Monday, March 16, 2009

It's About Time

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is finally doing some enforcement work to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. The EPA has told poultry farmers on Maryland's Eastern Shore that they must now apply for a permit if any of their manure is running off into local waterways.

The federal requirements are even stiffer than what Maryland state officials have proposed. Poultry growers will be required to submit comprehensive reports on how they handle and store the manure produced by their flocks, and list how much they're using as fertilizer on crops and what precautions they're taking to keep it from getting into nearby streams.

The federal regulations also could require many to change their farming practices. The rules sharply restrict the amount of time they can stockpile manure in their fields before working it into the soil and require them to leave much larger swaths of land uncultivated along drainage ditches and waterways.

Agriculture is the largest source of the nutrients degrading the bay's water quality, with runoff of manure and chemical fertilizers responsible for 42 percent of the nitrogen and 46 percent of the phosphorus. Nitrogen and phosphorus runoff each summer results in huge "dead zones" in the bay where fish and other wildlife are unable to survive because of algae blooms that deplete the water's oxygen.

Go here for a full report in the Baltimore Sun.


Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener said...

You mean industrial agriculture (aka. conventional - now that's a euphemism), which is the prevalent agriculture?

Ed Bruske said...

Sylvie, I don't think the EPA distinguishes between organic and non-organic when it refers to "agriculture." But even organic chicken operations would produce manure, no? Maybe not the fertilizers.

Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener said...

Ed - I know re: the EPA. I was juts being ... (slightly) sarcastic?. And the vast majority of farming is industrial, anyway. But pastured operations a la Polyface (Swoope, VA), Mount Vernon Farm (Sperryville, VA), Belle Meade (Sperryville, VA) - with their intense pasture management, multiple animal types and rotational grazing - have no manure run-offs. The pasture is never overloaded. And it is pasture - there is no need for manure "lagoons" - another stinking euphemism!

Ed Bruske said...

Sylvie, I'm not sure that pasture operations in some cases aren't subject to abatement measures as well. For instance, curbing runoff from hillsides into streams, etc.