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Support of Agribusiness Does Not Mean Support of Farmers, Says Iowa Farm Group

WASHINGTON - Proponents of the Poultry Fair Share Act today condemned Governor Martin O’Malley’s threat to veto the legislation that would require polluting factory farms to contribute to the clean up of the Chesapeake Bay. The groups speculate that O’Malley is bowing to agribusiness in his hopes of gaining critical support from farmers when he heads to Iowa as part of his presidential bid leading up to 2016 elections.

“Governor O’Malley is sorely mistaken if he thinks he’s going to come here to Iowa and get the support of our farming community because he refuses to hold companies like Perdue liable for their waste,” stated former president and current board member of the Iowa Farmers Union, Chris Petersen. “Companies like Perdue are no friend to real farmers, and neither are politicians like O’Malley who work to keep these big companies free from responsibility.”

A hearing for the Poultry Fair Share Act, introduced this year in the Maryland legislature is set for February 25 before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. The bill, which would require the large Eastern Shore poultry companies to contribute their fair share to the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, was introduced in both the House, by Delegate Shane Robinson, and in the Senate by Senator Richard Madaleno, but was pulled from House consideration after Governor O’Malley promised industry that he would veto any bill that asks them to contribute to Bay cleanup in the way that all citizens in Maryland do.

The Poultry Fair Share Act calls for a $.05 per bird fee on any company that places chickens with contract growers in the state. Currently, there are four major poultry companies, all located on the state’s Eastern Shore, that own over 300 million birds and create about a billion and a half pounds of chicken manure every year. This excess waste is having a significant impact of Bay water quality, with agriculture accounting for up to 64 percent of phosphorus loads in the watershed, a pollutant that’s mainly responsible for the slow death of the Bay.


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“While Maryland’s communities, counties and households are all contributing to the Bay Restoration Fund through legislative initiatives like the stormwater and sewage/septic fees, a $4.8 billion dollar company like Perdue takes no responsibility for its waste and continues to pollute for free,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “With his premature threat of veto, even before any hearing has been held in the legislature, O’Malley is trying hard to stifle any citizen debate about the bill and the poultry companies’ ongoing contribution to the Bay pollution problem. Thankfully, Sen. Madaleno hasn’t bowed to the bully tactics of O’Malley and is proceeding with the Senate hearing as scheduled.”

“If we’re going to revive the Bay, we need to look at all possible remedies; as political leaders we should be encouraging a healthy dialogue, not attempting to shut it down,” stated Sen. Madaleno. “Given the fact that every Maryland resident is already helping to finance the Bay’s restoration, it’s only fair to look to those industries that pollute the most to contribute to its revitalization efforts.”

The governor’s pandering to Perdue, to the detriment of Maryland citizens, dates back many years. In 2010, O’Malley wrote an email to Jim Perdue promising him he would never seek to hold the company responsible for its pollution problem. With his promise to veto the PFSA, he’s living up to his word to Perdue, if not the people of Maryland who have been promised a clean Bay for decades.


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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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