Rianna Eckel, Senior Maryland Organizer for Food & Water Action, and Delegate Vaughn Stewart, one of the bill's sponsors, celebrate the announcement of factory farm moratorium legislation.
Annapolis, MD -- Today, Maryland State Senator Clarence Lam and Delegate Vaughn Stewart announced legislation placing a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms in Maryland. These facilities are also known as CAFOs, or Confined Animal Feeding Operations. In Maryland, most factory farms are chicken operations, and the bill takes aim at facilities that produce more than 300,000 broilers, or meat chickens, per year.
Agricultural runoff is the leading cause of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, and the industrial waste produced by factory farms contributes heavily to the problem. This pollution leads to toxic algae blooms and “dead zones,” which are detrimental to the fishing and tourism industries.
Industrial agriculture also pollutes the air. Communities on the Eastern Shore, where factory farms are most dense, have some of the highest rates of asthma, respiratory disease, and certain cancers in the state, and low income and minority communities are disproportionately affected. A coalition of groups on and off the Eastern Shore worked for years to pass the Community Healthy Air Act, which would have required robust third party analysis of the air emissions coming from factory farms, and a study of the health effects. However, today, these communities remain without much-needed protections to their health and water.
“I am introducing this moratorium bill because there has yet to be a scientifically rigorous study on the effect factory farms have on the air quality on the Eastern Shore. All Maryland residents deserve clean air to breathe, and this bill will ensure that no large CAFOs are built until we know their effect on the surrounding community,” says Senator Clarence Lamb.
Delegate Vaughn Stewart says, "Large factory farms pose uncertain harm to both the environment and public health, and we should study these risks before allowing expansion. As a two-time cancer survivor exposed to Monsanto toxins as a child, erring on the side of human health is personal to me.”
“I believe it's a perfect time to enact a moratorium,” says Monica Brooks of Concerned Citizens Against Industrial CAFOs. “Just knowing that our middle school children on Delmarva have the highest rates of asthma in the state should be enough. But also because my daughter and granddaughter are among those suffering from asthma despite no family history of respiratory diseases. But how about the fact that we know that particulate matter, ammonia and other toxins are being extracted through 18 industrial-sized fans, per house, directly into the air we breathe and potentially into the water we drink? If there were no toxins inside these buildings, there would be no need for the fans to protect the chickens. So why are the lives of chickens being placed ahead of the people?”
“We support a moratorium on factory farms because, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, air quality testing has not been done, and we still have not received scientific data,” says Mary Ashanti, President of the Wicomico County NAACP.
“Trying to regulate the poultry industry is like playing whack-a-mole,” says Lily Hawkins, Maryland Organizer with Food & Water Action. “Time and time again regulations have been delayed, implemented in a way that puts industry first, or never implemented at all. It’s time to protect communities and the environment by putting a stop to the growth of this exploitative industry.”
"We work alongside people fighting for a variety of causes -- cleaner air in their neighborhoods, a restored Chesapeake Bay, safer workplaces for low-wage workers, and more sustainable food systems,” says Matthew Shultz, Executive Director, Center for Progressive Reform. “Large-scale industrial agriculture is a problem across the board. It's time Maryland takes bold action to protect its residents and the environment."
Please direct all interview requests to Jorja Rose, Media Relations Coordinator for Food & Water Action. She can be reached at [email protected], or at (202) 683-2483.