Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fowling Up

Yesterday, State Senate Minority Leader, Allan Kittleman was our guest on “and then there’s that…”. He spoke about the frustration of being in the minority party and trying to get the state to spend within its means. He believes that any tax increase only serves to enable a state government that can’t seem to stop growing.

I like his fiscal conservatism. I also like his attitude towards private business as demonstrated by his opposition to the initiative by his fellow lawmakers, Delegates Guy Guzzone and Warren Miller, to limit liquor licenses in Howard County.

Then he started talking about chicken houses on the eastern shore. He said that 50 chicken houses were waiting to be built on the eastern shore but were being held up by state regulations. This, he exclaimed, was just another example of government getting in the way of business and new jobs.

The chicken business is a pretty dirty business. According to this article by Peter S. Goodman in The Washington Post, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that “Poultry on the lower shore sends more than four times as much nitrogen into the bay as the biggest nonagricultural source – leaky septic tanks and runoff from developed areas – and more than three times as much phosphorus as the second-largest nonfarm source, sewage treatment plants.”

The PBS Program Frontline reported that “Half the pollution flowing into Chesapeake Bay is estimated to come from agriculture. And one concern is chicken farms on the Delmarva Peninsula. In 2008, these farms produced 1.5 billion pounds of manure -- more than the annual human waste of New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco and Atlanta combined.”

So why does the Senate Minority Leader feel compelled to promote the construction of fifty more chicken houses to add to the over 6,000 chicken houses already operating on the Delmarva peninsula?

I don’t know but it certainly doesn’t help his green credentials.

I like it when my government is focused on cleaning up the bay. I happen to think that this is exactly what the government should be doing.

I also realize that the poultry industry has a vested interest in playing down the waste problem in their industry. They lobby hard to get local pols to see their side.

Unfortunately I gave Allan a pass on this during our show. I made some pun about it being a fowl deal and we moved on. I regret that now. I’ll try not to let that happen again.


PZGURU said...

Wow. Just when I thought you were gonna give a republican a fair shake, you clucked it up. Fifty chicken coops doesn't seem like a big deal so why are you trying to make it into something bigger? Just so you can have a gripe about a republican? And you try to pawn yourself off as an "independent" voice? You are truly are ridiculous.

Bob O said...

Well, the truth of the matter is that you can't have your chicken and eat it, too.

Life, economics, and ecology is all about trade-offs. Do you want more oysters or more chicken wings?

Yes, I'm all for preserving the Bay, but.... What do you want to give up?

More importantly, what does the market want to give up? It becomes The Tragedy of the Commons. We all use the Bay but we also all want to have reasonably priced chicken fingers in the frozen food section of the local supermarket.

So. Choose.

It's like paying extra for a Prius or deciding you want more room and 4wd, like a Ford Explorer or Chevy Suburban. You make a choice and live with it.

Non-point source pollution is a problem for the Bay...but it pales in comparison with the sheer number of people who live in Maryland and impact the Bay everyday. Don't blame the chickens, blame the people, and the choices they make. It's just not sustainable.

Anonymous said...

I doubt your credentials as an independent but I won't be too hard on you. I will say you sound like any other ordinary scatterbrained liberal when it comes to chicken farming. In order to be green and save the bay, let's ban the production of chickens, pigs and cattle in Maryland. Then let's turn all of the unused land into vegetable and fruit farms, enhance production with fertilizers, move the people from the cities to communes....schucks, that leaves us with lots of fertilizer nitrogen and human waste nitrogen leaching into the bay. Give me a Perdue chicken anyday.

Anonymous said...

THAT is exactly why I do not watch those soft ball wastes of time that only suck up time.

I can read campaign literature and get more information than those video clips.

We already have an abundance of one-sided "reporting".

Freemarket said...

Why is the Eastern shore so popular for raising chickens? Seems like the chicken farmers could avoid all this EPA stuff by locating their operations farther away from the Bay, perhaps up in PA. I can't imagine that the Eastern shore has a comparative advantage in raising chickens.

Btw, the AK is the Minority Leader (the first sentence is wrong).

Anonymous said...

If the chicken industry were held to more reasonable standards, they'd clean up their act and get the permits needed. The MDE failed everyone, business and the environment by giving them a free pass for long enough to make the pollution a real problem.

Anonymous said...

That's independent with a little 'i", right? The words found here bleed R.

Bob O, no, it's not limited to a choice between one or the other or the other, because other factors are involved, the most obvious one being ignorance. There are more cost effective, more envirionmentally responsible, more energy efficient, more humane ways to go about farming.

HH, the same goes for your reply - there are better options that don't result in the same bad outcomes. Seriously, you and Bob need to pool your resources and buy a clue now and then.

Anon 9:13, interesting you label science and plain sight as one-sided "reporting". I'll continue to believe my eyes and competent experts' opinions, thanks. Oh, by the way, the world is still round.

Freemarket, locating operations farther up in PA just adds to the manure and other runoff load that is already making it into the Susquehanna and subsequently into the Bay from PA's agribusiness. Not quite the same result, though, because not only does the Bay still get dumped into, Baltimore City's water system's feed it relies on in dry times sucks from the Susquehanna hundreds of millions of gallons a day. Bon apetit.

Anon 9:15, amen. Good regulation leads to good outcomes and avoids abuses of the market and the commons.

Freemarket said...

Anon 10:44- actually, Bob O.'s comment was exactly right. Everything is a trade off between competing alternatives. If there were a more cost effective, humane and environmentally friendly way of farming, farmers who used it would out compete farmers using traditional methods. You could even use this farming method yourself to drive these folks out of business. To say that people are just to ignorant to use better farming methods is shockingly naïve on your part.

Going back to my earlier point, there must be some place in which chicken farmers can locate their operations such that the environmental impact is less. Based on your lame retort PA seems like a good candidate. After all, I am sure Baltimore City uses some sort of water filtration system. But even if PA is not a good place, then perhaps someplace to the West or South.

People who favor regulation tend to have a very simplistic view of the world. There are plenty of examples when regulation creates more problems than it attempts to solve (health care costs are one example and there are thousands of others).

wordbones said...


Duly noted and corrected. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

FM you're not serious! The very basis for chem farming and cheap disposal of nitrates is to move to huge agri-conglomerates because production is CHEAPER.

Have you ever picked up a history book on the subject. My Goodness man. Get it right.

What are you? LINO? Libertarian in name only.

Freemarket said...

I have no idea what your last sentence is supposed to mean, but I am libertarian in every way EXCEPT name (I'm registered Independent).

As for the rest of your simple comment, I find it hard to accept that greedy and profit driven agri-corps are willing to do anything for a profit except using production methods which are cheaper, better for the environment and more humane. Your silly rhetoric might fly on in narrow circles in which you roll, but not in the real world.

Anonymous said...

This is probably much ado about chicken.

Irwin M. Fletcher said...

For anyone who’s been following the lawsuit brought against that Maryland chicken farm associated with Perdue: tomorrow at 7:30 am, the Discovery Channel will air the premiere broadcast of “The Green Room.” The show is about green corporate initiatives and will feature Perdue in its first episode (

Here’s what Perdue had to say about it:

Check out these photos of the Hudson Farm CAFO operation taken by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE): There are piles of manure sitting on sodden fields that drain into the Franklin Branch of the Pocomoke River – exactly the situation that brings pollution into the Bay.

Clearly there’s a disconnect between what they claim they’re doing and what they’re actually doing.

Just another example of corporate greenwashing!