BALTIMORE—With Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium providing a symbolic backdrop, today Environment Maryland released a report, An Unsustainable Path: Why Maryland’s Manure Pollution Rules Are Failing to Protect the Chesapeake Bay, highlighting significant flaws in Maryland’s current manure application rules and outlining the need for stricter management. Maryland Senator Roger Manno (District 19, Montgomery County) joined the conservation organization in calling for updated, commonsense changes to reduce pollution from agriculture.
“Our excess of manure is a major source of pollution for the Chesapeake Bay. The solution is simple: we need to stick to the science and apply only what is needed, when it is needed. And we need to start by recognizing that too much is too much,” said Chesapeake Bay Program Associate Megan Cronin of Environment Maryland.
“We need a smarter commitment to reducing phosphorus runoff in the bay. I’m a believer that we can both save the bay and partner with agriculture to achieve sustainable and lucrative results—by aggressively advocating for better phosphorus application rules, by rolling back unnecessary manure applications during winters and throughout the year, and by requiring safe buffer zones near our precious waterways. If we take these steps, Maryland will not only be a more beautiful and healthy state, it will lead the way in advancing lucrative, sustainable agribusiness, that will rival all states in our region,” said Senator Manno.
“The science tells us that in much of the state we have fertilized our land with far too much manure. In these places, the soil simply cannot hold more nutrients. We need to change the rules of the game and change them so that we both protect our waters and assist our farmers,” said Dr. Anne Marsh, Program Director of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment.
Each year, Maryland produces enough chicken litter to create a pile across the field at M&T Bank Stadium that’s twice as high as the stadium itself.* Unlike sewage sludge from human waste, this manure is not treated before it is spread on Maryland lands, and it too often leaches into nearby waterways. According to the EPA, agriculture is the largest single source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, and Maryland’s BayStat website says it accounts for 41 percent of the phosphorus that enters the bay from Maryland.
The report was issued as the O’Malley Administration considers changes to the State’s nutrient management regulations that govern how and when manure and sewage sludge are spread onto the land. These regulations are intended to protect water quality.
Intensive chicken production, particularly on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, generates large volumes of manure. Growers and farmers often spread this manure on fields as fertilizer, but when applied in excess, the nutrients that make manure useful for fertilizing crops contribute to pollution in local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.
Among the findings in the report are:
· Large-scale chicken growing on Maryland’s Eastern Shore generates high volumes of manure that contain more phosphorus than can be used by local crops. Soil test data show that more than 60 percent of soil samples from four Maryland counties had more phosphorus than crops need.
· Maryland’s current rules allow farmers to spread manure on fields where phosphorus is likely to run off and pollute the bay, and they appear not to be solving the problem. In at least one major chicken-producing region, water quality has not improved since Maryland adopted its current rules. In the Choptank River, phosphorus levels have risen by an average of 1.9 percent per year from 2000 to 2008.
“Maryland produces far more phosphorus-laden manure than crops in the region can use. We need to keep phosphorus out of the bay, and we need a long-term solution for ending phosphorus build-up in our soils. We urge Gov. O’Malley to show the kind of leadership in reducing phosphorus pollution that he’s shown with clean energy production, energy efficiency and land preservation. We encourage him to show that kind of leadership by using any new regulations to make the needed improvements in our manure management rules,” said Cronin.
* The Maryland chicken count (296 million) is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Census of Agriculture in 2007. The manure estimate (about 550,000 tons per year) assumes 455 chickens per animal unit and 21 pounds of manure per animal unit per day, according to Caitlin Kovzelove, Tom Simpson, and Ron Korcak of Water Stewardship, Inc., Quantification and Implications of Surplus Phosphorus and Manure and Major Animal Production Regions of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia (PDF), February 2010. The assumed density of the litter is 63 lbs/ft.3, according to Jing Tao and Karen Mancl, Estimating Manure Production, Storage Size, and Land Application Area (PDF), Ohio State University Extension, 2008. And the dimensions of M&T Bank Stadium come from the stadium’s website: http://www.baltimoreravens.com/Gameday/MT_Bank_Stadium/Stadium_Information.aspx