Chicken versus the law, poultry farmers react to recent report from Environmental Integrity Project

MARYLAND – Poultry farmers in Maryland are being put under a microscope. after a recent report from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP). “If you want to improve relations with the farm community then come out and talk to us,” says a Worcester County poultry farmer, Virgil Shockley. “Maryland needs to get serious and implement a reality based system testing and verifying pollution levels on these poultry farms,” says Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of EIP.

The report addressed issues of the poultry industry and it’s impact on water pollution. Shockley, a man who’s been farming for over 40 years tells us, this scrutiny isn’t something new. “The poultry farmers have an obligation, they have an obligation to the environment, they have an obligation to the state to do what they should do.” However, he adds that this report in combination with laws put on the poultry industry, make it hard to do their job.

Meanwhile, those who are analyzing this report say, it shows the need for change. “If we don’t get this under control, if we don’t start enforcing and getting people in compliance, we’re never going to meet those clean up goals,” says Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake.

With all of the new regulations, like reporting issues on the farm, Shockley tells 47 ABC, they’re looking at almost 40 minutes worth of paper-work every day; and as a farmer he says that isn’t realistic. “You can’t tie peoples hands behind their back and expect them to do their job.” Shockley adds, “If you want better reporting, make it so that the reports aren’t as bad to fill out and you will get better compliance.”

However, Nicholas says,” If we could pull that back and ensure a high compliance rate, we could meet those goals in 2025, but this is why we’re not going to if things maintain this same trajectory.”

According to Shockley, to better work together, there has to be some understanding on both sides. “There are things that can be done fairly easily, there are certain things that shouldn’t have been done in the first place by legislation, and we need to sit down and have that conversation.”

The report also goes in depth about solutions to address some of the issues affecting the environment. However, with all of the reports and legislation in place,  Shockley says this is only hurting the farmers who are trying to do their job. He adds, agriculture is one of the biggest industries especially here on the Eastern shore and it would be a shame to drive the industry out.

The Delmarva Chicken Association also addressed the report and says, ” There’s still work to be done by farmers and everyone else who lives in the Bay’s watershed, reports like this one are simply attempts to distract from the real, tangible progress farmers have made in protecting water quality.”

If you’d like to take a look at the full report, just click here.

Categories: Local News, Maryland