THE STATE someday may decide to declare a moratorium on expansion of the poultry industry on the Delmarva Peninsula, which is beset by manure runoff pollution problems. Realistically, that is not going to happen in the next session of Maryland's General Assembly.
Last year, Maryland imposed runoff controls, with compliance deadlines, on livestock farmers. The program may not be ideal, but it is the strictest in the nation. Poultry growers deserve a chance to achieve those goals to protect the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
The regional poultry industry is valued at $1.5 billion. Big processors are looking at facilities in other states to meet demand and lower costs. They will make those location decisions based, in part, on local laws and requirements. Maryland has already adopted tighter anti-pollution measures, so major expansion of Eastern Shore poultry farming appears unlikely.
The three-year moratorium proposed by environmental groups also aims to limit and regulate large hog and cattle farms, another prime source of waterway pollution.
But the federal Environmental Protection Agency is cracking down on major livestock feedlots, with mandatory manure controls, to place states on equal footing.
If livestock farms pollute, they should face stiff punishment. If they don't meet deadlines for compliance, they should be sanctioned. A state moratorium on expanded Delmarva chicken operations, however, would not do much for the dual goals of encouraging agriculture and protecting the quality of our water.
Pub Date: 12/01/98