November 21, 2008
The Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) has proposed regulations for the poultry sector, in an effort to reduce environment pollution.
The regulations include the first required discharge permit for large poultry operations and the first public review procedures for applications and plans.
Operations that discharge waste into water would need a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, and violations can run up to US$32,500 per day. Medium operations with 75,000-99,999 square feet of chicken house capacity, do not need permits but have to formally certify regulation conformance to MDE.
The MDE would also strictly regulate manure storage and spreading, buffers, documentation and reporting, inspections and access. The proposal would also allow MDE to conduct unannounced inspections and grants University of Maryland researchers access to farms on request. The public will also gain access to submitted nutrient, soil conservation and water quality plans.
MDE officials estimated the changes to affect 200 farms in the state, with annual costs increasing up to US$15,052 per farm. However, programmes through the Maryland Department of Agriculture are expected to help absorb 87.5 percent of the costs.
However, local farmers and agriculture agency representatives are strongly against the permit and regulations, as they are worried that the proposal would discourage new producers and multiply the effects of a gloomy economy on struggling agriculture operations.