It’s time to get real in 2017 (Editorial)

(Dec. 27, 2016) As we get ready to greet the New Year, do not expect, please, that simply by changing the “6” to a “7” is going to alter the cultural climate of this country.
The millennial generation, with its focus, among other concerns, not only on what it eats but how its food is produced, will continue to call the shots.
In the final weeks before Christmas, there emerged a vastly flawed survey from an organization (or group) that asserted, that “a majority of Marylanders” believe that the poultry industry needs to be more heavily controlled by the government.
The survey was performed in August of this year by (take a deep breath) a political polling firm on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future within the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health and Engineering. Its findings are based, CLF said, on 600 interviews with registered Maryland voters. That’s right, 600. At the most recent count, there were 3,432,720 registered voters in Maryland. A survey worthy of any serious consideration? You do the math.
In any event, CLF said the survey “presents evidence of strong voter support for a variety of measures geared toward improving economic fairness in the poultry industry and safeguarding community health and the environment.”
Ah, “safeguarding the environment.” That had to be in there somewhere ... You know, poultry litter management, phosphorous and nitrogen runoff, that line of dialogue.
Eastern Shore State Sen. Addie Eckardt, glancing over the news release on the survey, said she was “not convinced that the survey respondents have all the important information on the subject of nutrient management or even understand the significance of the fertilizer aspects or knowledge of innovative practices and nutrients-to-energy about to come on line.”
She added that it would be “interesting to get a copy of the questionnaire and the people surveyed” and she wondered whether the 600-person call list might have come from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Here’s a sampling of the survey results.
Fifty-nine percent of voters statewide and 58 percent of voters on the Eastern Shore said they wanted more oversight of the handling of chicken waste from industrial farms.
Eighty-six percent of voters statewide and 84 percent of Eastern Shore voters said they favor requiring large poultry processing companies to pay for the removal of excess chicken waste from their local contract growers. Seventy-seven percent of voters statewide and 82 percent of Eastern Shore voters think that local areas should be able to limit the overall number of chickens contained in one area.
Here’s the clincher: According to the CLF, Maryland voters support a five-cent per chicken fee on processing companies that would be dedicated to protecting the environment.
Maryland voters — that is 600 of them out of 3.4 million — apparently are unaware — or simply discount — the contribution of the poultry industry to their way of life.
The chicken industry remains a huge sector of the economy of Delmarva, according to an industry accounting. The total impact of the Industry on Delmarva was in excess of $5.6 billion two years ago. Surely it has grown since then.
Maryland is consistently among the top 10 largest states in the nation in broiler and meat-type chicken production, raising 303.5 million broilers in 2015. Broilers accounted for $930.7 million or about 40 percent of total farm cash receipts, according to USDA and the National Ag Statistics Service.
According to the last agricultural census, there were 794 poultry farms on Maryland’s Eastern Shore with annual sales totaling $869 million. In the two counties on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, there are 50 poultry farms, with annual production of poultry and eggs of $108 million. The ag industry in the two counties boasts 1,759 farm labor jobs. Two of Delaware’s three counties — Sussex and Kent — have a total of 1,333 poultry farms, with sales totaling $811 million.
Now, a new study, by a group known as Eastern Shore Agriculture Sustains LLC partnering with Chesapeake College, suggests that the environmental, economic and social impact of investing in a new local food supply chain — they are pushing vegetables — would be greater than “continuing to focus solely on the poultry industry.”
As the anti-poultry industry forces continue to grow in numbers, they need to, as they say, get real.
The reality is that the agricultural environment that blesses and identifies the Delmarva Peninsula is created and dominated by the farms and farmland that produce the grain and soybeans that feed the huge poultry flock.
Destroy one, the other will self-destruct.
Even that percentage of the 600 living on the Eastern Shore and approving of asking the poultry integrators to pay five cents every time they send a bird to the processing plant, would surely lament that.
As we said: Get real.