WASHINGTON – Nestled in legislation to stimulate the American economy in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are provisions to give tax breaks to businesses that use chicken manure as an alternative source of energy.
The House last month narrowly passed a $100 billion package of tax breaks incentives to corporations and individuals, including a plan to extend a current chicken-litter tax break for two years. The current tax break is set to expire at the end of this year.
The Senate is expected to vote this week on its own economic stimulus package, which includes a one-year extension of the poultry power break.
Supporters of the chicken provision note that it is just a tiny portion of the $100 billion package, but one that could have tangible results.
Burning chicken litter to generate electricity “seems like a very positive thing” to do with the massive amounts of manure generated in Maryland, said Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council.
“This is not a big drain on the treasury,” said Lobb.
Maryland chicken farmers and environmentalists support the credit because it could help alleviate the problem of disposing of 800,000 tons of chicken waste produced on the Delmarva Peninsula every year.
Much of the waste is now spread on farm fields as fertilizer. But that causes problems for the Chesapeake Bay, which suffers from over-fertilization when too many nutrients run off of agricultural land and into the water.
“We are very supportive of this,” said Theresa Pierno, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “This would provide a significant benefit.”
Pierno said the move to use chicken litter for fuel is part of a larger effort in the state to discover uses for the waste. Other proposals include making the manure into fertilizer pellets, which can be shipped to areas of the country where there is not enough natural fertilizer nearby.
Lobb said there are “tight parameters” on exactly who can get the tax break for alternate uses of poultry manure and that it is a good investment.
“Hopefully this will serve to demonstrate the potential of chicken litter as a source of energy,” he said. “There are a lot of people interested in it here in the East and in the Midwest.”
At least one company is already planning to use chicken waste to power operations in Maryland. Delaware-based Allen Family Foods will use its own chicken waste to power its processing plants in Cordova, said environmentalists and state officials.
Maryland is the eighth-largest producer of broiler chickens in the nation. About 36 percent of the state’s total cash farm income was from broilers in 1999, according to the Delmarva Poultry Institute.