Taking a tougher stand toward state agricultural interests in an effort to cut pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, state regulators announced tighter controls on what Eastern Shore poultry farmers do with the birds’ waste. The rules were proposed by the Maryland Department of the Environment. They would bring unprecedented scrutiny of the state’s poultry industry, which is not subject to certain regulations that apply to dairy and hog farms. The proposal would limit where, how and for how long chicken farmers may store excess manure in outdoor piles open to the rain. For the first time, state officials would be permitted to inspect poultry farms unannounced.
The state’s farm lobby will comment on the proposed rules during public hearings, including two in November on the Eastern Shore. State officials said the rules will not be completed until early next year. State Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has argued for stricter regulation of chicken operations.
Maryland’s chicken industry is the state’s largest agricultural endeavor, contributing $845-million to the state’s economy. It employs about 15,000 people across the Delmarva region, according to an industry group.