Agriculture is the largest contributor of nutrient and sediment pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, accounting for 42 percent of the nitrogen, 58 percent of the phosphorous, and 58 percent of the sediment that entered the Bay in 2012. Reducing agricultural pollution is an important step in protecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Reducations in these pollutants can be made through implementing on-the-ground management practices, such as stream buffers and cover crops, and precision nutrient application technology.
Raising animals for consumption produces large amounts of animal manure and other pollutants. Large-scale industrial animal farming operations for hogs, dairy, or poultry are known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Many Bay states are home to large-scale poultry operations and feedlots. The manure from these CAFOs contains nutrients, including phosphorous and nitrogen, which can be useful as fertilizer. However, when manure is applied to land already saturated with nutrients, these nutrients can spill or runoff into waterways as pollutants that increase algae blooms and reduce oxygen needed to sustain aquatic life. Additionally, CAFOs emit gases, such as ammonia and methane, and airborne particulate matter that can carry pathogens that impact air quality and public health.