A new bill to study air emissions from factory farms has been rocketing through Maryland politics with increasing support. The Community Healthy Air Act just makes sense: if factory farms are making us sick, we deserve to know.
Some Quick Background: Why Suspect Factory Farms?
On Maryland’s eastern shore, communities are close to massive chicken complexes, housing hundreds of thousands of chickens. And in these communities? Families are suffering from unusually high rates of asthma, lung disease, and lung cancer. The question is obvious: how are these huge industrial poultry companies impacting the air we breathe?
The Community Healthy Air Act (SB 133), introduced by Senators Rich Madaleno and Joan Carter Conway, would create an air emissions monitoring study at poultry factory farm sites and their neighboring communities in the state. The sister bill in the Assembly (HB 26) was introduced by Delegates Robbyn Lewis and Shane Robinson.
There’s good reason to worry: Historically, ammonia emissions from industrial poultry houses have been found to harm public health.
In 2016, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future polling concluded that Maryland citizens want more protection from factory farms. The new bill would be a big step forward.
Big Ag Influence
Some community members have pointed out that Governor Larry Hogan has received campaign donations from the poultry industry.
In 2014, one of the nation’s largest poultry suppliers steered $250,000 to a group funding an ad campaign to support him.
Immediately upon taking office, Hogan delayed and weakened regulations on the poultry industry, including manure regulations set in motion by his predecessor, Governor Martin O’Malley. Surprise, surprise.
But sick community members aren’t being given large sums of money. They’re getting sick. And local governments have been slow to respond, meaning it’s up to the Maryland General Assembly and Governor Hogan to take action.
At the bill’s joint assembly hearing, Delegate Robyn Lewis was joined by healthcare professionals, community and faith leaders, and Eastern Shore residents to advocate for the Community Healthy Air Act.
“A health problem anywhere is a health problem everywhere” said Delegate Lewis, who is a healthcare professional herself, in her testimony. “Air has no boundaries, and does not respect district lines. This is not just a problem for the Eastern Shore, this is a problem for the whole state.”
“We are trying to get you to experience what we are facing on the frontlines of this industry,” said Marghi Barnes, a resident of Salisbury, MD who traveled to Annapolis to testify. “The agencies on the Eastern Shore said no existing data is comparable to what we need. So we came over the Bay Bridge to get answers.”
It was clear from the hearing that the poultry industry is doing everything they can to weaken and stop the bill. They’re scared of us asking questions because of what the answers might reveal about the factory farming industry.
We need to make sure our legislators across the state stand up for people over profit. Contact your representatives today and make sure they support the Community Healthy Air Act!