SALISBURY — Amid withering cornstalks and debates about crop insurance, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin is looking for ways to ensure the drop in output doesn’t harm poultry farmers.
“I really am worried about poultry and that’s why they need immediate relief,” Cardin said Wednesday while meeting with staffmembers of The Daily Times. “We need more rational polices and I don’t believe it’s in our national interest to maintain the mandate on corn ethanol.”
One of the reasons organizations like The National Chicken Council, companies like Perdue and Gov. Martin O’Malley are all concerned about the ethanol mandate is because in years like 2012 when much of the harvest is dead or dying that leaves very little for food production. Specifically, it requires 40 percent of the annual corn harvest go to ethanol production for fuel.
A large part of the diet of any chicken being raised for harvest is corn, which is one of the reasons O’Malley and poultry organizations have sent letters to the Environmental Protection Agency requesting a one-year exemption from the mandate.
Cardin has also sponsored legislation in the Senate to link the corn ethanol production mandate to the amount of U.S. corn supplies. Senate Bill 3428 would establish a process whereby the U.S. Department of Agriculture would report corn supplies each year and based on the ration of corn stocks to expected use, there could be a reduction to the mandate for corn ethanol production.
While it all sounds complex, Cardin said it could help to ensure farmers through Delmarva have a solution to a recurring problem.
“There is no end in sight right now,” Cardin said. “Obviously, one of the answers is to have an energy policy in this country that makes sense — corn ethanol never made sense. We should have recognized that.”
Cardin is also concerned at looking into ways to balance cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries with ensuring farms of all sizes can continue to produce food year after year.
He said while a myriad of factors, including wastewater plants, airborne pollutants and deforestation contribute to the health of the Chesapeake Bay, farming is still the largest source of pollutants.
Still, Cardin said keeping farmland viable and communicating often and openly with farmers is highly important.
“Farmland is friendly to the Bay, but it does present challenges because an awful lot of the fertilizers and a lot of the animal waste ends up in the bay,” Cardin said, adding the use of cover crops and buffer crops is a smart farming choice. “A huge part of our farming practices are conservation, which will also help us in cleaning up the bay. But every segment has to do their share and everyone in the segment has to do their share. If we do that we can really clean up this bay for future generations.”