The nation’s chicken producers have embraced a voluntary plan to help them improve environmental management at the farm level and avoid potential pollution problems, according to a survey by the National Chicken Council. The survey showed that 83 percent of producers are moving forward with management plans especially tailored to their operations.
The plans, called litter/manure management plans, allow the farmer to make environmentally beneficial use of the material left over from chicken production. Litter is typically used as fertilizer on row crops, and the plans allow the farmer to apply it at rates that minimize environmental impact.
“Farmers are this country’s original environmentalists, and they are doing a good job of protecting the environment on their farms and in their communities,” said Dr. James E. Marion, scientific advisor to the National Chicken Council. “Farmers recognize the need to use resources such as poultry litter in an environmentally beneficial way and have responded positively by developing plans based on scientific data.”
Approximately 73 percent of the farmers who raise chickens under contract to integrated chicken production and processing companies now have litter/manure management plans in place, and an additional 10 percent are in the process of obtaining plans, according to the survey. Some 97 percent of farms owned directly by the companies have plans in place, the survey showed.
The survey also showed that half the companies responding are taking steps to reduce the amount of phosphorus in the feed they manufacture for chickens. Approximately 28 million pounds of phosphorus was removed from feed formulations in 2002 as compared to 2001, the survey indicated, thus preventing million of pounds of phosphorus from ending up in litter. Phosphorus in the litter is a potential contributor to degradation of water quality.
The NCC survey is an annual measurement of the industry’s progress in implementing the “Environmental Framework and Implementation Strategy for Poultry Operations” adopted by the National Poultry Environmental Dialogue in December 1998. The
Dialogue was a roundtable process involving industry organizations and government agencies.
The program encourages poultry growers to use litter or manure in accordance with management plans developed by qualified professionals, Dr. Marion said. The planning process utilizes soil and litter samples and other scientific data to make sure that litter is applied to soil as fertilizer in a way that permits the nutrients in the litter, such as nitrogen, to be consumed by the crops planted on the land. The plans are developed in consultation with experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service or other agencies.
Companies are continuing to use litter for purposes other than crop fertilizer, according to the survey. Composting of litter is popular, with companies and growers producing garden fertilizer, mulch, landscape products, and soil amendments. Some companies reported being involved in programs to transport litter away from areas in which it is abundant to areas in which there is demand for litter but little supply.
The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce, process and market chickens.
National Poultry Environmental Dialogue: Growout Farms Associated with Participating Chicken Companies: Litter/Manure Management Plans in Place or Applied For, End of 2002
Contract Growers Company Farms Total
Percent Percent Percent
Plans in Place 72.8 97.2 73.0
Plans Applied For 10.2 0.0 10.0
Combined 83.0 97.2 83.0