It sucks to be crapped on by a bird. So imagine being crapped on by hundreds of millions of them every year.
That’s the reality for Chesapeake Bay.
In the adjacent state of Maryland, more than 300 million chickens in factory farms produce more than a billion and a half pounds of waste every year. Most of that waste is spread over farmland — ostensibly as a fertilizer, but that just happens to be the cheapest way of disposing of all that crap. Now almost half the farms in the state are saturated with phosphorous from the manure; that phosphorus runs off the farms and into the estuary and bay, where it fertilizes algal blooms that threaten the seafood and tourism industries.
Last year, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) backed away from proposed new regulations to deal with the problem, caving to pressure from the poultry industry. But now two state lawmakers have stepped up by introducing legislation that would compel poultry companies to pay to help protect and restore Chesapeake Bay.
“Poultry companies are polluting with impunity while the public pays for the cleanup,” said one of the lawmakers, Shane Robinson, a Democrat.
The Poultry Fair Share Act would tax poultry companies five cents per bird, with revenue used to cover most of the $20 million annual cost of a state program that helps farmers grow cover crops to reduce soil erosion and nutrient runoff.
According to Food & Water Watch, which has advocated for such legislation, Maryland residents pay $110 million of taxes every year into a bay restoration fund. “Meanwhile, a company like Perdue enjoys annual chicken sales of $4.8 billion and pays nothing into the fund despite the significant impacts the industry has on the health of the Bay,” the nonprofit wrote on its website.
Poultry companies are making the ridiculous claim that the five-cent tax would utterly ruin their industry, which is a big employer in the state. “That bill, if passed, will guarantee that there won’t be any poultry left in the state of Maryland,” one of them told The Daily Times.
When the legislation was being floated in November, a Perdue spokesman dismissed the proposal as “part of an ongoing campaign by radical environmental groups against contemporary animal agriculture.”
If contemporary animal agriculture means dumping shit-derived nutrients into treasured water bodies, ruining water quality and the industries that rely on it, then we’ll take the old variety of agriculture, please.