Would You Pay For Someone Else’s Litter?
I recently saw an article about Maryland considering a fee on poultry to pay for environmental damage. I followed the lawsuit – in my opinion harassment by legal channels – of the Hudson family and I spoke at the Maryland Farm Bureau conference just before the decision on that came in.
I talked to the people in Maryland about the regulations they face. I heard direct communication that the “contamination” (if there was contamination) was not from the Hudson farm but from a treatment facility for a nearby city.
So this article got my attention. In particular:
The General Assembly of Maryland is considering the Poultry Fair Share Act, a piece of legislation introduced February 4 that would place a tax of 5 cents per chicken on poultry companies operating in the state. The money raised through the tax would go toward efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
The bill, heavily supported by environmental group Food & Water Watch, is expected to generate about $15 million annually for bay clean-up initiatives.
Now I thought who would be against cleaning up the bay? Then I remembered the lawsuit. They were found not guilty of contaminating the bay. It’s likely many won’t remember that, and not likely that environmental groups will remind them. $15 million annually – just a nickel per chicken. But wait – the chickens don’t use the bay.
The contamination from a city plant makes me wonder why the city – or cities! – don’t pay for cleanup. How about a nickel on every hotel room, restaurant bill or similar purchase going towards environmental cleanup? I suspect a nickel extra for a beach room wouldn’t be noticed either, and has a direct benefit.
Or maybe an assessment on real estate to go towards it. After all, everyone uses the bay, not just farmers. Everyone benefits. And if you think farmers don’t care about the environment here, consider the stats in the article:
Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. points out that the bill overlooks all the good Maryland poultry producers have done for the environment, including:
- Spending more than $4 million through the Maryland Agricultural Cost Share Program for on-the-farm environmental programs
- Spending more than $4.5 million since the Water Quality Improvement Act of 1998 to move chicken manure to farms or alternative-use facilities that wanted it
- Planting trees and tall grasses on their farms for air and water quality improvements
- Examining more than 50 different types of technology to convert manure into something else
The organization also noted that Perdue Farms, which would be hit hard by the proposed tax, voluntarily constructed and operates a plant to convert manure into fertilizer pellets as an alternative to land application for growers. It has invested more than $45 million without any profit to do so.
Millions of dollars – nearly $55 million – to benefit the environment. While we all – urban and rural alike – have a concern for the environment, it seems like I don’t hear of urban areas being contamination sources, despite the obvious vehicle runoff that gets directly to the bay (leaky oil, fuel etc that adds up). Suburban areas use pesticides and fertilizer also to keep the immaculate lawns many are very proud of. Many of them do not have the training of proper use of those chemicals as farmers are required to do.
The environmental issue is tough. Why do I care what happens in Maryland? Because what happens in one area often sets a precedence. We, too,are concerned about the environment. We’ve increased windbreaks, feeding and watering songbirds and compost to avoid contamination of creeks or other areas. This hasn’t been because we get money for it.
The other thing is these things seem punitive. “We don’t like ‘factory farms’ so they should pay.” That’s not right. Large farms are set up to raise in volume because that’s what people want. Smaller farms, urban and micro-farms can be at risk of harassment too, with less ability to afford a legal battle. Whether it’s a source of contamination or not, birds are outdoors and on the ground, as some niche customers want, but now in filling that those farms are to “blame” for contamination?
All farms, large or small, poultry or crops or other livestock should strive to protect the environment. It’s there for all of us. Shouldn’t we all maintain it – in action and financial?
Maryland governor vows to veto chicken tax bill
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said he will veto the Poultry Fair Share Act if it passes the General Assembly of Maryland. The proposed legislation, introduced in the General Assembly of Maryland on February 4, would place a tax of 5 cents per chicken on poultry companies operating in that state.
Under the proposed bill, the money generated from the tax would go toward efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. An estimated $15 in taxes would be levied annually.
O’Malley said at the Taste of Maryland dinner on February 6 that he did not think the Poultry Fair Share Act was fair at all, and the bill could have dire consequences on a leading industry in the state.
“The truth of the matter is, we’re all one Maryland. We’re all in this together, and we cannot survive as a state unless agriculture is profitable in our state,” O’Malley said. “I will tell you this, read my lips: If that chicken bill passes, I will veto it.”
Delegate Shane Robinson, D-Montgomery, is the Maryland chicken tax bill’s primary sponsor. According to reports, Montgomery filed to withdraw the bill after hearing O’Malley so emphatically opposed it.
The bill was heavily supported by environmental group Food & Water Watch, but was strongly opposed by agriculture groups including Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc.