Viewpoint – May

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Poultry industry grows despite higher costs and politics

The Maryland and Delaware broiler industry continues to grow with a gross revenue of nearly 2 BILLION dollars!  Yet higher energy prices, higher grain prices to feed the birds, and the continued efforts to regulate the poultry industry put a continued strain on the growers.

There’s a continued demand for chicken on America’s dinner tables, coupled with reduced red meat and pork availabilities.  As the growers work harder and longer days to produce food for our tables, they continue to be bombarded with Federal and State regulations that almost require the growers to have to hire legal counsel just to keep up and not be subjected to some code/regulation violation. From the Maryland Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) to farm land runoff to being in the crosshairs as the main source of the Chesapeake Bays pollution.

Because the farming community had an up-rise over the proposed PMT regulation changes several months ago with scientific data that was out of wack to say the least, further changes will be made and the bill reintroduced into the Maryland General Assembly probably at the next session. Then there was the proposed “5-cent chicken tax” last year proposed by two legislators on the Western Shore of Maryland  who’s knowledge of the poultry industry didn’t extend beyond the meat counter at their local grocery store!

Even with these jabs at the broiler industry, we’ve prevailed …..so far.

One important factor that’s been on the radar screen is the pollution to the Chesapeake Bay coming downstream from the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River from New York and Pennsylvania. The Army Corps of Engineers reports that it would costs billions of dollars to address the risk by dredging the river bottom of sediment buildup behind the Dam vs the “relatively small threat the Dam has on the Bay’s health”, suggested it was not worth the expense.

Interesting enough, the dam’s owner, is seeking to renew its federal license for the dam, which expires on September 1st. Our Maryland rural lawmakers contend that buildup of 86 years’ worth of sediment behind the 94-foot-high dam is a greater threat to the bay than farm or suburban runoff. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a stronghold on Maryland farmers about potential pollution when in fact they (EPA) should be working hard to get New York and Pennsylvania pollution under control which flows downstream to the Conowingo Dam and into the Chesapeake Bay.

Our framing community, our lawmakers in Annapolis and Washington should join together as one in strong protest to the dam’s license renewal without some effort on behalf of its owner to clean-up sediment behind the dam. Interesting too is the dams owner claims after Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, only 20 percent of the sediment and debris turned the  bay brown from the upper bay to the mouth of the Potomac River. That is flat wrong! They say “a picture is worth a thousand words”, well one only needs to look at the NASA photograph from the Terra satellite a few days after Tropical Storm Lee to see the darker brown starts in the Susquehanna River and gets lighter by the mouth of the Potomac River. HELLO, this sediment and pollution didn’t run “upstream” !

NOW is the time to make changes with the potential sediment and pollution flowing down into the Chesapeake Bay BEFORE the dam’s owner’s contract is renewed. NOW is the time for EPA to get off the backs of the Maryland poultry industry and get New York and Pennsylvania straight  and control pollutes coming into the Bay. NOW is the time for special interest groups, MDA (Maryland Department of Agriculture) and MDE (Maryland Department of the Environment) to STOP using Agriculture as the only major remedy to Bay Restoration.

The shore’s poultry industry has been and will continue to be responsible to protecting our environment. Why? Because poultry farmers/growers live here and raise their families too!

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