• Thu. Sep 22nd, 2022

Environmental activists have set their sights on Delmarva’s chicken industry

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Jul 14, 2022

Environmental activists in Maryland have set their sights on Delmarva’s chicken industry, calling on elected officials in Annapolis to issue a moratorium to stop any future expansion of industrial poultry farming on the east coast.

Earlier this week, ahead of the primary election, a statewide press conference was co-hosted by Friends of the Earth Action and Food and Water Action, two environmental advocacy groups, who launched serious lobbying efforts in Maryland’s capital to pressure political leaders to crack down on the state’s poultry industry.

The groups are calling on whoever the next governor of Maryland is to issue an immediate moratorium on all future factory farming related to the poultry industry. Together, they cited a poll that reportedly found a majority of Marylanders want increased regulatory enforcement when it comes to the chicken industry in Delmarva.

The poll was commissioned by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future as part of its Food Citizen project and administered by GQR, a public opinion research firm. The poll found that an overwhelming majority of Maryland residents (89% of respondents) want to see increased enforcement and monitoring of the Clean Water Act on factory farms, according to the group’s findings. The poll also showed that 80% of respondents favored stricter environmental standards, even in small concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs) – industrial-sized livestock operations – and 59% supported a limit to statewide on the construction of new and expanded industrial chickens. agricultural production facilities.

“The primaries are fast approaching, Maryland voters are clear that tackling big business is a priority in our state, and Maryland’s next governor and general assembly must pledge to redouble their efforts. efforts in this destructive industry and to enact a moratorium on factory farms,” ​​said Lily Hawkins, Maryland organizer with Food & Water Action.

Hawkins then raised alarming allegations of severe pollution that she says is harming the health of Marylanders on the east coast and damaging local waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay.

“East Coast factory farms emit ammonia, particulates and endotoxins, all of which are respiratory irritants linked to lung disease,” Hawkins said. “They also emit human pathogens and volatile organic compounds that irritate your eyes, throat, which you might have felt if you were near one of the big factory chicken farms out there on the east coast. . Many Marylanders know the impacts runoff from chicken coops has on the health of the bay, with nitrates and nitrogen also seeping into groundwater and not just the Chesapeake Bay, which can destroy the water in the bay. sinks of people, which is very expensive to remedy.

The Delmarva Chicken Association was quick to hit back, posting a response refuting the activists’ claims and highlighting how their industry has taken action to address pollution issues on Delmarva.

“Releasing polls of groups who want to ban modern agriculture on Delmarva and smash the chicken community’s $4.2 billion economic engine in the process doesn’t tell us much,” Holly Porter said. , executive director of the Delmarva Chicken Association. “The fact is, Delmarva’s farmers – chicken farmers, grain farmers and others – have been constantly improving their environmental practices, and that’s one of the main reasons researchers are now documenting better water quality. in the rivers and bays of our region.”

Porter went on to say that poultry farming has taken great steps over the years to address concerns raised about pollution and cited how that would have resonated with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ).

“Scientists confirm that Delmarva farms have improved over time to keep nutrients out of our waterways, even as areas with a lot of construction and development have increased their pollution levels,” Porter said. . “Farmers live here too and they want a safe and healthy environment, just like their neighbours. And chicken farming is already heavily regulated, with farmers juggling no-discharge permits, stormwater regulations, and local planning and zoning codes, among other regulations. Just last week, a senior EPA official, while reviewing a new report on the Chesapeake Bay, said, “Bay states are stepping up and making an impact, by particularly in the agricultural sector.

Delmarva’s chicken industry is an important part of the regional economy. According to an economic impact study by John Dunham & Associates, the chicken industry creates or supports 29,085 jobs in Delaware; 23,965 jobs in Maryland; and 5,035 jobs on the east coast of Virginia.

Delmarva’s five chicken companies — Amick Farms, Allen Harim, Mountaire Farms, Perdue Farms and Tyson — spent $152 million on capital improvements to processing plants, hatcheries and wastewater treatment systems, a $37 million increase over 2020.

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