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Poultry producers at ease after spending bill axes requirement to report emissions

Katie Peikes
Delaware Public Media
A Little Creek chicken farm.

Poultry producers across the First State won’t be required to report their farms' emissions after Congress reversed a federal court ruling as part of last week’s spending bill.
The 2017 federal court ruling would have required poultry farmers to calculate and report how much ammonia their chicken houses produce for emergency purposes.

But the ruling never went into effect and a provision in the spending bill Congress passed last week voided it.

Rob Masten produces chicken for Allen Harim on a farm east of Milford. He says one of the biggest questions he had was why farmers needed to join industrial sites in reporting this information.

“Initially our concerns were how were we going to measure these emissions, how are we going to report it?” Masten said. “And obviously why were we going to have to report it? What was going to be the need for that information?”

Masten grows about five flocks per year. He says he wondered how he would have calculated the nutrients during periods when there are no chickens on his farm.

Delaware growers submit business plans to the state on how they handle their nutrients annually. Chris Brosch, a program administrator for nutrient management with Delaware’s Department of Agriculture, said ammonia is very sensitive to temperature and air movement – both of which poultry growers regulate in their chicken houses on an individual basis.

“Even though it’s something that’s steadied by a farmer, one farmer versus another is going to have a very different amount of ammonia coming from that farm because of the way they’re narrowly trying to control those two factors,” Brosch said.

There is value to finding out precise emissions and their environmental impact, Brosch said, but many farmers “feel it’s prudent to get reliable estimates before the next logical steps in policy are taken.”

Almost three weeks ago, Delmarva Poultry Industry Executive Director Bill Satterfield testified before a Senate committee on Capitol Hill - supporting the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method act – the stand-alone bill that sought to address a possible change in reporting.

Since 1980, the Environmental Protection Agency has required large industrial sites to track their ammonia outputs.

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