WASHINGTON – Gov. Parris N. Glendening urged Congress Thursday to create a “level playing field” that would keep Maryland poultry companies from leaving for states with fewer regulations on animal waste.
“It is the duty of the federal government to act when a problem is national in scope,” Glendening said at a Senate hearing on a bill that would set federal standards for controlling animal-waste runoff from farms.
But Patrick Takasugi, director of the Idaho Department of Agriculture, told the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry that “federal cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all programs have not worked” in reducing water pollution caused by the runoff.
He said the bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, needs to give states more discretion in managing manure. Takasugi also called for “adequate funding to the individual states that have demonstrated the desire and capability to resolve waste problems.”
“We believe that standards have to be flexible on a site- specific, species-specific basis,” Takasugi said.
Glendening has proposed mandatory timetables, backed up with fines, for Maryland farmers to restrict chicken manure used as fertilizer. Runoff from that waste was linked to last summer’s outbreak of toxic Pfiesteria piscicida in lower Eastern Shore waterways.
After initially protesting the plan, Maryland farmers began negotiating the timetables and the amount of the fines with the Glendening administration.
“We’ve been as helpful as we can at the state level … and we intend to be helpful in drafting whatever product comes out at the federal level as well,” said Valerie Connelly, a lobbyist for the Maryland Farm Bureau.
After determining how to meet state requirements, she said, “we don’t want to have to reverse it and do something completely different based on what’s happening at the federal level.”
Glendening said most of the agricultural community “has stepped up and is working with us,” but some large companies whose operations produce manure have resisted.
“Their resistance has been pretty much one that says … we can simply leave, which is why we need a level playing field across the country,” he said.
In limiting the runoff, Glendening has said he is trying to avoid a choice between keeping Maryland waters safe and keeping poultry producers in the state.
“Unfortunately, the ability of some multistate corporations to locate any place in the country and, in some cases, any place in the world, can hinder an individual state’s ability to realize progress” in regulating manure used as fertilizer, he said.
Harkin said he introduced the bill to address agricultural trends that he said are threatening waterways around the country.
“We don’t have any more hogs in Iowa this year than we had when I was a kid,” he said, but the consolidation of the farms that raise these hogs has created other problems.
“We have fewer farms now, so the animal waste is too much for what the surrounding soil can absorb,” he said.