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Md. farmers are doing their share for Chesapeake Bay

The recent commentary by representatives of Senior Scientists and Policymakers for the Bay regarding poultry waste regulations was wrong in many ways ("No more half-measures," June 18).

They are correct that more people and their pollution will stress our environment. More people will reverse the progress that agriculture is making. TheU.S. Environmental Protection Agencyreports that agriculture has made tremendous progress in reducing nutrient contributions to the Chesapeake Bay. Urban and suburban sectors are getting worse.

They are wrong to describe agriculture's programs as a "voluntary, collaborative approach." They imply that there are no Maryland rules for the proper use of animal manures and fertilizers, but they know better. Maryland's 1998 law created far-reaching requirements for farmers — among America's most restrictive. Ask any farmer. They are not "mostly voluntary" as claimed.

Some area states do not have a strong program like Maryland, but this group wants readers to think that Maryland has a weak program. The facts don't support that allegation.

They mistakenly claim that agriculture lags behind other sectors in reducing pollution. Throughout the watershed, agriculture has reached about half of its 2010 pollution reduction goal. Not good enough, we agree. But the urban/suburban sectors went backward. Whose record is better, agriculture achieving nearly 50 percent of the goal or urban/suburban going backward by 90 percent?

They mention progress being made by sewage treatment plants, but they fail to mention the volume of human waste that escapes through leaking pipes before reaching the plants. They fail to mention the 1.4 billion gallons of escaped wastewater reported to the state last year.

They call for chicken manure to have the same "disposal" rules as human sewage. Chicken manure does not contain the toxins, household cleaning products, unused medications, man-made steroids, reproductive hormones, oil and grease and other products often disposed of through sinks or toilets. No wonder human waste needs more treatment.

Farmers are making improvements, and the Chesapeake Bay is benefiting. On-the-farm pollution prevention practices installed today might not show benefits for several years, but they will eventually. The current course of action is working. Let's not drive already heavily regulated farms out of business. Without farms, water quality would be even worse.

Andrew McLean, Centreville

The writer is president of Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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