To the Editor,
Oklahoma Water Quality Solutions Under Attack
A federal court is now being asked to ban the use of poultry litter as a fertilizer in the Illinois River watershed, a request that has little bearing on reality.
Poultry litter today is almost unavailable in the Illinois River watershed. Ask a farmer. The demand for poultry litter as a fertilizer has soared, partly because the state of Oklahoma has heavily promoted its use as a fertilizer across the state, partly because rising oil prices have made the cost of commercial fertilizers breath-taking.
Secondly, there is just not enough poultry litter being produced to satisfy demand. Despite the exaggerated claims of Drew Edmondson, a chicken house only produces about 120 tons of poultry litter a year – and state agency records and assessor records show there are about 1650 poultry houses in the Illinois River watershed. That gives the farming community about 200,000 total tons of poultry litter to use every year. Farmers outside the watershed use manure transfer program tax breaks to pay more than farmers in the watershed can afford to pay. The end result? There is not much left to use as fertilizer on fields in the Illinois River watershed.
Oklahoma Secretary of the Environment Miles Tolbert claims Drew Edmondson was instrumental in helping get the Statement of Joint Principles signed between Arkansas and Oklahoma in December 2003. A major part of that agreement was to seek grants to pay for manure transfer programs – programs that began the process of making poultry litter so valued as a fertilizer in areas that are not nutrient-threatened.
So in the midst of what should be considered an environmental victory, Edmondson suddenly pretends to ride to the rescue, to resolve an issue he may have actually helped resolve years ago.
The manure transfer program for the Illinois River watershed has worked far better than anyone could have hoped. But not everyone is smiling. Especially not the trial lawyers who anticipated major money in the state’s 2005 lawsuit against poultry companies – a lawsuit filed long after the manure transfer program began.
So now we witness Edmondson’s panic – asking the court to declare poultry litter a solid waste and ban its use in the Illinois River watershed.
While the issue is seriously argued before the court, in the Illinois River watershed farming community it is a joke.
Except those who are serious about using manure transfer programs to protect nutrient-threatened watersheds aren’t laughing. The labeling of manure – any manure – as a solid waste could threaten the viability of manure transfer programs from Maryland to Oklahoma.
Those who think Drew Edmondson is an environmental savior should take a second look at his actions – designed not to protect the Illinois River watershed or Oklahoma water quality, but to protect the wallets of the contingent-fee attorneys whose political donations protect the quality of the stream Drew Edmondson cares the most about.
The revenue stream.
Adair County Representative
Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission