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A Debate At The Intersection Of Chicken Manure And The Chesapeake Bay

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Katie Brady /Creative Commons
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  Cruising along Route 50 down the Eastern Shore, it’s easy to see rows of chicken houses that stretch back from road hundreds of feet. All together these farms raise six times more chickens than there are people in Maryland. It’s a big business, accounting for just under a billion dollars and 40 percent of Maryland’s total cash farm income.

To deal with byproducts of the industry, scientists, environmentalists and people who rely on Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries would like to see regulations that limit phosphorus found in chicken manure. High loads of phosphorus deplete oxygen in the Bay, with bad effects on aquatic life, tourism and water quality.

But others, including many farmers, are not satisfied with the solutions and think the proposed regulations would be too costly.

One of Governor-elect Hogan’s priorities is dismantling O’Malley’s multi-year efforts to regulate phosphorus. Here’s the governor-elect speaking in Wicomico County last month:

We were very much opposed to it. They shouldn’t be trying to sneak something in under the wire in the midnight hour of their administration. That obviously has tremendous opposition and that would have a devastating impact on the Ag community and the entire Eastern Shore. We have a few tricks up our sleeve.

Joining us to discuss the proposed regulations is Washington Post reporter Jenna Johnson who wrote recently about the debate around chicken manure regulations in the state. We also asked Richardson a few questions by phone. Also, with us is Bob Gallagher. He practiced law in Washington, DC for 35 years before founding West/Rhode Riverkeeper a decade ago. He also serves on the board of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and Scenic Rivers Land Trust and is co-chair of the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition.

Sheilah Kast is the host of On The Record, Monday-Friday, 9:30-10:00 am.