County Views Change As ‘Negative’ For Farmers

SNOW HILL — An emergency hearing later this month could significantly impact the use of poultry manure on farms throughout the state of Maryland.
Both the Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI) and Worcester County Commission had an immediate and adverse reaction to the announcement of the possible changes.
Spearheaded by the Maryland General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review (AELR), the hearing will consider replacing the current P-Site Index with a new phosphorous management tool (PMT) when determining phosphorous applications on state farms.
“This regulation will have a severe negative impact on the use of poultry manure in Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties,” read a release from DPI. “All counties in Maryland will be impacted. There has not been any economic study to show the effects of this regulation.”
According to DPI, the new PMT is “more sensitive to existing environmental conditions,” which officials say makes it less likely that a field will be able to use poultry-based manures due to phosphorous amounts. The new regulations could hamstring area growers, according to Worcester County Commissioner Virgil Shockley, a poultry farmer.
“This will basically shut down the spreading of poultry manure on about, low-side 65-percent, high-side 80-percent of all fields in Worcester, Wicomico, Somerset and Dorchester counties,” he said.
Nearly as troubling as the effects of the regulations are their origin, Shockley continued.
“This is something that came from nowhere, literally,” he said. “About nine days ago it showed up at 5:15 on a website and has grown … It’s kind of a question, why is it an emergency, all of a sudden, when it was just kind of lying out there and it wasn’t even supposed to be implemented until 2016.”
Shockley was also dismayed at what he perceived as a lack of solid reasoning behind the changes.
“One, there’s no scientific evidence for what they’re trying to do. They’ve based a law off of 391 soil samples. That sounds like a lot, but I have four farms and I take over 40 on four farms,” said Shockley. “Four farms, I take 40 and they’re basing a Maryland law on 391. To me, that’s absolutely ridiculous. We need to slow down. We need to get some facts before you start passing stuff that is going to have a dramatic, and I don’t use that word lightly, impact on poultry.”
Likewise, Shockley blasted the process as being less transparent than it should have been.
“If this is implemented by this committee, the committee has the authority to do it, number one, there’s no recourse because it doesn’t have to be voted on by the legislature,” he said.
Both DPI and Worcester County Commission are encouraging members of the farming and poultry industry in Maryland to get involved. The hearing will be held by the AELR Committee on Aug. 28 at 2:30 p.m. in the Joint Hearing Room in the Legislative Services Building in Annapolis. DPI plans on an “emergency bus trip to Annapolis” to attend the hearing.
“We need as many chicken growers and crop farmers as we can get to fill the hearing room to show the state legislators how serious an issue this is,” read their release, “and how it can create huge negative implications for chicken growers and crop farmers.”
The Worcester County Commission also plans on sending a formal letter opposing the new regulations.