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New Poultry Permits Delayed by Lawsuits

by 5m Editor
29 January 2009, at 10:20am

US - A new permitting process for livestock farmers scheduled to go into effect this month has been delayed as the result of recent legal challenges, but the state will continue to collect applications anyway.

Last week, Willards poultry farmer Blair Ranneberger filed the challenge on the Maryland Department of the Environment's 20 January mandated deadline. Ranneberger's opposition was preceded by a 16 January grievance by the Waterkeeper Alliance, an advocacy group that lobbies for clean water in their respective region.

The regulations, once in effect, would mean poultry farmers who have 100,000 square feet of farmland or more would have to apply for a Maryland Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) permit, while farms such as Ranneberger's approximately 54,000 square-feet would have to apply for a Confined Animal Feeding Operations permit.

In their respective lawsuits, Ranneberger argues the regulations are too tough, while the Waterkeepers feel they are not tough enough.

Even though the permit process has been delayed, MDE still encourages farmers who fall under the regulations to continue filing their applications. The agency has said MAFO operators will have 90 days to submit their permit applications when legal challenges are resolved.

"We want to make sure that no one finds themselves out of compliance or penalized," said Roger Richardson, state agriculture secretary.

Last fall, MDE released a twice-revised draft regarding permits for Animal Feeding Operations and held several public hearings throughout the state. The final draft was approved 2 January, according to DelmarvaNow.com.

Ranneberger said although MDE took the opportunity to visit with farmers and listen to their feedback, his decision to file the challenge centered around two factors: having to pay a fee for a permit coupled with the floating scale of permit fees, which could range anywhere from $120-$1,200.

"Right now just like everybody else, were going through really hard times," he said. "Things are tight in the chicken business."

The Waterkeeper Alliance's lawsuit, which was co-filed by the Assateague Coastkeeper, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper and Charles and Betty Schelts of Millington, Md., claims the MDE general discharge permit does not comply with the water quality standards of the Clean Water Act.

The parties are being represented by the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic.

Ranneberger said although he appreciates the MDE, he doesn't understand why his farm -- which he said does not discharge manure -- and others need to pay for a permit to knowingly do so.

"It's like when you're driving a car or flushing a toilet, you're discharging into the environment," he said. "You don't need a permit for those, so why should I?"