Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (July 18, 2001) -- After months of review, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has made a Final Determination to re-issue and modify discharge permits given to the state’s primary poultry producers. Poultry Processor Discharge Permits, also known as integrator permits, will authorize the poultry companies to continue operation of facilities in Berlin, Cordova and Showell on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

The new five-year MDE issued permits for Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms and the permit modification for Allen Family Foods will require poultry processors to ensure that contract chicken growers have nutrient management plans and also provide sufficient technology and assistance to their contract growers to ensure that poultry litter -- comprised of wood shavings, chicken carcasses and manure -- is properly handled and disposed of.

"These new permits will strengthen our commitment to protect Maryland's waterways by helping us meet the ambitious nutrient reduction goals of the Chesapeake Bay 2000 agreement and by providing for regulatory equity among all polluters," said MDE Secretary Jane T. Nishida.

The decision to proceed with implementation of the Poultry Processor Discharge Permits follow a series of public hearings held in January and February. The public’s comments led to changes and clarifications in the proposed permit language. Copies of the permit language adjustments and a document containing responses to the public’s comments and concerns made at all four hearings were mailed by MDE to the poultry companies and the more than 800 individuals who submitted written comments in opposition to the permits.

In brief, the Poultry Processor Discharge Permits:

Apply to poultry companies only;

Require the poultry companies to withhold chickens from the grower only if formal enforcement action for a water quality violation is taken against a grower, and appeals to that action are exhausted or not taken;

Requires the integrator to help growers develop nutrient management plans, research improvements in feed to reduce phosphorus in manure, provide training on manure management, and help growers with the distribution and use of excess manure;

Require the integrator to submit aggregate information from their growers about the total chickens grown, litter generated, and land available for its utilization and excess manure. Growers do not need to generate information not already required by Maryland Department of Agriculture for the Water Quality Improvement Act.

“Additionally, as long as farmers are making a good faith effort to achieve water quality compliance, they may continue to grow chickens. Growers are not liable for any of the penalty provisions in this permit,” Secretary Nishida added.

Two public meetings to provide information on the new permit have been scheduled. The first will be on July 23 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Parkside High School in Salisbury. The second meeting will be held July 25 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Easton High School auditorium.

The new permits recognize the unique aspects of the integrated poultry industry that place contract growers under the substantial control of poultry companies. Many contract farmers have insufficient cropland to use poultry manure as a fertilizer without resultant runoff and excess pollution. They depend on facilities made available by poultry companies to meet the requirements of the Maryland Clean Water Act of 1998.

Maryland's other ongoing nutrient reduction programs such as biological nutrient reduction, the state Water Quality Improvement Act of 1998, and the tributary strategies teams will be furthered by adding the poultry permit as a critical link to these other nationally recognized programs, Nishida noted.

Citizens adversely affected by MDE’s final determination may request a contested case hearing no later than August 8. Anyone wishing to review the final permits may do so by calling 1 (800) 633-6101 and asking for extension 3540. Copies of the document may be obtained for a nominal fee.