News Feature | December 20, 2013

Can A Chicken Tax Save The Chesapeake?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Environmental advocates are pushing for a chicken tax to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay. 

A legislator from Montgomery County, MD, and the nonprofit group Food And Water Watch are pushing the bill in the state legislature.

The Poultry Fair Share Act, sponsored by Del. Shane Robinson of Montgomery Village, "would levy a per-chicken tax on poultry companies that own the birds and direct that money to the state’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund," the Gazette reported

According to Food and Water Watch, chicken farmers are a major source of pollution in the Chesapeake. 

"Unfortunately, the health of the Bay has been deteriorating. Large-scale poultry companies like Perdue create the largest share of the pollution that ends up in our Bay and yet pay nothing toward important Bay restoration clean-up costs. It's time Big Chicken pays its fair share, the group said in advocacy materials

A Perdue Farms spokesman defended the company in the Gazette report. He said the proposal originated with Food and Water Watch and is “part of an ongoing campaign by radical environmental groups against contemporary animal agriculture.”

“Food and Water Watch specifically targets our company, which we find ironic considering the fact that we, through Perdue AgriRecycle, are the one company that has developed an alternative to land application of poultry litter and we have invested more than $45 million in that project already,” he said.

The bill would "put Maryland poultry, farmers and the entire state at a disadvantage to states that do not impose such a tax, including neighboring states in the Bay watershed," the Gazette paraphrased the spokesman as saying.

Opponents of the legislation also say it could leave farmers with significant new expenses. But Robinson, the Maryland lawmaker, disagreed. Chicken companies "own the birds that are creating the chicken litter that is adding to the nutrient levels in the bay,” he said. “They are not being held accountable for their pollution in the Bay to the same level.”

The EPA has mandated that six states, including Maryland, limit nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment discharge from reaching the Chesapeake Bay. The EPA's Chesapeake Bay program "is a unique regional partnership that has coordinated the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed since 1983," according to the agency.

For more on efforts to clean up the Chesapeake—including the "cap and trade" approach to nutrient removal—check out previous coverage on Water Online. 

Image credit: " Neighborhood Chicken Farming is Working.," © 2010 mauitimeweekly, used under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license:

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