The Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition (MCAC) today released the following statement about a new report looking at the Chesapeake Bay’s agriculture pollution problem from an urban/suburban perspective.

“The Abell Foundation’s new report on the Chesapeake Bay and Agricultural Pollution provides a fresh look at the challenge of a healthier Chesapeake Bay.

The report finds that urban jurisdictions are now appropriately held accountable for stormwater and sewage pollution, and urban/suburban residents of all income levels are paying their share — but the agriculture sector, which contributes the largest portion of the Chesapeake Bay’s pollution problem, are asked to mostly voluntarily fix the problem. To top it off, those practices aren’t verified.

We agree that that “the same rules should be applied” to all polluters, so that one segment of the population “does not end up paying more than its fair share to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.”

The Phosphorus Management Tool, once fully implemented in 2022, should keep more than 228,000 excess pounds of manure off already saturated farm fields, but the rapidly growing number of chickens and chicken houses on the Eastern Shore will produce even larger amounts of manure that are, as yet, unaccounted for.

Requiring urban residents and businesses to pay fees to help clean up the pollution in our waterways while not requiring the $565 million Maryland poultry industry to implement reasonable pollution practices is simply not fair.

It is equally unfair that big chicken companies make large profits but bear no responsibility for the waste they produce – burdening Maryland farmers and taxpayers with hundreds of tons of poultry litter to dispose of each year. We agree with the report recommendation that Maryland invest in a robust manure exchange that connects those who want manure with those who need to dispose of it, but we believe that the poultry industry should have a part in that exchange.

We hope this report inspires greater attention to the need to reduce agricultural pollution and make our rural Maryland waterways safe and healthy for our residents — as well as to the many ways that different segments of our population are working together to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”

The Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition is working to improve Maryland waterways and protect public health by reducing pollution, and increasing transparency and accountability, from agriculture and other associated sources of water degradation.