Land & Litter Challenge seeks solutions to poultry waste issues

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The Delmarva Land & Litter Challenge (DLLC) – a partnership effort between members of the poultry industry, environmental advocates and regulators – is inviting stakeholders to discuss beneficial uses of poultry litter.

This group seeks to develop “consensus-driven solutions that support sustainable and profitable agriculture and healthy local waterways.”

DLLC invited a wide range of representatives to meet with them at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Wachapreague Lab on November 19. The main discussion topic centered around new ideas for the transportation of poultry litter and moving litter from poultry houses to farms that want it.

Poultry manure (also known as “litter”) is a organic fertilizer that includes phosphorus, nitrogen, calcium and other micronutrients and elements that promote plant growth and soil health. Commercial fertilizer is becoming increasingly expensive and does not offer the same long-term benefit to crop production. Although poultry litter is abundantly available in some areas, many crop farmers around the Chesapeake Bay region have a difficult time getting this commodity.

The cost of transporting the litter between farms and existing state regulations around litter storage present challenges to a streamlined and economically feasible transportation program across Delmarva states. Poultry houses often remove litter from chicken houses in the late fall/early winter but farmers typically cannot spread it until the spring. Overwinter storage can sometimes be difficult, due to state regulations which were enacted to prevent litter from entering local waterways.

The DLLC is looking for solutions to transport poultry litter that make effective use of this resource while also protecting local and bay water quality. The group is discussing the potential for new incentives for litter transport and new methods for litter disposal as efficient ways to reach local nutrient management targets.

Farmers have made progress toward achieving nutrient reduction goals for the Bay; for instance, agriculture has reduced its annual nitrogen contribution by 17 million pounds since 1985. This work will take on added importance as states in the region design and implement revised practices in 2019.

During their November 19 meeting, DLLC’s Steering Committee elected Jeff Horstman as their new chair. Mr. Horstman is the Executive Director of ShoreRivers, an Easton-based nonprofit working toward clean water for Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Delaware has been involved in DLLC. Current and past members include Delaware Secretaries of Ed Kee and Kenny Bounds; David Baird Sussex Conservation District Coordinator; Georgie Cartanza of University. Of Delaware. Amy Jacobs with The Nature Conservancy on Maryland’s Eastern Shore works with farmers in Delaware.The same is true of Lisa Wool with the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance.

Following the elections, Horstman said: “I am excited and hopeful as we move into 2019 that we can develop consensus solutions to nutrient pollution. I am also glad that ShoreRivers can help lead this process.”

Horstman replaces former DLLC chair Andrew McLean, owner of Relief Farms, an organic chicken farm in Queen Anne’s County.Mr. McLean will remain a member of the group’s Steering Committee and stated:“It has been a rewarding experience being the chair of such a diverse group of leaders. I look forward to continuing the work we have started.”

For more about DLLC, visit the website:www.DelmarvaLandAndLitter.net

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