Poultry industry vital to area (Editorial)
Several years ago, at an event billed as the first “Poultry Summit,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr. arose from the luncheon table to launch the Waterkeeper Alliance’s initial attack on the Delmarva poultry industry.
He had just scarfed down a broiled chicken breast.
There is a disconnect here — and more often than not, the lights go out.
Those who would destroy the Delmarva poultry industry, as we know it today, know not what they do.
We now hearken, through Baltimore television news media, to a group of young — and obviously aspiring — environmental enthusiasts that the poultry industry must go elsewhere because chickens make much too much litter, the ingredients of which find their awful way into the Chesapeake Bay.
Consider, if you dare, the departure of the poultry industry from our midst.
Now, bear in mind that agriculture, in its entirety, remains solidly as Maryland’s No. 1 industry.
Contributing mightily to that ranking is the Eastern Shore, where, it is estimated, agriculture — again the industry as a whole — represents 85 percent of the economy.
The impact of the poultry industry can only be assessed through the Delmarva poultry industry, which represents the industry in Delaware and on the eastern shores of both Maryland and Virginia.
The Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., the industry’s trade organization, reports that its figures reflect the wholesale value of Delmarva poultry production at more than $2 billion (that’s “B” as in “billion”) for 2010.
That required a workforce in the processing and distribution plants of 15,000 workers and a network of growers totaling 1,700 farm families.
DPI does not have figures, however, on the extent and/or value of the infrastructure required to support the industry — the truckers, the builders, the railroads and the barges, the millers, the retailers.
Nor does any of this account for the paychecks which workers and employees in the industry cash and spend in their local communities.
A report just issued by the Delaware Department of Agriculture says that poultry production, across the industry here, produces an annual aggregate output of $3.2 billion. In Maryland, that impact is measured at $4.5 billion, supporting 25,000 jobs, according to Dr. Memo Dirker, director of the Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network at Salisbury University.
That, he said, is more than half of the state’s entire agricultural industry.
Oh yes, that awful manure. It is not a waste product — it’s a rather precious organic fertilizer, the fertilization of choice, by the way, of organic growers.
Using state-sanctioned and state-reviewed nutrient management plans, farmers use this organic fertilizer to produce food.
Many chicken growers add to their family income through the sale of this fertilizer to other farmers.
For many crop farmers, chicken litter has a fertilizer value of up to $100 per ton.
It adds organic fertilizer and micronutrients to the soil, helping the soil retain moisture and reducing the movement of nutrients to waters of the state.
According to the EPA-approved December 2010 Maryland Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan, Maryland chicken manure is responsible for just six percent of the nitrogen entering the Bay from all Maryland sources.
So, for those overtaken by some sort of environmental lunacy who would, as the saying goes, throw the baby out with the bath water, beware the consequences.