Study Examines Costs to Cut Poultry Litter In Maryland’s Eastern Shore

A new study by Salisbury University analyzing the potential costs of implementing the Phosphorus Management Tool shows that restricting the use of poultry litter as fertilizer could cost Maryland Eastern Shore farmers between $22 million and $53 million over the next six years. The amount depends on how quickly farmers would need to achieve compliance. The study looks at the costs chicken farmers would have to pay to remove an estimated 228,000 tons of manure annually at $28 per ton.

According to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), chicken litter is a significant contributor of phosphorus to the bay. The Delmarva Peninsula, which includes Maryland’s Eastern Shore, is the heart of the state’s chicken industry, producing annually some 570 million chickens raised for meat, a UMCES report says. Chicken litter is rich in phosphorus, which is one of the pollutants impairing the Chesapeake Bay and must be reduced under the bay total maximum daily load.

A separate study commissioned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, puts the full value of healthy bay ecosystem services at $130 billion annually, reaching that value once the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is fully implemented.

The Salisbury University study was commissioned by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) to answer questions related to its proposed regulation, which would reduce phosphorus in stormwater runoff by requiring farmers to use a Phosphorus Management Tool. The tool would help farmers analyze areas where excess phosphorus is present in the soil and identify where a high potential for phosphorus loss exists. The proposed regulation that would implement the Phosphorus Management Tool was withdrawn twice in 2013 due to concerns by agricultural groups. Read more.

Gov.-elect (R) Larry Hogan has expressed concern about the proposed rule and has said he would block it if the rule goes to his office for approval.

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To help poultry and livestock producers comply with proposed nutrient regulations, Maryland is supporting and investing in alternative uses for manure. At the end of October, MDA awarded a $970,000 grant to Biomass Heating Solutions Ltd. for a manure-to-energy project at a Dorchester County poultry farm. The system processes poultry litter into energy for heating and cooling four poultry houses and is projected to generate 526 MWh of electricity per year. As a result of energy production and marketing the ash, 90% of nutrients in the poultry litter produced by 14 poultry houses will have alternative uses, according to MDA. Read more.

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