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on February 13, 2018

Maryland bill seeks study of air by poultry farms

Proposed bill calls for committee study to question of whether air quality is a problem around the state’s poultry farms

The Maryland House of Delegates is debating a proposal to study whether large poultry farms are polluting the air in the state.

The proposed legislation would establish an eight-person committee to design a study tracking air quality in areas in the state that have a higher concentration of agricultural operations. The committee would include experts in regulatory compliance, air pollution, sampling, statistics, toxicology and epidemiology.

The committee would then submit a plan for public comment and scientific peer review, according to a report from the Baltimore Sun.

A motivation behind the study is not only to determine whether air pollution problems are caused or exacerbated by large poultry farms, and if it that is the case, whether it is playing a factor in human health.

Del. Robby T. Lewis, D-Baltimore, who sponsored the House bill, said it enables the Maryland Department of Environment to ask if air quality is a concern at large animal feeding operations, adding that “it starts with a question and ends with results.”

The legislation has not found favor in the poultry industry. One Maryland broiler producer said that while he was not opposed to science, this debate is more focused on “political science.”

At this point, the proposal has more support among Republicans, but little support from Democrats.

Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration has not taken a stance on the proposal, but state environmental officials fear that the quick timeline of the measure could sacrifice accuracy and not generate any “useful conclusions.”

A similar piece of legislation was introduced in the Maryland Senate by Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery.

Hogan is a Republican and has been the state’s governor since January 2015. He succeeded Martin O’Malley, a two-term governor who went on to run unsuccessfully as a Democratic party candidate for president in the 2016 U.S. election.

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