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Organic fertilizers a better choice for Md. farms

Recently, the Business Economic and Community Outreach Network, a part of Salisbury University, issued a report addressing chicken manure as fertilizer. The report was commissioned by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University.

There is no question that manure is nasty stuff, but it has many good properties and it is inexpensive. As a result, it's difficult to replace. The report's solution was to encourage farmers to switch to chemical fertilizers, with the increased costs being subsidized by taxpayers.

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I would like to propose an alternative. We have the technology to convert chicken manure to liquid organic fertilizer. Although more expensive than chemical fertilizer, it allows farmer's to enter the organic product market, a market that will pay them premium prices. The higher prices should offset the increased costs.

Organics are a $2 billion industry projected to grow at 14 percent for the next several years. Thus, organic farming is moving beyond tie-dye shirts and small lots. Think Walmart and Whole Foods.

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This increased demand will require larger farms to provide products. In addition, Maryland's location gives its farmers access to a large part of the U.S population. As a result, the state should be able to grab a large share of a growing market.

The chicken manure-to-fertilizer solution also addresses another environmental issue. The primary large-farm organic fertilizer source is fish-based. Meeting increased organic product demand by increasing fish-based fertilizer use promotes overfishing, which itself is unsustainable.

Maryland is well located to meet the organic market and it has both the chicken manure and the farmland to grow the product. Rather than create a perpetual subsidy for the farming industry, the state should help create a sustainable business model that supports itself. That way everyone wins.

Lee McCreary, Philadelphia, Pa.

The writer is vice president of EnviroKure Inc., an organic fertilizer manufacturer.

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