Better Manure Management
Can you wrap your head around one ton of animal manure? Can you imagine how much space it would take up if piled high? Now, imagine 44 million tons of that same manure. That’s the amount of manure farm animals produce every year in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Annually, factory farm animals in Maryland produce about 100 times more than the amount of human waste being treated at the state’s wastewater plants. Just one dairy farm with 2,500 cows will produce as much waste as a large city with over 410,000 residents.
Manure – if it’s from animals that have not been treated with antibiotics or given arsenic or other feed additives, can make a great fertilizer for crops. But in Maryland animals produce much more manure than farmers can responsibly use on their farmland. When too much manure is applied, farm fields become oversaturated with it, and the excess ends up washing into our streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. This manure is so harmful it creates something known as “dead zones.”
The Eastern Shore of Maryland produces so much chicken manure the state subsidizes a manure transport program. This means that we, the taxpayers, pay to have this manure shipped away from factory farms. We’re not even sure where it goes. Marylanders have invested millions in tax credits to subsidize pollution reduction efforts, but there is very little transparency to tell us how well our tax dollars are being used and where this pollution ends up.
It’s all part of a rigged game where a few huge chicken corporations work the system so they can avoid taking responsibility for the pollution their industry produces. The rich corporations own all of the birds that are raised in Delmarva, but they pay ‘poultry growers’ to raise the birds for them while still controlling virtually every aspect of the process, right down to what the birds are fed. But when the big chicken corporations come to collect their birds for slaughter, they leave behind all of the chicken manure. Where it all ends up, we don’t know. We do, however, know that far too much of it ends up polluting our waters.
The current system simply isn’t fair. The companies own the chickens but the individual growers own the manure, and as a result the companies rake in huge profits while the growers sometimes can’t even make ends meet. Ultimately, farmers and taxpayers end up on the losing end of this pollution.
Fair Farms supports legislation that would shift the burden of responsible manure disposal from the individual growers to the large poultry companies who produce this waste.