ANNAPOLIS — Delmarva Poultry Inc. Executive Director Holly Porter, along with company President Jennifer Timmons, spoke about all things poultry Friday, Feb. 8, during the Eastern Shore Delegation meeting.
Timmons, additionally identifying herself as a professor at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, said on the Eastern Shore there were 1,700 farm families that raised poultry in 2018.
For the first time in the state’s history, last year the industry grossed $1 billion. She also said $112 million in state taxes had been funneled back into the economy.
Timmons said the poultry industry is one of the largest providers of jobs in the state, producing about five million jobs, 400,000 of which are on the Eastern Shore. Almost 6,000 separate jobs rely on the industry, she said.
Timmons said the industry had raised the same amount of chickens this year as it did 20 years ago — with 41 percent fewer farms than 20 years ago and fewer operational houses, Porter said.
“That is part of the reason those farms are much larger,” Timmons said. “Houses have become way more efficient in producing the birds.”
Porter talked about various bills Delmarva Poultry Inc. would be keeping an eye on, including Senate Bill 542, or the Community Healthy Air Act. Porter said Delmarva Poultry Inc. had no official position on the bills.
The bill looks to establish a committee to investigate the air quality in locations relative to chicken production operations.
Porter said the group’s findings, when published, would be public data. She also said the group would have public meetings to try to find the best place to take samples of the air for particular matters 2.5 and 10, which are associated with air quality.
“So again, we believe this is a much better, much more cost effective approach and honestly will give us data a lot earlier than Senate Bill 542, which really wouldn’t have MDE (Maryland Department of the Environment) doing any type of study until 2021,” Porter said.
Senate Bill 546, a bill dealing with nutrient management monitoring and enforcement, will provide an additional hassle to farmers reporting manure levels on their farms, Porter said.
“First of all, our growers and our farmers across the state already do a lot of reporting,” Porter said. “We know and we have the reports to say the amount of manure that’s coming from the farms every year, how that manure is being used ... and then where it’s going. That information is available.”
Additional bills involving the industry mentioned by Porter include Senate Bill 471, which deals with clarifying a prohibition of antibiotics in cattle, swine or poultry; Senate Bill 56, which authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to adopt a health program; and House Bill 255, which encourages county school boards to integrate agricultural education.
Del. Jay Jacobs, R-36-Kent, said an air quality monitoring station in Millington does not monitor for ammonia and asked if the organization had thought about upgrading the facility to do so.
Porter said the organization planned on adding two new locations to monitor air quality on the Lower Shore and was looking to retro-equip current facilities to additionally monitor for ammonia.
“Not the one in Kent County, but the one in Dorchester County, which is in the Horn Point area,” Porter said.
Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, D-37A-Wicomico, asked about the diversity of students within Timmons’ classes, within the agricultural field. Timmons said she believed about 80 percent of her students were women and that she did have minority students.
Sample-Hughes said she was glad to see the air quality monitoring stations coming online.
“But I guess what we don’t want to mistake, or put out the different picture, is that this has been requested for years,” Sample-Hughes said. “I think that needs to be noted, that citizens who are very much concerned, and I think we need it even at the local level.”