This is the backend of our two-part story focusing on the positive side of the poultry industry. It was originally posted at delmarvanow.com.
Pixie Booth, a widowed poultry farmer, said three generations of her family have been chicken farmers for 28 years.
“Chickens are healthy to eat, reasonably priced,” she said, adding her family is proud to be chicken farmers on the Eastern Shore.
Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., a trade association, gave the board statistics about the industry on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
In 2017, there were 84 chicken growers in Accomack County, with 331 houses in use, he said.
“That’s an average of 3.9 houses per grower,” Satterfield said.
“The planning department is looking at numbers, has come up with numbers, and we’re working with them to clarify,” he said, adding, “Our numbers are houses in use. The planning numbers include houses that no longer are being used; they have trees growing through the roofs.”
Additionally, Satterfield said projections on the number of future chicken houses made by the county planning department could be high — property owners sometimes apply for the maximum number of chicken houses allowed, “but they don’t put that many on — they’d rather go for the most and cut back, instead of applying and then wanting more,” he said.
Satterfield noted the history of the poultry industry in Accomack County goes back a long time, including on Chincoteague, where at one time “there were a million birds.”
“There’s a lot of history in this county with the chicken industry,” he said.
Still, another speaker, Lynn Rogers of Wachapreague, spoke in favor of increasing the setback requirement for new poultry houses to 1,000 feet and requiring ammonia scrubbers, among other measures.
“I’m very concerned about the expansion of poultry and the numbers involved and the lack of regulations in place to stem the environmental damage,” she said.
“These aren’t the yesteryears’ chicken farms. Chicken farms of today produce twice as many chickens, with twice as much manure and twice as much toxic waste and nitrates, polluting our air, land, waterways, groundwater and communities. This is Tyson’s MO — they target poor counties with inadequate regulations and tax revenues.
“Tyson’s knows they will find plenty of farmers struggling to hold onto their farms and plenty of folks looking for better economic opportunities,” Rogers said.
A local chapter of the environmental group Mighty Earth’s “Clean It Up, Tyson!” campaign has been holding events in the past several weeks in Accomack and Northampton counties, and is calling on Tyson Foods to adopt better agricultural practices to address water pollution caused by its supply chain.
The group’s culminating event was planned for Thursday morning, when activists also planned to deliver to the Tyson Foods processing plant in Temperanceville a petition signed by 1,000, asking the company to address water pollution.
The rally site chosen was north of Parksley, across Route 13 from a complex of 16 new chicken houses.