(Posted by Roy Hoagland.)
The Pew Environmental Group recently issued a report, “Big Chicken: Pollution and Industrial Production in America,” which included a focus on the pollution problems contributed by agriculture to the Chesapeake Bay. Agribusiness interests quickly condemned the report, claiming that as of today, the industry was both “diligent and innovative” in its work to achieve a healthier environment.
The most visible organizations responding to the Pew report were the National Chicken Council and the US Poultry & Egg Association—two of the organizations now leading the fight to undermine the current initiative to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
The current clean up initiative, an ecosystem-wide “pollution diet,” is recognized as one of the most promising ecological restoration efforts in the nation. Yet the Chicken Council and the Poultry & Egg Association are now, in their pursuit of “diligent and innovative” environmental stewardship, arguing in federal court and in Congress that we should shut down this unprecedented state-federal partnership to achieve a healthy Chesapeake Bay.
Monitoring data and modeling results establish that agriculture is the number one source of nutrient and sediment pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, accounting for nearly 40 percent of nitrogen pollution and approximately 45 percent and 60 percent of the phosphorus and sediment pollution, respectively.
During my tenure as vice president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we helped deliver literally millions of dollars to farmers across the Chesapeake Bay watershed for assistance in implementing pollution reduction efforts. In partnership with others, we not only helped lead a successful effort to obtain the largest amount of federal Farm Bill dollars ever for those working in agriculture in the watershed, but we also worked side by side with farmers on the ground from the New York/Pennsylvania border to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to improve barnyard management, establish streamside buffers, employ precision feeding, and implement many other progressive changes.
Conservation organizations across the watershed, from national groups like The Nature Conservancy to regional organizations like the Foundation to state agencies like the Chesapeake Bay Commission to local organizations like the James River Association have worked hard to help provide farmers with assistance and as a result more farmers are doing the right thing. The unfortunate reality, however, is that the industry as a whole has not done enough. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture says as much.
If we are to accomplish the restoration of local rivers and streams across the watershed and in the Chesapeake Bay itself, agribusiness, as well as developers, homeowners, and other pollution sectors, must do more. Thus, the need to put the Chesapeake Bay on a pollution diet—an ecosystem-wide pollution reduction initiative that calls on agriculture and others to cut back on the pollution they are feeding to the Bay.
For the Chicken Council and the Poultry & Egg Association to argue that its industry is being “diligent” in its Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts while attempting to stymie this pollution diet, the only legitimate initiative for restoring the Bay, is, quite frankly, a lot of chicken poop.
Roy A. Hoagland is the owner and operator of HOPE Impacts, LLC, Richmond, Virginia. HOPE Impacts works with nonprofits, funders, and governmental agencies on environmental matters, including work on reducing pollution from agricultural sources. He has served as co-chair of America’s Great Waters Coalition, chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Chesapeake Bay Program, and vice president of Environmental Protection and Restoration for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.