The July 20 Metro story about a fish kill in the Shenandoah River acknowledged that state investigators do not know what caused the event, but it insinuated that poultry farmers must be the source of the problem because of their prevalence in the Shenandoah Valley. The article did not mention the farmers' extensive implementation of best practices in environmental management during the past two decades.
During the 1990s the poultry industry largely achieved its goal of implementing nutrient-management plans on all poultry farms in the valley by 2000, and the poultry industry was honored with a Friend of the Bay award from the commonwealth for this voluntary initiative. Today state regulations require environmental permits for most poultry farms.
Virginians annually buy eight times more commercial nitrogen and four times more commercial phosphorus than is contained in all of the poultry litter produced in Virginia each year. More stringent regulation of nutrients such as poultry litter would threaten farmers' economic viability and lead to more rapid conversion of farmland to developments. Commercial fertilizer sales might not suffer too badly in efforts to keep lots of new lawns green, but will the Chesapeake Bay benefit?
The poultry industry will continue to rely on science and innovation to enhance its stewardship of natural resources in Vir- ginia. Bay advocates -- and reporters -- should recognize the poultry industry's role as an environmental steward that generates farm income while helping to preserve farmland and open spaces.
Virginia Poultry Federation Inc.