ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Are chicken coops the next battleground in the war on terror? Poultry growers are protesting proposed regulations from the Department of Homeland Security that would label propane gas a "chemical of interest" and require anybody with 7,500 pounds or more of the fuel to register with the agency.
At that amount, poultry farmers who use propane to heat chicken houses would have to fill out the forms.
"It would affect almost all of us," said Jenny Rhodes, who has 80,000 roasters in Centreville.
"I could think of a lot easier, better targets" for terrorists than chicken farms, groused Richard Lobb, spokesman for the National Chicken Council, a Washington-based industry group. The U.S. Poultry & Egg Association and the National Turkey Federation have joined the protests.
By industry counts, up to 40,000 farms could be affected by the security proposal.
The government says the registration rule is important to protect the country.
British police in July thwarted a potentially devastating terrorist plot in London after finding two Mercedes loaded with nails packed around canisters of propane and gasoline set to detonate. In Iraq, the military has seen propane tanks used in homemade bombs.
Still, Maryland's two senators, Democrats Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, along with Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., wrote to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff asking that the rule be shelved.
"Given the serious threats that are currently facing our country and the limited resources of the Department of Homeland Security, please explain why this initiative is a good use of federal dollars," the senators wrote earlier this month.
"In Delaware, we have 300 chickens for every person who lives here," said Carper, a member of the Homeland Security committee. Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia has expressed similar concerns, spokeswoman Joan Kirchner said.
Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the agency is right to compile data on dangerous chemicals, even in rural areas, and said farmers would only need to spend "a couple hours" online to comply.
Bill Satterfield, who runs the Delaware-based Delmarva Poultry Industry trade group, said people are not at risk from propane tanks on chicken farms.
"It's ridiculous. Poultry farms are not near population centers. An exploding propane tank would do little harm to the chicken houses, much less any other buildings on the farm, much less anybody else," Satterfield said.