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Poultry Regulations Challenged by Farmers

by 5m Editor
20 November 2008, at 9:34a.m.

MARYLAND - Local farmers and agency representatives challenged proposed Maryland Department of Environment pollution regulations at a recent public hearing at Chesapeake College.

The regulations include the first required discharge permit for large poultry operations and the first public review procedures for applications and plans, reports DelmarvaNow.com.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are operations that discharge waste into water and would need a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. Any animal feeding operation would become a CAFO if that operation has a discharge. Large state operations that don't discharge would also need a permit. Violations for CAFOs can run up to $32,500 a day. Medium operations, those with 75,000 to 99,999 square feet of chicken house capacity, don't need permits but would need to formally certify regulation conformance to MDE.

MDE officials estimated the changes would affect 200 farms in the state, with annual costs at up to $15,052 per farm. Programs through the Maryland Department of Agriculture can help deflect 87.5 percent of those costs.

The proposal also would allow MDE to conduct unannounced inspections and grants University of Maryland researchers access to farms upon request. It would also allow public access to submitted nutrient, soil conservation and water quality plans, the chance for public comments and hearings and the opportunity to contest those plans.

Farmers from Talbot, Caroline, Queen Anne's and Kent counties and agriculture agency representatives testified against the permit and regulations.

"I have this feeling I'm hearing the death knell of the chicken industry," said Kenny Bounds of the Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit. Bounds argued the proposal would discourage new producers and multiply the effects of a depressed economy on struggling agriculture operations.

"I would like to congratulate the state of Maryland for being on the forefront of putting farmers out of business," said Queen Anne's County farmer Andrew McClain.

In addition to the permit, MDE would strictly regulate manure storage and spreading, buffers, documentation and reporting, inspections and access.

"How many of you farm for a living?" said Donna Smith, a Queen Anne's County farmer. "You don't know how difficult it is. We are the best stewards of our own land. You're going to shut us down."