WASHINGTON – The US poultry industry’s tools and programs that are improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, as well as throughout the United States, should be recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a poultry industry representative told a House Agriculture Subcommittee earlier this week.

Family poultry farms in Virginia have expanded their conservation practices to enhance water quality for more than a decade now, the Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry was told by Hobey Bauhan, president of Virginia Poultry Federation. “The results of these actions are reflected in EPA’s estimates that between 1985 and 2005 nutrient loads from agriculture decreased to the Chesapeake Bay, while nutrient loadings from developed lands increased by 16%,” he added.

Bauhan, who represented the Virginia Poultry Federation, National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and US Poultry & Egg Association, told committee members heavy-handed federal mandates are unnecessary because states have adopted effective regulations to improve water quality. Virginia has adopted some of the most expansive manure management regulations in the country for poultry farms, he said. However, EPA continues to set sweeping, unprecedented federal mandates aimed at agriculture under its Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) program, he charged.

EPA’s approach to setting TMDL targets was also criticized by Bauhan. “EPA’s TMDL targets are based on flawed modeling assumptions about manure management practices,” he said. “In one instance, the agency estimated that 15% of all manure from poultry farms is lost during storage and runs off into waterways in the Chesapeake. That number has no basis in actual practice and grossly exaggerates EPA’s estimated loadings of litter run-off from poultry farms.”

Bauhan suggested EPA should focus on what works and is economically feasible. “Imposing burdensome mandates based on questionable data only imposes more costs, paperwork and burdens on family farmers, while achieving few real benefits for water quality,” he concluded.

Bauhan’s testimonycan be found on the House Committee on Agriculture’s website.