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Archive for the ‘Delmarva Poultry Industry’ Category

Oh, the tangled web we weave……..

There are times in our life where we get a reminder, of sorts, that we don’t know as much as we thought we knew.  This reminder came to me a week ago, kind of like a knock, knock on the side of my head, so to speak.  I felt foolish and asked myself how could I be that naivete. 

This knock, knock on the side of my head came with the announcement of a private ambient air monitoring study to be conducted on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and in Central Maryland. The private project partnership is between Delmarva Poultry Industry Incorporated (DPI) and The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment and will work with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).  A Memorandum of Understanding between the parties was signed on January 28, 2019.

On the face of things, it looks like a good project.  Right?  No, wrong, is the correct answer.  The study is an effort to undermine legislation introduced in Maryland’s House and Senate known as the Community Healthy Air Act (CHAA)  in order to delay public knowledge about what is emitted into the air that we breath coming from industrial chicken operations. 

The fox is guarding the hen house in this case.  The majority of people know that DPI is the industry trade Union whose mission, according to its website is “to be the Delmarva chicken industry’s voice as the premier membership association focusing on advocacy, education and member relations”.  DPI has vehemently opposed the CHAA, along with chicken industry companies and the Farm Bureau. 

The Maryland Department of Agriculture has been known to rubber stamp discharge permits for industrial chicken production facilities.  Legal challenges against some of these rubber-stamped permits have shown that MDE never did its homework before applying the rubber stamp and permits had to be withdrawn.  MDE has opposed CHAA from the get go along with the rest of the cartel.  It’s also no secret that Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan is opposed to the legislation.

Ironically, CHAA has no type of rules or regulations to be imposed upon the chicken industry and its concentrated production of the Delmarva Peninsula.  The legislation requires nothing from industry however it does require our state government do its job requiring MDE to monitor air emissions from industrial factory farms in Maryland and to assess their impacts on public health.  The monitoring would be a one-year study and would be completely transparent.  Results would be publicly available.  Transparent folks, not private.

When first we practice to deceive……

This is where the story gets interesting and when I had my dah ah moment.  The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment (KCF) came along……

I have to admit that I was stunned when I read the press reports about the relationship between DPI, MDE, and the Foundation.  Then I got mad.

Backing up a couple of years, Samantha Campbell, President of the KCF and daughter of Keith Campbell paid me a visit on the farm to see what I was doing with pasture raised hens for eggs and the transition out of contract chicken farming.  Although not unusual in most parts of the country, independent poultry farming that is good for the environment on Delmarva is not common.  Thus, the reason for her visit.  I didn’t go looking for her, didn’t apply for a grant from the foundation, and quite frankly had never heard of Samantha Campbell.  She came looking for me.

I have to say that she pulled the wool over my eyes.  I thought that she was truly interested in farming methods that significantly reduces or eliminates negative impacts to the environment and our waterways.  In our discussion about the chicken industry she expressed her concern for the communities affected by the industry as well as the negative impacts to our environment.  I’m always up for sharing and educating others about viable alternative methods of farming.  On the outside, Samantha Campbell appeared to be genuine.

“Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.” 

Taken from the Keith Campbell Foundation website that says that they’ve hired a Program Director, for Civic Engagement under the Chesapeake Initiative.  Seems to me that the new program director forgot to include stakeholders for the air monitoring project.  You know, the community members who are trying to change the way they have to live.

I’ll be polite and say how disingenuous.  Those who know me, know that if I were being impolite, rudeness would rule.  Why in the world would a foundation spouting such platitudes team up with DPI to the tune of over $500,000 to fund a private study and have the fox, MDE, collecting the data and preparing the final report. 

In case you didn’t know, Samantha Campbell, hiding under the guise of a Foundation for the Environment and pretending to promote working together to improve the quality of life in the community isn’t done through a private study with the very industry that is making the community sick.  There’s no moral high ground for you to stand on when 1 in 4 middle school aged children have asthma in Wicomico County, Maryland.

Doing some further digging I’ve found that the Keith Campbell Foundation wouldn’t dare to bite the hand that feeds them.  According to the information I received, “the foundation funds are derived from the annual profits skimmed from Campbell Group/Campbell & Company” an investment management firm specializing in managed futures and cash equity strategies, hedge funds and the like.  In other words, tax shelter.  “Their client portfolio features varying interests that [are] truly embedded in some of the biggest wealth in the country”.  My source says that there is a “true unwillingness to antagonize publicly traded companies where “Campbell Group” in Towson is busily trading public securities”.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing the matter with making money.  It is wrong to be a poser who says that they care about the environment and civic engagement.  I find it very disappointing and sad that the very people who need civic engagement are being exploited to provide a platform for the Campbell Foundation to spout about what a do gooder it is for the community. 

CHAA provides the transparency needed to address a public health issue which is severely affecting eastern shore communities.  Especially the children who are the most vulnerable and defenseless.  While DPI, Keith Campbell Foundation, and MDE build up their stacks of money, power, and influence, the community has engaged on their own and won’t back down.  They find it to be their civic duty to find out what is in the air that is making their children, friends, and neighbors sick. What it all boils down to folks, is what is more important – money or the kids?

While I’ll end here for now, I’m not anywhere finished.  I’ve lots more research (digging) to do to expose the posers for what they are all about.  For now, we know that they are trying to stop CHAA.  Game on!

If you would like to initiate dialogue with Samantha Campbell you can contact her here – scampbell@campbellfoundation.org

 

 

As Predicted Chicken Expansion on Delmarva Proves Disastrous

Over the past couple of years, the chicken industry has attracted many new immigrants into the Delmarva Peninsula and encouraged the building of chicken warehouses on mega sized zero land operations.  Monetary “incentive bonuses” offered by companies to those caught up in the building frenzy are an added inducement.  The zero land operations are chicken warehouses, built from property line to property line, leaving no land unused to spread the exorbitant amount of waste that’s produced by theses facilities.

The industry expansion is so huge that state cost share programs are broke.  The cost share programs, funded by taxpayers, were supposed to clean up the industrial waste left behind by the industry and that is polluting the waters of the Chesapeake.  The programs were never designed to support manure disposal from the large expansion that has been allowed to occur thusly utilizing all of the funds long before all of the mega operations can tap into them.  It has gotten so bad that the Maryland Department of Environment is bypassing regulations and allowing the mega structures to be built without the normally required manure disposal plans as well as the dead chicken disposal requirements.  There are no taxpayer dollars left to fund adherence of the regulations before the chicken warehouses can be built.

The warehouses, one building being as large as 43,500 square feet in size housing as many as 49,500 chickens each flock, are not the norm that we are used to seeing on the peninsula.  Some of the operations contain up to 50 of these warehouses.  These are not farms they are part of the mass production assembly line in order to, as the industry claims, feed the world.  Unfortunately, the world only takes care of the end product, the highly processed cheap chicken meat, leaving all of the waste behind for good old American taxpayers to foot the bill for cleanup.  Not only do we fund the waste cleanup, we also fund the process of dead chicken disposal.

Powers that be in counties on the peninsula have wholeheartedly welcomed the expansion in spite of loud objections voiced by residents.  No consideration has been given to environmental and public health, and water and land, issues raised or to the plain ordinary fact that every U.S. citizen has the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

There are not very many happy citizens who have had these warehouses dropped into their communities denying them the right to simple enjoyment of their property.  Many cannot go outside of their homes without suffering the stench, ammonia emissions, dust, flies, and many other offensive and unhealthy by-products produced from these mega operations.

Recently it was brought to my attention that the long-time contract chicken farmers in our communities are starting to feel the heat from the industry expansion.  Demands of upgrades to existing chicken housing or building of new warehouses is the first step to driving these farmers out of business.  It’s standard operating procedure by industry to accommodate the new mega operations that are now online and quite frankly the long-time farms that have supported the industry for many years are no longer needed.  Get big or get out is the usual message.

Huge investments, including putting the entire homestead on the line, were made by the long-time farmers.  Many of them have been on the land for generations.  Existing contract chicken farmers will either have to go back to their local lending institution for funds that will increase existing mortgages enabling them to adhere to industry demands or they can opt out of the demands and lose the contract, and in turn lose the farm.  There is no recourse for promises made in the past by industry.  Not much of a choice for those who’ve already invested millions, if not billions, in the industry.  Not a very nice thank you for supporting the companies!

People in wealthy communities that have seen proposed plans for a next-door neighbor mega chicken operation stopped it in its tracks by offering a higher price for the land to be sold.  Ironically a neighbor in that same community is none other than the long-time leader of the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. (DPI), a local industry trade union.  I personally have seen and heard this very same fearless leader expound on the virtues of the industry expansion, convincing the powers that be to ignore the citizens objections.

What I don’t understand is why this person didn’t want a mega chicken warehouse community next door.  Especially since part of the expounding referred to a “good neighbor policy” written by the trade union. Humorously, or maybe not, the DPI “Good Neighbor Policy” is a waste of good paper.  It’s not enforceable.  The trade union has no business or influence in contracts made between chicken companies and independent contract farmers.  Unfortunately, our illustrious officials believed that the useless policy solved any concerns and was somehow an insurance of community happiness.

It remains to be seen where the disastrous consequences from the industry expansion will end.  Much ado has been made by the powers that be about dollars and cents generated.  Recently I heard one of our illustrious local congressional members say it all supports a “healthy business climate in Maryland”.  No mention was made about supporting the existing business climate or supporting public and environmental health for our communities.  I think that these types of comments pretty well sum up the fact that chickens and dollars are much more important than people.

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