In speaking engagements statewide, Senator Tom Carper has often mentioned the three C’s of Delaware. He’s referring to Delaware’s rich history in the economic industries of cars, chemicals, and chickens. It looks as though he will have to edit his speech as only one lone “C” seems to remain strong in Delaware.
Chemicals-Founded in 1802, the three DuPont cousins transformed gunpowder making to chemicals. The manufacturing company went through many transformations over the years but settled on the sciences-centering it’s focus on food, seed, and biofuels. The company seemed to embrace agriculture with its “Pioneer” seed division, crop protection chemicals, and in-feed animal nutrition and biosecurity products. However, 2015 will forever be known as the year DuPont merged with the Michigan based company known as Dow Chemical Co. The new name? “DowDuPont”. Delaware has lost its lone chemical empire and the single name giant. What does this mean for local agriculture? Will farmers buy seed from a Michigan based seed sales rep? How long before this sales rep is based in China? What is the economic impact on our state? No one seems to know or at least no one is talking. State elected leaders were quick to post sad comments on social media as the news broke. Too little, too late. It can’t be the way our Governor wanted to end his last year in office and 2016 is an election year.
Cars-The industry fell apart in 2009 with the exit of the Chrysler plant in Newark, DE. Soon thereafter, the old GM plant turned Fisker fell bankrupt right under the state’s nose; an epic fail at the start of the Markell administration.
Chickens-Only one shining star remains. The lone “C” is chickens and it’s Sussex County’s claim to fame. The poultry industry began in 1923 in Ocean View, DE when Cecile Steele mistakenly was delivered 500 chicks. She only ordered 50 to replace her laying flock. She kept them, raised them, and sold 387 survivors for 62 cents a pound. Here we are 93 years later and Sussex County ranks #1 in U.S. broiler production, producing over 200 million birds each year. There are more than 1,500 poultry farms on Delmarva with more than 4,600 individual houses. The economic impact is huge with a total of over 13,000 jobs and an aggregate output of $3.2. billion. But the industry is not invincible. Farmers and state officials are preparing for the outbreak of avian influenza to hit. A proposed “water tax” keeps popping up in the Delaware General Assembly, which could hurt all farmers not just poultry growers. Nutrient management laws are being shoved down farmers’ throats. Animal welfare activists claim poultry growers are “factory farms” and have tried to gain access to local chicken house facilities to claim abuse. Will elected officials take note and protect a thriving downstate industry? Or will they post on social media the day after the industry is gone? Thank goodness for those working behind the scenes to advocate for poultry farmers such as Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI) and the DE Farm Bureau. But is it enough? Senator Carper, you may not have any C’s left.
The highlight of 2012 for many in the Ag industry came on Thursday, December 20. You’ve probably already heard the good news. U.S. District Judge Nickerson ruled in favor of the Hudson family, as well as Eastern shore farmers and Perdue. Actually, the verdict sets a precedent for farmers across the nation, especially poultry farmers, because the same situation is occurring to all who live and operate near major waterways. I recently read about farmers in the southwest, who live near tributaries leading into the Mississippi River, and are just beginning to learn what the word “nutrient management” really means.
As a follow-up to “The Impact of One Decision on Ag“, here’s a list of links reporting the good news:
There are many more articles out there, reporting the outcome of this three-year long case. As I said before, MANY were watching this case closely. I trust 2013 brings a sigh of a relief and healing to this family and all involved. I also hope it gives the poultry industry a boost, as it enters 2013 with unpredictable feed costs and potential antibiotic regulations. Regardless, I’m so thankful that the judge released his 50 page ruling before the Christmas holiday. Thanks also to all the groups and farmers who supported the family through this lawsuit. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the Hudson’s, Delmarva Poultry Growers, and Perdue!
I haven’t slept the best lately. It happens to me whenever something weighs heavily on my mind. Ever since I read the article of how the pollution lawsuit has stressed the Hudson family of Maryland a couple days ago and knowing the verdict could come soon, the case has been on my mind. I can’t imagine living a paranoid life and I certainly can’t imagine how I would even begin to protect my kids from the negative impact this lawsuit brought their family. As soon as their kids were mentioned, my heart ached for them. This could be my sister’s family, my cousin or uncle’s family, or any of our neighbor’s who are poultry growers facing this lawsuit. Yesterday I was on standby, checking social media sites for updates, waiting to hear if a verdict had been made. This was the last post made by the MD Farm Bureau on Facebook:
Today’s update from the Hudson Case:
The defense will finish their case this afternoon. The Waterkeepers get to call any rebuttal witnesses in the morning and the case will end. Apparently there will not be closing arguments now. They will be scheduled in several weeks after post-trial summaries are submitted by each side. It may take months for Judge Nickerson to reach a decision in the case. But based on the testimony of all the witnesses, including the defense expert, Dr. Charles Hagedorn from Virginia Tech, it doesn’t appear that the Waterkeepers have proven their case. The Hudsons, Perdue and their attorneys put up a very good defense. We will keep you updated.
And this was the lastest reporting from WBOC: Hudson Farm Trial Update
In case you don’t have knowledge or background here, “this could be a landmark case which could change common, accepted farming practices” as Bill Satterfield, Director of the Delmarva Poultry Industry, made clear when the trial began on October 9. I’m guessing environmentalists, poultry industry experts, farmers, and elected officials are watching the case closely. I’ve even seen a recent campaign ad to re-elect Andy Harris, a MD Republican Senator running for U.S. Congress, which depicts the negative impact of groups like the EPA on small businesses and farmers.
Just think about the potential impact here. There are over 1,600 farmers growing for 5 poultry companies in the Mid-Atlantic. Can you imagine the impact on our state economy? I wonder if our leaders have thought through a “Plan B”. I try not to worry about it. Instead, I’ll do my best to focus on the positive and thank God for the tremendous support from groups such as DPI and Save Farm Families, who have stood behind the Hudson Family tremendously since the onslaught of the lawsuit. It’s been drug out over 3 years. It’s time to let this farm family and their kids move on.