Md. poultry impact being ignored (Editorial)

(April 4, 2017) Each year in January, as the Maryland General Assembly gathers in Annapolis for another annual session, the Maryland Department of Agriculture braces for another bevy of bills aimed, reasons deemed either for “clean air” or “clean water,” at the Delmarva poultry industry.
Generally speaking, the proposed new legislation emerges from environmental organizations or lawmakers from the chicken-less urban areas of central Maryland.
The focus of their concern is litter, what the chickens leave behind, and, they are apparently convinced, its deleterious effect on the air we breath and the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
That concern ignores the fact that the poultry industry and its farmers have gone to great and expensive lengths to address those concerns — and continue to do so — and have been frequently applauded for their efforts.
Also ignored is the immensity of the industry itself, and its contributions both economically and culturally to Maryland and the Eastern Shore’s way of life.
It’s been measured. Here’s what it looks like: Agriculture has long been recognized as the No. 1 industry in Maryland.
In 2016, a total of 4.1 billion pounds of chicken were delivered to market.
To produce those chickens, Delmarva’s poultry industry used 85.4 million bushels of corn, 35.5 million bushels of soybeans and 1.7 million bushels of wheat. The industry’s total feed bill topped $997 million. Most of that corn, soybeans and wheat was grown on Delmarva farms.
Payments by chicken companies to contract growers on family farms rose 6 percent in 2016, from $229 million to $243 million. Wages earned by the 14,500 people directly employed by the region’s five chicken companies also rose, by 7.7 percent, to $663 million. That’s a total of $1.5 billion (that’s b as in boy) funneled into the Delmarva economy each year.
This assessment from Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., as the Maryland General Assembly ponders and debates several misguided bills which would limit or restrain the poultry industry
“Nearly every business on Delmarva — including small businesses — is positively affected by the chicken industry. An unwarranted clampdown on Delmarva’s chicken industry would result in widespread economic harm; it would endanger the livelihoods of farmers, chicken company employees and countless others; and it would represent a step back in terms of conservation, by exposing more farmland to development pressure.”
Ah yes, the litter.
Multi-million dollar investments have been — and are being — made to develop systems, which convert that litter to energy or transform it into organic fertilizer.
These efforts should not have to play second fiddle to solar and wind projects in line for federal initiative funding.
As this year’s legislative session closes in Maryland, it’s time for the anti-poultry forces in the environmental community and the Maryland legislature to lay off.