Pecking at U Md or Whose Chicken Now?

HERD ABOUT IT?
by Ana Grarian

The University of Maryland has been ordered to produce a list of plaintiffs their students have represented over the past two years or lose a quarter of a million dollars in state funding.

What? Law students practicing law? How did that happen? Who did they upset?

Hint. Cluck Cluck Cluck
Hint. Environmental Lawsuit
Hint. Clean Water Act Enforcement
Hint. Sounds like – a University in Indiana

That’s right. The students in doing pro-bono work for some Eastern Shore residents and environmental groups, ruffled the feathers (pun intended) of the country’s 3rd largest poultry producer, Perdue.

Perdue has $4.6 billion dollars in sales and a LOT of political clout in the state of Maryland. Jim Perdue, company Chairman has said publicly that he fears more lawsuits on Clean Water Act violations and has threatened to move his operations out of state.

Wait a minute Jim – you do realize that the Clean Water Act is FEDERAL law – don’t you?

Industry giants like Perdue contract farmers to grow their chickens from chick to broiler. Perdue owns the chickens but the manure is the responsibility of the farmer. Today’s concentrated chicken operations produce much more manure than can be safely applied to the available cropland. That’s why chicken litter (chicken sh** plus bedding and dropped feed) had been fed to cattle and hogs, until mad cow raised awareness of the dangers of this practice.

Concentrated in Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester Counties along the Eastern Shore, the poultry industry is the states most lucrative form of agriculture and one of its largest employers.The poultry industry on Maryland’s eastern shore generates more than a billion ( BILLION) pounds of manure a year. Besides the excess nitrogen, phosphorous, and fecal matter leaching into the states waterways, chicken manure contains significant levels of arsenic, a Group 1 carcinogen. The Chesapeake has grown more polluted. The phosphorous and nitrogen levels in the bay have grown, so have the algae that deplete oxygen needed by other aquatic life.

Under the states proposed rules, 75 to 100 of the 800 largest poultry farmers in Maryland would have to apply for permits to handle manure. State officials would also begin inspecting these farms unannounced and levying heavy fines if violations are not eventually corrected. The rules would not affect smaller farms.

The Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental advocacy group, said the permits did not go far enough. Too few farms would be required to have them, and they allow farmers to pile the waste in their fields open to the rain for 90 days.

Environmental Law clinics at universities around the country are nervous about push backs from huge corporate polluters. A group of professors from Environmental Law Schools around the country have written the State of Maryland to remind them that, our system of law represents an aspiration to ensure that anyone whose rights have been affected should have the opportunity to be represented by competent council. Furthermore, it is this mission that the law clinics seek to fulfill while at the same time training their students to be skilled environmental lawyers.

All Maryland law students are required to do some pro-bono work in the community, and the clinical law program is the largest provider of free legal advice to the state’s disadvantaged. Maryland should be very proud of these folks, but I guess they fear more that huge rubber chicken being waved at them.

Click here and do a search for Perdue to read more articles on this case

http://taberlaw.wordpress.com/environmental-law-and-climate-change-law-newsletters/taber-law-group-%E2%80%93-environmental-law-and-climate-change-law-newsletter-march-14-2010-vol-2-no-9/

Link to article on The Baltimore Sun website
http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/2010/03/state_house_bullies_um_law_sch.html