Jacqueline Treiger, Food and Water, 650-380-6811, email@example.com
LOCALS URGE MARYLAND LAWMAKERS TO PASS THE POULTRY LITTER MANAGEMENT ACT
Montgomery County residents make calls in support of bill to shift burden of chicken waste away from Maryland farmers and taxpayers
ROCKVILLE, MD. – On Thursday, Montgomery County residents called on local Delegate James Gilchrist to support the Poultry Litter Management Act (HB 599/ SB 496), a commonsense bill that would shift the burden of cleaning up the litter from big poultry operations away from Maryland contract farmers and taxpayers onto the big chicken companies that own the birds. Local residents asked passersby to make calls to Delegate Gilchrist, asking for his support of the bill.
“The people of Maryland care about our environment and the iconic Chesapeake Bay. We want a fair farming system that works for everyone, not just one that props up the poultry industry,” said Jacqueline Treiger, field organizer with Food & Water Watch. “Today, we are calling on our elected officials to help us get there by supporting the Poultry Litter Management Act.”
Poultry companies contract with local farmers to raise their chickens, but never give up ownership of their birds – that’s 288 million broilers produced in Maryland each year. While the company owns the birds, they reject any responsibility for the 1.3 billion pounds of manure their birds produce each year under these contracts. Instead, the farmers who grow the chickens under contract are required to dispose of the birds’ litter at their own expense, with subsides from taxpayers to transport some of the manure.
The Poultry Litter Management Act would make companies responsible for disposing of excess waste – that is, litter that cannot be used by contract farmers – in a sustainable way, taking the burden off of farmers, and protecting the Bay in the process.
“It is incredible that these big chicken corporations, who own the birds and control all of the farming practices, do not also pay for the waste removal,” said Toni Hudson, concerned resident of Gaithersburg. “It is time for these companies to start caring about their farmers and the environment here in Maryland, both of which they rely on for their profits.”
Maryland faces a growing problem of excess chicken manure that can’t be used as fertilizer, as well as rising costs for disposing of or using the manure. Last year, Governor Hogan created regulations that allow farmers to spread chicken manure only in the amount that can be used by crops. The Maryland Department of Agriculture has estimated about 228,000 tons of excess manure are currently applied to crop fields in Maryland. Phosphorus from the excess manure is polluting local creeks, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.
“The Chesapeake Bay and watersheds are a point of pride for Marylanders. There are many local efforts dedicated to keeping our waterways clean and millions of taxpayer dollars spent to clean up the Bay. Yet these big chicken corporations are not paying to clean up their mess,” said Johanna Wermers, concerned resident of Rockville. “It is crucial that we pass the Poultry Litter Management Act, so that current and future generations can continue to enjoy and be proud of Maryland’s environment and the Chesapeake Bay.”
The U.S. Geological Survey recently released a report showing that Eastern Shore waterways have levels of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that are among the “highest in the nation,” and increasing, due to agricultural operations.
The Poultry Litter Management Act was introduced earlier this month in the Senate by Richard S. Madaleno (District 18) and Joan Carter Conway (District 43), and in the House of Delegates by Clarence K. Lam, MD, MPH (District 12) and Shane Robinson (District 39), has attracted the support of more than 50 legislators.
The local effort to support the bill has been growing since the start of the legislative session. Since January, local Maryland residents have signed over 1,500 petitions, sent over 40 handwritten letters and generated dozens of calls in to legislative offices. In addition, over 60 local organizations have added their support to a coalition letter in support of the Poultry Litter Management Act.
Read a fact sheet about the Poultry Litter Management Act here.
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.