Tell your Maryland legislators you oppose Senate Bill 542, the Community Healthy Air Act.

Bills requiring Maryland taxpayers to fund a study determining how to monitor air emissions from family farms won't actually improve public health, and they ignore all the evidence provided here that shows Eastern Shore air is clean and healthy.

They say no one's ever done air quality monitoring at chicken farms.

We know that researchers have studied air quality on chicken farms. A University of Georgia study looked at particulate matter levels in the air 100 feet away chicken house ventilation fans. They found the levels were statistically indistinguishable from ambient air — in fact, lower than typical particulate levels in urban areas. (2,3)

We know another study found ammonia levels at typical setbacks from chicken houses do not exceed OSHA and EPA odor detection thresholds. (1,3) Ammonia levels in air sampled 300 feet from the houses were less than 1 part per million 85 percent of the time; ammonia's odor is undetectable below 5 parts per million. (1)

And we know long-running air quality monitoring in the heart of Delmarva's chicken-producing region shows air here is cleaner, with lower particulate levels, than the EPA's standard for particulate matter, and cleaner than air in our region's urban areas. (3)

In fact, we've heard your concerns about air quality, and we're investing in new air monitoring stations.

DPI, The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, and the state of Maryland are partnering on a first-of-its-kind project to monitor ambient air quality, including levels of ammonia and particulate matter. DPI and the Campbell Foundation have jointly committed more than $500,000 to this effort. "We in the chicken community have a shared interest with all Marylanders in better understanding what air quality is truly like on the Eastern Shore," said Holly Porter, DPI's executive director. "Because we will never neglect our commitment to environmental responsibility, we believe gathering more data about air quality here helps everyone."

They say counties with more chicken farms have higher asthma rates.

We know that's just not true. In Wicomico County, where there are hundreds of family-owned chicken houses, the adult asthma rate is in fact lower than Maryland's average. (4)

The bill's supporters point to high asthma rates among Wicomico County middle schoolers, and they want you to think chicken farms are the reason. (5) What they're not telling you: Wicomico middle schoolers are twice as likely to smoke cigarettes as the average Maryland middle-schooler. (4) By trying to link chicken growers to asthma rates, agriculture's opponents are diverting attention and resources from real health issues and programs that could help.

And we know that poultry industry jobs increase the number of people with access to health insurance and wellness programs. Poultry companies offer their employees and their families on-site health care, above and beyond what most employers provide.
particulate graph

asthma graph

They say Maryland's chicken industry is growing out of control.

We know that isn't the case, even though the bill's supporters are citing wildly inaccurate numbers to claim it is. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, for instance, claims the chicken industry on Delmarva produced chickens valued at more than $1.9 trillion in 2016. (6) In reality, Delmarva produced chicken with a wholesale value of $3.2 billion in 2016. (7) The bill's supporters are trying to mislead you into thinking Delmarva's chicken industry's scale is more than 500 times its real size.

They say chicken farms are unfairly concentrated in low-income areas and minority neighborhoods.

We know family farms raising chickens succeed in every Eastern Shore community, and that the chicken industry has a positive impact on rural communities. Really diving into the data shows no pattern of siting farms in low-income regions or minority communities. Farmers, not chicken companies, make the decisions to build chicken houses, and the majority of chicken farms are owned and operated by families living on those farms. They care deeply about air quality; after all, they and their children breath the air there, too. Chicken growers are always doing more to reduce ammonia levels through responsible farm practices.

We also know chicken has a positive economic impact on rural communities. Hourly wages in the chicken industry are higher than construction, retail, healthcare, foodservice and other comparable positions.
value graph

They say ammonia produced from animal agriculture must be hurting the Chesapeake Bay.

We know Chesapeake Bay Program data show a steady decrease in atmospheric deposition of nitrogen to the Bay's tidal waters since 2005. (8) Farmers and other stakeholders are being responsible when it comes to the environment, and their hard work is paying off. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation gave the Bay's water quality its highest score ever in 2016, saying it saw "the clearest water in decades" and that "the Clean Water Blueprint for the Chesapeake and its rivers and streams is working." (9)
ammonia graph

Tell your Maryland legislators you oppose Senate Bill 542, the Community Healthy Air Act.

1. B. D. Fairchild, M. Czarick, L. A. Harper, J. W. Worley, C. W. Ritz, B. D. Hale, L. P. Naeher. (2009, October). Ammonia concentrations downstream of broiler operations. The Journal of Applied Poultry Research, 18(3), 630-639.

2. M.C. Visser, B. Fairchild, M. Czarick, M. Lacy, J. Worley, S. Thompson, J. Kastner, C. Ritz, L.P. Naeher. (2006, October). Fine particle measurements inside and outside tunnel-ventilated broiler houses. The Journal of Applied Poultry Research, 15(3), 394-405.

3. Delaware Annual Air Quality Report (2016). Delaware DNREC, 20-23.

4. Wicomico County Health Indicators. (2008). Maryland Department of Health. 4-5.

5. Phillips, K. (2018, Jan. 17). Did you know? In Wicomico County...

6. B. Martin. (2017, Dec.). Public health concerns associated with industrial food animal production: A summary with a focus on poultry. Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future, 1.

7. Look what the the chicken industry is doing for Delmarva: 2019 facts. (2017). Delmarva Chicken Association

8. Nitrogen Loads To The Chesapeake Bay. (2017). Chesapeake Bay Program.

9. 2016 State of the Bay Report. (2017). Chesapeake Bay Foundation.