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.