Another state is tightening down on the use of “poultry litter”, that inviting mix of poop, sawdust, feathers and spilled feed that results from raising chickens and turkeys.
The State Water Control Board for the Commonwealth of Virginia, acting to protect the Shenandoah River from flows of algae-causing nutrients, has opted to impose controls on farmers who are so-called “end-users” of poultry litter.
Virginia’s action comes as the chicken industry continues to defend its actions in federal court in Tulsa over the State of Oklahoma’s attempt to ban any more poultry litter disposal in the Illinois River Basin. Consumer groups want the federal government to ban feeding poultry litter to cattle, an uncommon but legal practice.
Shenandoah Valley poultry farmers generated about 500,000 tons of poultry litter each year, and those chicken operations were previously regulated. However, the 80 percent of the annual tonnage was escaping regulation because it is sold and moved off-site for the other uses.
That will now change, as “end-users” will also be required to adhere to a regulatory regime that will place limits and reporting requirements on how much poultry litter an be spread on the land. Poultry litter is used as a cheap fertilizer for its nitrogen and phosphorous content.
Virginia’s new standards set limits on how much poultry litter can be applied to the land, establishes buffer zones for streams and sinkholes, and requires proper storage. Some record keeping requirements were reduced.
The new regulations take into account how poultry litter will affect other forms of runoff to prevent further degradation of Chesapeake Bay.
In Virginia, the poultry industry uses a product hotline and marketing program to move poultry litter away from concentrated areas. The Virginia Poultry Federation also reports the industry self-regulatory efforts have included building litter storage buildings, managing nutrient levels, and reducing phosphorus content of litter by 20 percent.