Poultry Industry Opposes New Litter Rules

VIRGINIA, US - Producers are unhappy about the plan to more closely monitor poultry litter disposal.
calendar icon 8 May 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

A plan to monitor more closely agricultural use of poultry litter is ruffling feathers in the state's poultry trade, according to Harrisonburg Daily News Record.

Hobey Bauhan, president of the Virginia Poultry Federation, calls the proposal Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) – which would make buyers of litter record their use of the solid waste – an 'overregulation' that would hurt the state's poultry-litter market.

"Buyers of poultry litter are already regulated as to how they use the litter," Mr Bauhan said. "If you place too great a burden on [them], they could easily opt for other sources of nutrients."

Poultry farmers have recently enjoyed a prosperous business of selling litter, Mr Bauhan said. Producers often sell any litter they have left over from their own planting to other farmers, he added.

But the new DEQ proposal would require buyers, or end-users, of poultry litter to keep written records of how much and where they apply their litter.

Poultry farmers already follow similar state regulations that have been on the books for several years, Mr Bauhan said.

The DEQ put forth the proposal last year, he said, and put together a committee of farmers, environmentalists and agricultural officials from Virginia Tech to study the measure.

The committee met several times over the past year and made suggestions to the DEQ as to what the proposed regulations should look like.

Neil Zahradka, manager of the office of land application programmes for the DEQ, said the agency wanted feedback from a diverse group of people to craft a practical plan for end-users' environmentally safe handling of poultry litter.

"We wanted to ensure the poultry litter is used appropriately regardless of whether or not it's permanently on a farm or transferred to another farm," Mr Zahradka said.

On 27 April, DEQ officials presented the proposal to the State Water Control Board, which approved a 60-day public comment period for the plan.

State environmentalists say the new measure is needed to keep waste from poultry and other livestock at manageable levels.

The goal is to prevent the kind of runoff into streams and rivers that over time led to the current environmental crisis in the Chesapeake Bay. The central Valley's rivers, streams and tributaries all eventually flow into the bay.

DEQ spokesman, Bill Hayden, said the new proposal won't hurt buyers of poultry litter as much as they fear.

"We don't believe this will cause a big problem," Mr Hayden said. "We're just trying to balance environmental concerns with economic ones, and we feel this is the best way to do it. We're trying to protect the water."

Like Mr Bauhan, many farmers in the Shenandoah Valley oppose the plan.

Charles Horn, a poultry farmer from Mount Solon, says farmers in the region and in the rest of the state "don't need any more regulations" to keep the environment clean.

"The poultry industry has been doing a good job of taking care of the environment," he said.

Mark Deavers of Broadway, who works with buyers and sellers of poultry litter as a broker, shares Mr Bauhan's view that many farmers who buy the litter may wind up eyeing other options.

Specifically, they may buy commercial fertilizer that can be pricier but is not regulated by the DEQ.

"Producers, especially those with smaller operations, probably won't [continue to] buy poultry litter," Mr Deavers told Harrisonburg Daily News Record.

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