Chicken companies shouldn't 'own' their farmers' manure

As an Eastern Shore chicken grower, like most others chicken growers and farmers, I was pleased to read recently in The Baltimore Sun of a study that indicates that after years of work, progress is being made in reducing the size and duration of Chesapeake Bay dead zones. Much of this success is due to improvements in farming techniques.

Experts have said for years that non-point source pollution reduction practices such as we use on farms would take years or decades to show results. Unlike immediately effective practices installed on sewage treatment plants and factories, farm practices never were expected to show immediate improvements. Now, the waiting is over and good things are resulting and more progress will be seen.

I want to take exception to one statement in that same Nov. 7 editorial "Chesapeake Bay: Hope and hurdles." The Baltimore Sun believes chicken companies should own the manure. Most chicken growers disagree with that because the manure, a locally produced organic fertilizer, has value to chicken growers who are selling it for up to $25 per ton. It is an important part of a farm's income. Additionally, crop farmers who use chicken manure as an organic fertilizer, including many chicken growers, are getting $92 worth of nutrients per ton. So it saves them money when they apply it to their land using state reviewed, state sanctioned nutrient management plans. Also, it increases the organic material in the soil and improves the soil's water holding capacity. Although some people call it a waste product, nothing could be further from the truth.

Our chicken companies are working hard on bay improvement programs. Making the chicken companies the owners of the manure will rob growers of a valuable commodity and do nothing to improve Chesapeake Bay water quality.

Andrew McLean, Centreville

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