In recent months, American Farm Bureau Federation, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and others severely criticized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for underestimating voluntary on-farm conservation efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Now comes a new University of Delaware study that confirms that EPA based poultry nutrient pollution on outdated information.
And results of the Delaware study are being widely shared with Mid-Atlantic and national lawmakers. That's why, early this month, Eastern Shore farmers and representatives of the poultry industry told Maryland lawmakers that EPA estimates on nutrient pollution from poultry production are outdated and far overstated.
EPA estimated in the 1980s that Delmarva poultry growers contributed 6% of all nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. "The EPA is using a formula that is about 30-years-old," charged Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., President Andrew McLean. "It does not reflect today's chicken breeds and chicken raising methods."
The Delaware study conducted by James Glancey found that manure volume from current poultry operations is much lower than in the 1980s. What's more, nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient concentrations estimated by EPA then were 1½ times greater for nitrogen and 2½ times greater for phosphorus than now, according to the study. New management practices, feed technologies, and genetics greatly improved poultry-raising efficiencies.
Chesapeake Bay WIPs may be misdirected
State and federal regulators in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are pushing to bring Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia into compliance with EPA-mandated Watershed Implementation Plans by 2020 – to reduce nutrient runoff into the Bay in increments.
Delmarva Poultry Industry Executive Director Bill Satterfield suggests that miscalculating nutrient pollution from poultry will steer regulators and resources away from larger nutrient pollution sources. "The current data that assigns responsibility is inaccurate," he contends. "We need to make sure correct data are used to assign responsibility."
The worry is that EPA is too slow to adopt the science before WIPs are fully implemented. University of Delaware and the Delaware Department of Agriculture are trying to convince the EPA to use "a new science-based calculation of manure production and nutrient concentration," says McLean. He notes the EPA working group for Chesapeake Bay the watershed plan is considering the data.
Jennifer Timmons, a University of Maryland poultry specialist participated in the University of Delaware study. But she notes that EPA is slow to adopt findings in new studies not yet published or peer reviewed, and Glancey's study has not yet cleared those hurdles.
Glancey, however, contends peer review and publication aren't necessarily holding up adoption of his findings. The EPA-Chesapeake Bay working group is waiting for all six of the Bay states to submit their own studies.