A letter published in The Sun on Dec. 19, "Rodricks wrong on Bay pollution," asserted that a report by the Environmental Integrity Project that columnist Dan Rodricks quoted was wrong because it stated that poultry farmers on Maryland's Eastern Shore are polluting the Chesapeake Bay by over-applying poultry manure to farm fields.
According to the writer of the letter, Maryland farmers must be applying phosphorus in manure at an appropriate rate because farmers are required to submit fertilizer management plans and reports to the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA).
In fact, the Environmental Integrity Project examined the reports that 62 poultry farms submitted to MDA and found that these farms were applying three times more phosphorus in manure than their crops needed. That manure overload increased phosphorus concentrations in soils that already have too much and increased the likelihood that excess phosphorus will run off into the bay. Our Dec. 8 report, "Manure Overload on Maryland's Eastern Shore: Phosphorus Regulations Are Needed to Reduce Poultry Pollution into the Chesapeake Bay," is available at environmentalintegrity.org.
Our report is based on what farmers actually applied to their fields in 2012 (the most recent year for which records were available). If these application rates are consistent with fertilizer management plans, as your writer suggests, then what MDA currently requires of the poultry industry is not enough to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. Recognizing this problem, MDA in November proposed new regulations to limit the application of more poultry waste to fields that are already saturated with phosphorus from chicken litter.
Gov.-elect Larry Hogan will severely damage the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort if he throws out these new manure regulations to appease the politically influential poultry industry.
Tom Pelton, Baltimore
The writer is director of communications for the Environmental Integrity Project.