Poultry power? Pollution solution: Tax credit might aid plan to turn excess chicken manure into electricity.

September 16, 1998

TWO PROPOSALS to deal with Maryland's mounting mounds of manure from chicken farms hold promise to go beyond the delayed state efforts to reduce agricultural runoff pollution of waterways.

Manure-fueled power plants would get a federal tax credit for electricity they produce under a bill backed by Maryland's two U.S. senators. The tax break could encourage plans for a generating plant on the Eastern Shore, the heart of the state's chicken industry. A British firm, which has built three power plants in England's poultry region, is talking with Delmarva chicken producers about building a plant there. It could burn 500,000 tons of fowl waste annually, producing power for about 50,000 people.

The idea of burning chicken manure has been repeatedly raised as a solution, but has lacked financial commitment. A tax incentive (based on power production) would help get the technology up and running.

The Delmarva peninsula chicken industry generates more than 800,000 tons of manure a year, much of which pollutes ground and surface waters.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is floating the idea of a poultry producer "checkoff" contribution to curb farm manure and fertilizer runoff. The nationwide tax would go to an industry fund for water quality improvements. Various agriculture sectors already have federal production checkoff contributions, but they are primarily used to fund marketing programs. EPA says poultry producers would have more flexibility and innovation in addressing the problem. A half-cent-per-pound levy (passed on to consumers, naturally) would add pennies to the weekly grocery bill, while producing $140 million a year.

Paying a little more for power and for poultry could help Maryland and the nation to deal with the growing problem of livestock waste pollution.

Pub Date: 9/16/98

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