Open Letter to J. Perdue


Dear Mr Perdue,

This week we are doing an orientation for a student at the University of North Carolina who is interning at Trappe Landing Farm & Native Sanctuary. Our website references are the focus of this briefing. In reviewing the PBS documentary Poisoned Water and the other references relating to the role that Industrial chicken plays in the destruction of Chesapeake Bay it occurred to me that you are personally in a position to do more for Bay water quality than any person on the earth today. I would appreciate your following along with me in this review on our website.

Lets start with the nutrient balance post at the top right of the blog page. The EPA nutrient load maps show two distinct corridors of intense nutrient pollution. The hog and dairy corridor is centered in a remote area of PA and the chicken corridor which runs from Lancaster PA. down the Delmarva Peninsula. This is an area dominated by corn production and chicken CAFOs that drive the demand for field corn production. USGS has determined in Circular 1228 that the overuse of fertilizer on corn is 59% of Delmarva nitrogen pollution and that manure from CAFOs is 35%. All of the corn grown on Delmarva is used by chicken CAFOs. So how can you personally effect changes in production methods as the largest Eastern producer of CAFO chicken?

1. As references under water quality show field corn has the highest nitrogen need of all the cereal grain crops and at .37 has the lowest uptake efficiency. In a drought year the uptake efficiency approaches zero, which makes even more applied nitrogen available to leach into aquifers. If your feed experts were to develop a feed mix reducing the amount of corn and replacing with small grains including, oats, wheat, barley and alfalpha you could reduce the amount of corn production and applied nitrogen by as much as 50%. This would address the largest contamination source. This mix has been developed and previously sent to your offices. The mix is designed to maintain nutrient values similar to current mixes and has been used by pasture farmers without compromising growth time or quality of the birds. While this action on a large scale would reduce nutrient pollution it would also promote crop diversity or number of crops in yearly rotation and greatly improve soil erosion and sedimentation of all Delmarva streams and rivers.

2. The second recommendation is a result of once again reviewing Poisoned Water. Watching the farmers clean out the chicken houses with front end loaders to move the manure to storage or to manure spreaders suggest a much more efficient method. Current methods involve substantial double handling which is not only expensive but the cause of  spillage and air contamination. As MDE research44 shows this spillage is causing aquifer readings under these sites to be as high as 200 times the normal nitrate background level for Delmarva aquifers. You had a very tough time during your PBS interview in denying your ownership of the manure. In fact you did not deny it. You said that the farmer wanted the manure for his fields. He may want the nitrogen but I am sure he is not happy with the level of phosphorous, antibiotics, heavy metals including arsenic currently contaminating his fields and underlying aquifers. Why not develop a vacuum based manure pickup and trucking system and cleanup your manure when you pick up your chickens every 8 weeks. There are now commercial processes, which convert manure to energy and clean organic fertilizer which are said to be economically neutral.

The fact is that without reducing corn or improving efficiency of corn production, which is possible but expensive, and without cleaning up chicken manure, water quality on the Delmarva Peninsula cannot be restored. Judging by the load maps the Delmarva chicken corridor is at least half of the nutrient and sediment source for the Chesapeake Bay. The Perdue Company has always been the leader in its industry. It is time once again to show that leadership by taking these suggested actions or others equally effective.


Donald R. Kerstetter

Posted to web blog on 7/16/10


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