Georgia may be known as the Peach State, but it produces a much more valuable commodity that likely won't make it onto a license plate anytime soon -- chicken manure.
ALBANY, Ga. − Georgia may be known as the Peach State, but it produces a much more valuable commodity that likely won't make it onto a license plate anytime soon -- chicken manure.
The state's $2.5 billion chicken industry generates manure that state agricultural officials say is worth $70 million a year as an alternative farm fertilizer. That's $20 million more than the value of Georgia's famous Vidalia onion crop and about equal to the state's watermelon and peach crops combined.
"It's popular with farmers," University of Georgia fertilization specialist Glen Harris said. "But even guys who use it will tell you it's a pain and it stinks. The rule of thumb is that you don't spread it next to a church on Sunday."
Getting the 2 million tons of manure produced each year to the farmers who want it when they want it has often been a problem. That's why the university and Georgia's Poultry Federation have created a Web site focused on moving chicken litter -- as it is euphemistically known.
"This is an opportunity for people who want to buy and people who want to sell," said Abit Massey, the federation's president. "The demand is much greater than the supply. It's a valuable commodity. It's an asset that can be used."
The new site's goal is to link chicken farmers with crop farmers who want to use chicken manure as a cheap alternative to commercial fertilizers that supply nitrogen, potassium and phosphate to the soil. Too much chicken litter in one place can lead to high nitrate levels in streams and other environmental problems.
"We've got certain counties that are inundated with litter," said Mark Risse, an agricultural pollution specialist with the university. "They can't possibly spread all that phosphorous in those counties. The Web site is to facilitate moving it to areas that could use it better."
Jeffrey Deen, a cotton farmer in south Georgia's Appling County, has posted a request for 600 tons of litter, but as of Monday he had still not reached a supplier.
"The bottom line is that it's really good, cheap fertilizer," Deen said.
The new site has chicken manure selling for $8 to $10 per ton, but Deen said some producers occasionally have to give it away just to get rid of it.
Source: Associated Press