BERLIN — The future of one of Delmarva’s backbone economic engines was debated by federal lawmakers and a coalition of stakeholders and industry leaders with a Poultry Summit in Delmar on Monday.
Hosted by U.S. Senator Tom Carper, the poultry summit brought together the region’s congressional leaders, including Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, and a similar contingent from Delaware, along with legislators from both states and representatives from the Delmarva’s major stakeholders to discuss the challenges and opportunities for the industry. Among the issues discussed during the summit were domestic and foreign sales competition, labor needs, increased operating costs and growing environmental challenges.
Poultry is big business on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and across the region. The poultry industry on Delmarva accounts for nearly 5 percent of the total chicken production nationwide and the total economic value of the industry on Delmarva is estimated at $2 billion. The poultry industry on Delmarva supports 15,000 jobs, 5,000 chicken houses, 1,800 independent contract growers and over $1 billion in vendor payments.
In Maryland, the poultry industry is the state’s number one agricultural sector, accounting for nearly $700 million, or roughly 40 percent, of the farm income. By comparison, corn and soybeans accounted for about $338 million of the farm income in 2010, or around half of what poultry contributed.
“Supporting Maryland’s poultry industry is about creating jobs,” said Mikulski. “I’m proud to continue my jobs tour here on the Eastern Shore to talk about how we can preserve and create jobs in the industries that have made Maryland great. On the Eastern Shore, that’s poultry.”
For his part, Cardin said Maryland’s poultry industry continues to be an important cog in the state’s economy and the region’s federal representatives were prepared to take the necessary steps to ensure it continues to thrive.
“The poultry industry continues to be a mainstay of the Eastern Shore and a vital part of the Maryland economy,” he said. “Today [Monday] was an important opportunity for federal legislators to meet with industry leaders and discuss ways we can help assure the poultry industry is a major economic …”
While he didn’t attend the summit, State Sen. Jim Mathias was pleased the delegation of the region’s federal congressional leaders were willing to gather and listen to the industry’s concerns.
“We need to continue to work steadfastly to make certain our federal partners know how vital poultry is to our district, the Eastern Shore and our entire state,” he said.