its mission in this way:
“Despite the substantial progress that has been achieved over the past five years in reducing poultry nutrient pollution, much work remains to be done to accomplish the goals that have been established for the peninsula.
“In support of these efforts, the Delmarva Land & Litter Challenge is uniting stakeholders, who have often been at odds over strategies and pathways for achieving water quality and habitat goals, in an epic quest to achieve a new future: A future where healthy and productive bays, rivers and streams across the peninsula are underpinned and supported by a vibrant and sustainable agricultural economy.
“This large landscape initiative, covering 5.45 thousand square miles, will require unprecedented communication, collaboration and cooperation among the project partners. “It will also require a new way forward for addressing water quality challenges from animal agriculture operations, as the policies and practices of the past will not meet the needs of tomorrow.”
“Failure is not an option,” said Ermie Shea. Shea is a natural resource management specialist who is acting as facilitator for the project on behalf of Solutions for the Land, a 501 (c) (3) organization “focused on land-based solutions for global challenges.”
The Land and Litter Challenge has brought together a diverse and perhaps an unprecedented group of organizations representing grain producers, chicken growers, poultry integrators, conservationists, academic partners, along with agribusiness, finance and service industry professionals. The membership list, alphabetically, starts with what are called “confirmed farmers” and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and ends with West/Rhode Riverkeeper and Willard Agri-Service.
In between, for example, are the departments of agriculture of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, the state Farm Bureaus and nutrient management commissions, the Delmarva Poultry Industry, Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Nature Conservancy, Perdue and Tyson, and the Harry Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology. The concept of creating “a healthy and productive Chesapeake Bay …. underpinned by a vibrant and sustainable agricultural economy in the watershed,” first began to emerge around 2010.
By 2015, in the midst of the phosphorous management tool debate, that concept was proclaimed the mission of the Delmarva Land and Litter Challenge and was the subject of a 20-page report entitled “New Approaches to Poultry Litter Management in the Chesapeake By Watershed …. Win-Win Pathways for Agriculture and the Bay.”
Leadership of the search for those “pathways” has been assigned to three co-chairmen of the challenge project. They are Bobby Hutchison, a Talbot County grain farmer and a board member of the Harry Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology; Andrew McLean of Harford County, a poultry grower and a former president od DPI; and Rob Gallagher of Anne Arundel County, a retired attorney and founder of the West/Rhode Riverkeeper.
The membrship has been divied up into three functioning committees where planning is under way for what the challenge leadership terms the project‘s “deliverables:”
1. A detailed plan for creating a multi-stakeholder, landscape scale, shared leadership platform where stakeholders addressing nutrient pollution from animal agriculture operations can work across county, state and watershed boundaries and design and deploy better integrated and more uniform policies, programs, practices and projects;
2. An action plan for establishing and funding a ‘Center of Excellence’ on the Delmarva Peninsula dedicated to animal agriculture nutrient management support; and
3. A detailed roadmap for designing, implementing and financing an ongoing integrated research program that uses validated “on the ground” and regularly updated data and proven methodologies to model nutrients levels at all levels.
The key, its leaders assert, is getting all of these diverse challenger stakeholders, often with diametrically opposed viewpoints, working together toward as common goal.
That apparently has been achieved. This is from a press release: Working together they are committed to supporting pathways for land management that will improve the health and productivity of agriculture and the Bay, while strengthening the economy that preserves and protects the region’s rural cultural heritage.
The initiative is structured for completion by 2025.