ANNAPOLIS, Md.- The Poultry Litter Management Act is designed to take the burden of disposing of chicken litter off of the small farmers and the tax payer, and instead pin it to the part of the industry Maryland lawmakers say can and should handle that cost. Those being the big integrators like Perdue Farms and Mountaire.
But some say this mandate wouldn't really look out for the small farmer, or the Eastern Shore.
"This bill says you know what? Instead of the taxpayers paying for this, it's the 'big chicken,' the beneficiaries of the industry, who should have to pay for it," said Sen. Richard Madaleno, a Democrat from Montgomery County. Madaleno was one several delegates and senators gathered to announce the piece of legislation.
The difference between this bill and the "Chicken Tax" bills submitted over the last few years, is that no fee is attached to a bird. Instead, those large integrators will be required to dispose of the manure that farmers cannot use on their fields.
Also among the senators and delegates was former Perdue contract farmer Carole Morrison.
"Anybody else who owns an animal is responsible for it. Companies have gotten away scot-free for years without taking care of it," said Morrison.
Despite the large showing of support for the bill, not everyone in Annapolis is content with the bill, including Del. Carl Anderton, a Republican from Wicomico County.
"We've just had the phosphorous management tool implemented," he said. "We haven't even gone through a full cycle with this to see how it affects our farmers, what land is able to be spread with manure, what land is not, and already we're coming out with this bills to compact the problem. It's just another layer of regulation, another layer of burden."
WBOC reached out to Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc., as well as Perdue Farms. Both groups said they had just received the legislation and were still reviewing it, and offered no comment on the bill.
Perdue did tell WBOC that they currently take the manure from its contractors and other farmers that aren't using it, and process it at its AgriRecycle plant. The company said it has invested $50 million in the plant, to create a clean alternative for manure disposal. Perdue said it is still hearing several other pitches for systems that could also dispose of the manure in a clean and efficient way.
The previous two bills meant to address the poultry manure issue never made it into law.