Urban waste, not chicken manure, is the bay's biggest threat

The contrast between 50 million gallon sewage spill in Baltimore County this spring and the ensuing Baltimore harbor fish kills and the Waterkeeper Alliance lawsuit against Worcester County farmers Alan and Kristin Hudson could not be starker.

When a suspected pile of chicken manure/litter (later found to be sewage sludge from Ocean City) was spotted on the Hudson property, the poultry industry was attacked, and a farm family is still fighting a lawsuit that threatens to bankrupt it. In the wake of a massive sewage spill and now fish kills, the silence is deafening. Where is the Waterkeeper Alliance or its new mouthpiece, Food and Water Watch? Where is the lawsuit? Where is the public outrage?

Everyone has a role in protecting the Chesapeake Bay. Chicken companies, the farm families that grow the chickens, and crop farmers who use chicken manure as a natural fertilizer are leading the way in bay pollution prevention. Their efforts are paying off. Pollution from farmland is declining while other segments' contributions are not. In fact, Maryland farm families already have met the 2012 goals for four of the six identified Best Farming Practices in the Maryland 2012-2013 Bay Restoration Milestone Goals. Programs to reduce urban pollution are not even close to their goal.

Chicken manure is responsible for just 6 percent of the bay's nitrogen from all Maryland sources, according to the state of Maryland. Between 1959 and 2001, nitrogen and phosphorus excreted by chickens declined 75 percent. Through changes in diet and feeding programs, there has been another 30 percent reduction in phosphorus since 2000. In its first decade, Perdue AgriRecycle recycled more than 730,000 tons of manure/litter from Delmarva chicken growing farm families, and since 2008 more than half of these nutrients have left the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

I congratulate Maryland farmers for reducing nutrient contributions to the bay. I encourage others to follow this example.

Bill Satterfield, Georgetown, Del.

The writer is executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc.

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