Gerald Winegrad’s recent column “Farms and King Chicken Stand in the way of a cleaner Chesapeake Bay” is an alarm bell we should heed (The Capital, June 21). Big agri-business pollutants are unequivocally and on record the biggest source of nutrients and sediment choking the Chesapeake Bay.
Chicken operations produce more than 600 million chickens on the Eastern Shore. Thousands of tons of nutrient-rich raw excrement are dumped on farmland.
Industry shills unabashedly tout limited successes and shift the blame to development and its stormwater flows while corporate giants like Perdue, Mountaire, and Tyson ramp up chicken operations where one farm operation can produce 1.5 million chickens a year. Making matters worse, the giant agri-businesses take the chickens, leaving the manure with the farmers where the cheapest option is usually followed — putting it on the land, where there may already may be enough phosphorus and nitrogen.
The simple solution is avoided: Make the giant chicken corporations take care of the manure in a sound environmental fashion!
The usual corporate rebuttals offered up by industry shills, split hairs over whether their waste streams are a really big problem, or a little itty bitty ones.
They seek to distract us by chastising Winegrad for painting farmers as villains but the same lobby does not hesitate to villainize developers by finger-pointing nitrogen flows from urban stormwater.
Fact: in 2018, farms, (including chicken farms), produced 119 million pounds of nitrogen poisoning our waters while all urban runoff produced 39.7 million pounds. Meaning, factory farms produced three times more nitrogen than urban runoff. Check the facts, Follow the science and not the rhetoric!
Chicken farms and other farms produced 56% more phosphorous than stormwater runoff. Agriculture is far from meeting its EPA mandated nitrogen reductions by 2025 and must reduce them by 30% by 2025 while they expand chicken operations.
Gains touted by the industry are overstated as they use questionable calculations. To save the Bay we simply cannot let the chicken industry dominate Maryland politics.