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Big Chicken must help pay for bay cleanup

Dan Rodricks was right on the mark that Maryland's next governor needs to address pollution from agriculture and "consider some common-sense ideas for dealing with the phosphorous runoff." ("Larry Hogan has a chance to be a green governor," Dec. 13).

Agriculture is the single largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways. Manure from agriculture — particularly from the massive poultry operations on Delmarva — contaminates local waters and the Chesapeake Bay and threatens public health. It chokes waters of the necessary oxygen to support crabs, oysters and other aquatic life and causes toxic algae like that recently found in Ohio.

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Every year, Maryland produces enough poultry waste to fill M&T Bank Stadium two times. Maryland is simply putting too much manure on our lands, and our waterways are suffering for it. Our officials know that current practices allow excessive manure to be applied to farm fields, yet we continue to turn a blind eye and use them.

We have a broken system in Maryland that allows this to happen. The large-scale poultry industry controls almost all aspects of chicken farming — including the profits — but it shirks responsibility for manure, leaving that on the hands of small farmers.

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In 2013, Maryland's poultry industry brought in $804 million in revenue. The industry needs to help fund pollution clean-up and not expect small farmers or taxpayers to pay the full tab. The Maryland General Assembly and Gov.-elect Larry Hogan should embrace solutions to protect our waters and our economy, like the new phosphorus management tool, not fight them.

Joanna Diamond

The writer is director of Environment Maryland and co-chair of the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition.

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