WORCESTER CO., Md. - In Worcester County, a new bill has been introduced that could change the way the poultry industry operates.
"Communities and neighborhoods were finding these large scale industrial scale poultry houses being built right next door to their homes, churches, their schools," says Kathy Phillips from the Assateague Coastal Trust.
Phillips is talking about Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, commonly known as CAFOs.The expansion of large scale poultry farms has been a highly debated topic for Wicomico, Somerset, and Accomack County.
One major concern is the health effects of these large scale poultry houses, and Phillips says it's time Worcester County addressed it too.
In the bill, the county has proposed to limit the number of poultry houses per parcel to just 8. The legislation also suggests increasing the distance between a poultry house and the adjacent property.
"In the past in Worcester County you could build a poultry house 50 feet away from a property line, now you have to be set back or pushed back 200 feet. This is an improvement, a very big improvement. It does help the adjacent property owner, whether that is another small farm or whether it be a residence of some sort," says Phillips
The proposed legislation also sets buffer standards, which is vegetation that is planted between and or around the poultry operation in order to reduce runoff or pollutants.
Virgil Shockley, a Worcester County poultry farmer and former County Commissioner says this is a practice commonly used already.
"Most people do it, I mean if you look between the chicken houses you see grass covered strips, you have soils. All that water that lands on that roof has to go somewhere. So you plant your grass, you put you buffer strips," says Schockley.
Shockley says overall he agrees with what is being proposed by the county. He believes this will weed out the poultry farmers who are aren't taking the extra steps in being mindful of their neighbors.
"You'll get somebody or person out there that says, I understand I'll get to it later. No you should go ahead and do it and be a good neighbor," says Shockley.
Worcester County will be having a public hearing meeting on Tuesday, April 25th at 11 AM at the Government Center in Snow Hill. Folks will have the opportunity to weigh-in on the proposed legislation.
The Assateague Coastal Trust will be having their own informational session prior to that hearing. Officials say they will be going over the bill with the public, as well as introducing the idea of a health ordinance, which the Assateague Coastkeeper says addresses issues beyond tighter zoning legislation.
The informational session will be held Tuesday, April 18th at the Snow Hill Library at 6 PM.
For more information on the proposed poultry bill click here.
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