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Aug. 5, 2020 by Darya Minovi, Katlyn Schmitt

Industry-Sponsored Air Monitoring 'Study' Provides No Assurances for Marylanders Living Near CAFOs

In July, the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) released the findings of a new ambient air quality monitoring project focused on the state’s Lower Eastern Shore. This effort was announced more than a year ago as a partnership between the Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI), a trade group for just what it sounds like, and MDE to monitor ammonia and particulate matter emissions from industrial poultry operations.

The number of registered poultry CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, in Maryland has increased from seven in 2009 to 544 today, and the vast majority are located on the state’s Lower Eastern Shore. For years, residents have complained of foul odors emanating from nearby CAFOs, in addition to nausea, eye and throat irritation, and respiratory ailments. These symptoms are consistent with exposure to high levels of ammonia — a compound emitted when chicken litter breaks down, making it a hazard common to poultry houses — as well as particulate matter, which can lodge deep in the lungs and cause respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Under the Clean Water Act, CAFOs are regulated as point source polluters and must acquire a permit that limits and requires monitoring of nutrient discharges in waterways. However, the story …

July 21, 2020 by Katlyn Schmitt
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The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) recently issued a general discharge permit that covers pollution from most livestock farms, including concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), across the state through July 2025. Unfortunately, the permit, which went into effect on July 8th, will likely jeopardize the 2025 nitrogen reduction goals under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL) and does not align with Maryland’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) commitments.

Roughly 95 percent of Maryland’s animal farms are located within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, so it is important that they are adequately regulated under the general permit – both so that local water quality can be protected and so the state can meet its pollution reduction goals under the Bay TMDL.

Circumstances under which Animal Feeding Operations Require Permit Coverage

These types of general permits serve two primary purposes: (1) they satisfy the requirement …

June 18, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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A blog post published last month by the Chesapeake Bay Program, a collaborative partnership focused on Bay restoration, addressed the many ways that the climate crisis will affect farms in the region. Data from the program shows temperatures on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore, home to a high concentration of industrial poultry farms, increased between 2 to 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit, on average, between 1901 and 2017. By 2080, temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are projected to increase by 4.5 to 10 degrees, posing a serious risk of heat stress to farmworkers and livestock.

As the post discusses, rising temperatures can hurt farms in several ways. Warmer temperatures make for a longer growing season, which may temporarily promote higher crop yields but can also stress water resources and result in additional fertilizer application, which is not what the doctor ordered for the Bay’s nutrient …

June 11, 2020 by Katlyn Schmitt, William Andreen
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We are five years out from the final 2025 deadline for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup agreement, known as the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). With the approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), each of the Bay states has finalized the three required phases of their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs). This month, those states have released their draft 2020-2021 milestones, which, when final, will set out the key short-term goals states will work toward, stepping up their restoration work so that they can stay on track to meet their final 2025 pollution reduction goals.

Even though these five-year milestones play an important role in the accountability framework for the Bay TMDL, the WIPs serve as the main vehicle for comprehensively outlining how each state will achieve their commitments. Even the EPA has stated that the WIPs are the "cornerstone" of the Bay TMDL.

Despite …

May 18, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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In recent weeks, as a result of cramped conditions and inadequate protections, several U.S. meat plants have closed due to coronavirus outbreaks among workers. In one particularly stunning instance, a Tyson pork processing plant in Perry, Iowa, shut down after 730 workers (58 percent of the plant's workforce) tested positive. New data from Johns Hopkins University shows that the virus spreads at more than twice the national rate in counties with major meatpacking plants. The United States now faces a meat shortage, a direct result of a broken food system – one that is built to reliably feed the bottom line of industrial agriculture at the expense of public health.

Despite the chaos, federal agencies’ responses seem to favor industry over worker and consumer health. In March, the Food and Drug Administration postponed in-person inspections at factories, canneries, and poultry farms, then in April gave a number …

May 4, 2020 by Rachel Micah-Jones, Matt Shudtz
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This is an excerpt from an op-ed originally published in the Baltimore Sun. You can read the full op-ed here.

President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to order meat and poultry plants to continue operating despite COVID-19 outbreaks, exposing Maryland's poultry workers to enormous risks. Poultry processors haven't demonstrated they're able to keep workers safe and healthy, but they know that many of these low-wage workers will be forced to return. To top it all off, one of the president's goals with this order was to provide legal immunity to companies, so that they can't be sued by employees who are infected as a result of unsafe working conditions.

All the risks cascade down onto the workers. Many are from immigrant backgrounds and don't speak English. They're also exempted from vital protections, federal relief packages, and can't access COVID-19 treatment and care. We're standing in …

April 23, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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On Earth Day, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), a CPR ally, released a new report on nitrogen pollution from poultry operations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Using data from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s pollution modeling program, EIP found that approximately 24 million pounds of nitrogen pollution from the poultry industry entered the Chesapeake Bay’s tidal waters in 2018. This amount is greater than the total nitrogen from urban and suburban stormwater runoff in Maryland and Virginia combined (20 million pounds in 2018). All that nitrogen pollution can contaminate drinking water sources of nearby communities and feeds huge algal blooms in the Bay that block sunlight, choking off fish and plant life.

Environmental Integrity Project Report: Poultry Pollution in the Chesapeake Region

Nearly two-thirds of the poultry industry’s nitrogen pollution comes from broiler farms that raise chickens for meat. The Delmarva Peninsula — including Dorchester, Somerset, and Wicomico counties in Maryland (which have 220 registered poultry …

March 12, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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On March 4, I joined community members and advocates from Assateague Coastal Trust, Center for a Livable Future, Environmental Integrity Project, Food and Water Watch, and NAACP to testify in favor of Maryland's House Bill 1312. The bill, introduced by Delegate Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery County), would place a moratorium on permits for new or expanding concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs) in the state. The legislation would apply to "industrial poultry operations," defined as operations that produce 300,000 or more broiler chickens per year. It was introduced with strong support from community members and environmental and public health advocates hoping to pump the brakes on the seemingly unmitigated growth of poultry CAFOs, especially on the Eastern Shore.

The environmental and public health harms from CAFOs are nothing new to Eastern Shore residents. As stated in CPR's testimony, the expansion of CAFOs on the Delmarva Peninsula is …

Oct. 17, 2019 by Evan Isaacson
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The many thousands of people in the Mid-Atlantic region who care deeply about restoring the Chesapeake Bay tend to be pretty knowledgeable about the causes of the Bay's woes and even some of the key policy solutions for restoring it to health. These concerned citizens may even be familiar with the term "TMDL," a legal concept within the Clean Water Act that is probably completely foreign to most of the rest of the country. But what even the most committed Bay advocates may not be aware of is that a TMDL (short for "Total Maximum Daily Load") is merely a plan, not an enforceable document, and certainly not a self-activating solution to the Bay's problems.

The key to giving effect to the Bay TMDL and the entire Chesapeake restoration framework lies in the mechanics of the Clean Water Act. Quite simply, the TMDL sets an overall …

Sept. 3, 2019 by Evan Isaacson
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Last week, the six Chesapeake Bay states and the District of Columbia posted their final plans to meet the 2025 pollution reduction targets under the Bay cleanup effort known as the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load ("Bay TMDL" for short). These final Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) were, by and large, little different from the draft ones released this spring, at least for the big three Bay jurisdictions (Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) that are responsible for roughly 90 percent of the nutrient pollution in the Bay.

When the draft Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) for Pennsylvania was released in April, many were outraged that it contained a fatal flaw. The WIP failed to pass the most basic test, which is to propose actions that would actually provide the pollution reductions needed to meet the state's 2025 final Bay TMDL target. That fatal flaw still remains, although the final …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Aug. 5, 2020

Industry-Sponsored Air Monitoring 'Study' Provides No Assurances for Marylanders Living Near CAFOs

July 21, 2020

A Missed Opportunity for the Bay TMDL: Maryland’s 2020 General Permit for Livestock Farms

June 18, 2020

The Climate Crisis and Heat Stress: Maryland Farms Must Adapt to Rising Temperatures

June 11, 2020

The Final Countdown: Five Years Left Until Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Agreement Deadline

May 18, 2020

Virtual Town Hall Meeting to Focus on Delmarva Agricultural Pollution's Impact on Public Health

May 4, 2020

Baltimore Sun Op-ed: More Needs to Be Done to Protect Our Meat and Poultry Workers

April 23, 2020

New Report Finds Poultry Industry Contributes 24 Million Pounds of Nitrogen to Chesapeake Bay