As Eastern Shore farmers attempt to gain more time before they have to abide by the stricter standards the state’s phosphorous management tool would impose this year, most people probably aren’t paying attention.
They should be, considering that more than just farmers will be affected if the state goes to the next, more restrictive step in controlling how much or even whether farmers can apply chicken litter to their fields as fertilizer.
The phosphorous management tool, which was established in 2015, aims to reduce the amount of that chemical that finds its way into the state’s bays and waterway.
Phosphorous is, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, one of the primary pollutants of the Chesapeake Bay, so preventing it from flowing into that great body of water via runoff from litter-fertilized fields is a good thing, right?
Well, yes, but not just farmers will pay the price. For a good many people, knowing where their food comes from is not important, as long as they can pick up their nicely wrapped packages of Super Bowl chicken wings for less than $3 a pound.
Maybe when chicken wings are $6 a pound they’ll pay attention, or at least begin to wonder what transpired that took one of the least expensive sources of protein and pushed it up another price tier or two.
If, as many farmers say, their fertilizer costs will soar if they can no longer use their own home-grown product, the public is going to have to pay the difference one way or the other.
As much as people might want dollar-a-pound whole chicken, they can’t have that and, at the same time, push elected officials to ensure that farming operations don’t harm the environment.
In a get-what-you-pay for world, the public should recognize that these regulations reflect voters’ growing environmental awareness, and that they, not farmers, are obligated to pay the bill.