"There are a lot of folks out there who are using every bit of it. . . . They certainly aren't going to want to give up that product," says Larry Winslow, who heads grower operations for Perdue in Salisbury.
He concedes that some farmers don't have enough cropland to use all the manure and says Perdue is investigating options. But he doesn't think Perdue should take responsibility for the waste.
And the company doesn't want anybody but the growers to clear out the manure, because others could bring in germs that could wipe out entire flocks.
For example, because of an avian flu epidemic that struck Pennsylvania recently, chicken companies have had to destroy thousands of birds.
But Mr. Brodie, a member of a state task force examining the chicken manure problem, says that in many ways the companies are best suited to solve it. Individual farmers don't have the capital or economy of scale needed to process it into a safe and salable fertilizer, he notes.
One solution, he says, is to change the law: Whoever owns the chicken also owns the waste. "If you made Frank Perdue totally responsible for the manure, we'd see someone processing the manure real quick," says Mr. Brodie.
But neither Maryland nor any other chicken state will make that change for fear of pricing local chickens out of the market, he says. And that is why nothing has been done to make the poultry companies -- the foundation of the Eastern Shore economy -- responsible for the nutrient pollution, environmentalists say.
Michael Heller, an agricultural specialist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, says environmentalists see little point in asking the state for such reforms.
"These big [poultry] corporations need to be more responsible," he says, but no one is insisting on it because the companies "have a whole lot of influence. It is incredible."