MD Farm Bureau: Poultry Litter Farming Gold

Poultry litter is  not the evil, phosphorus-laden Bay threat some would have legislators believe, writes Chuck Fry, President of the Maryland Farm Bureau in an editorial for Delmarvanow. It is actually “one of mother nature’s perfect fertilizers”  – and one which Eastern Shore farmers depend upon as their primary source for low cost, organic fertilizer.

Poultry litter is a mixture of chicken manure and wood shavings that improves soil’s water-holding capacity and overall health. Writes Fry:

Contrary to many assumptions, poultry litter is low in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but high in organic matter. It carries a nutrient value of 4 percent nitrogen, 3 percent phosphorus, 3 percent potassium and 90 percent organic matter. It is considered one of mother nature’s perfect fertilizers.

The organic matter improves the soil’s water-holding capacity, as well as soil health. Poultry litter is one of the only sources of fertilizer for organic growers on the Eastern Shore and in most of Maryland.

Contrary to what is being taught, there is not an excess of poultry litter in Maryland. There is actually a shortage of organic fertilizer. When anti-poultry advocates say elevated phosphorus levels in soils near poultry houses proves there are too many chickens in the state, they are wrong. The fact is scientific researchers advised farmers for many years to build up phosphorus in the soil.

…[T]here is three times the needed amount of land just on the Eastern Shore to properly use all the litter produced in Maryland.

Because of its organic value, poultry litter is a commodity poultry farmers can sell or barter. Poultry growers also often use the litter as fertilizer on their own crop operations for a significantly lower cost, and less carbon footprint, than transporting commercial fertilizer.

So what does this mean? If the legislature passed law that required poultry companies to take all the litter from farmers, it would only make the company richer. The companies would have a valuable commodity to sell to the highest bidder.

Read full op-ed here.