In festival’s wake, a mission revived (Editorial)

When Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. announced that it was ending the 65-year run of its nationally acclaimed Delmarva Chicken Festival this year, DPI officials explained they had other work to do.
That came as no surprise.
The chicken industry on Delmarva is being hammered by activist environmental organizations claiming, incessantly, that what the birds leave on the floor of the chicken houses is poisoning the Chesapeake Bay.
DPI officials reasoned, correctly, that it was no longer necessary to promote the taste of chicken, rather to galvanize the effort to polish and protect the image of the bird.
Other forces were at work, too.
American soybean farmers are critically aware of the fact that the livestock industry — beef and poultry particularly — is their very best customer.
The livestock industry, as well as the poultry industry, of course, has attracted the attention — and the wrath — of the environmental community.
Here in the cattle industry, in addition to waste disposal, is a clean air problem. Cows flatulate, supposedly contributing to global warming.
So, to help the largest consumers of American soybeans, the United Soybean Board again this year has a program to promote animal agriculture. For DPI, this means dollars to promote and educate people about the local chicken industry.
With the support of soybean farmers and with the economies resulting from the demise of the chicken festival, DPI is extending, or indeed launching, a series of consumer relations projects for the coming year
Here’s a peek:The funding will allow DPI to continue with its middle school curriculum development program.
Lesson plans have been written in the last few years and the new money will be used to create awareness in the school systems about the new curriculum material, producing materials for distribution to the teachers, and providing financial incentives so substitute teachers can be hired to work for the teachers attending the training sessions.
The funding will help offset some program expenses for DPI’s Vegetative Environmental Buffers program.
This is the program that works with chicken growers to plan and install environmentally helpful tree or grass buffers near chicken houses. These program costs also are funded by Delmarva’s chicken companies and the USDA.
DPI’s very successful Lunch and Learn sessions will be resumed with state and local business and community leaders to educate them and/or remind them about the importance of the chicken industry, soybean farmers, corn farmers and ag, in general.
DPI officials are working on a half-day schedule for its Maryland General Assembly Eastern Shore bus tours to acquaint newly elected members of the Maryland General Assembly about the chicken industry.
There is a lot of ignorance or misunderstanding about the chicken industry among urban and suburban legislators in the metropolitan areas of Maryland.
This tour will introduce many of them to the chicken industry and perhaps the agricultural community for the first time.
Soybean checkoff funds will be used to prepare roadside signs for chicken growers with a message similar to this: “This is a family owned farm that feeds thousands of persons annually.”
DPI says that these signs “might help dispel the common notion that Delmarva Peninsula chicken farms are corporate farms owned by the chicken companies.”
DPI also is planning the development and purchase of promotional banners for use at outreach functions.
For those of us who remember the chicken festival’s days of yore, as when it hosted the national chicken cooking contest and food editors and writers from across the country steamed onto Delmarva, the 65-year-old contest died peacefully. She is mourned.
However, there are exciting days ahead, less flamboyant perhaps, but exciting, nonetheless.