DPI

Photo: DPI

On Oct. 19, Delaware Gov. John Carney, left, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, at podium, announced COVID-19 relief programs for contract chicken growers who lost income this spring at the start of the pandemic.

Eligible Delaware, Maryland growers should apply by Dec. 1

GEORGETOWN, Del. — Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. Executive Director Holly Porter hailed twin chicken grower COVID-19 assistance programs announced on Oct. 19 by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Delaware Gov. John Carney as an important, necessary step to help farmers raising broiler chickens recover from economic stresses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Maryland Farmer COVID-19 Relief Program and the Delaware Contract Poultry Grower Grant Assistance Program are now accepting applications from eligible farmers.

“This announcement recognizes how crucial the chicken community is to Delmarva’s economy, and it acknowledges chicken growers faced sudden business disruptions none of them could have foreseen or prevented,” Porter said. “The chicken industry never called time out during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the food web held together under real stress. Chicken growers saw significant income interruptions, and while federal aid has helped repair balance sheets for other U.S. farmers, contract chicken growers have been left on the sidelines. With this grant program, Gov. Carney and Gov. Hogan are delivering real assistance to farmers who suffered losses from COVID-19, and DPI applauds their commitment to the chicken community.”

“The poultry industry on Delmarva is second to none and it’s because of the long-standing working relationships that we have across state lines, especially when it comes to supporting our family farms,” Carney said. “COVID-19 has impacted all of us, but for the poultry growers who take pride in putting safe, nutritious food on your table, many of the roadblocks that COVID-19 threw at them were out of their control. This grant program is an opportunity once again for both our states to show our support for our family farms.”

“I am pleased to announce that we are immediately launching a new relief program which will provide direct payments to thousands of Maryland farmers, growers, and producers who have been hurt by COVID-19,” Hogan said. “Far too often our farmers don’t get the respect or the appreciation they deserve, but I want our entire ag community to know that your commitment to our state and to our ag industry does not go unnoticed.”

“Because of the disruption of markets, labor availability for the companies to run at full capacity in the processing plants, and other COVID-19 related impacts, Delaware growers were faced with longer than normal layout times and saw a decrease in the number of birds placed,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “In some cases, farms were required to depopulate birds because a company did not have the ability to process the birds. All of these factors created significant reductions in grower pay and hardships for our family farms that are vital to our economy.”

Delaware officials noted that the program will compensate contract poultry growers who:

  • Had an active grower contract in force on facilities located in Delaware on March 15.
  • Have an approved CAFO permit or have filed a Notice of Intent for CAFO coverage.
  • And do not have business interruption coverage for the losses covered by the grant program.

For poultry growers who meet these requirements, the grant program will compensate:

  • $1,000 per poultry house, up to a maximum payment of $5,000 per farm.
  • In addition, any grower that meets the above criteria, and had to depopulate birds remaining in-house for composting related to COVID-19 will receive another $1,500 per poultry house depopulated without cap.

Chicken companies in Delaware and Maryland placed 45 percent fewer chicks in farmers’ chicken houses in early May, after quarantine measures and business closures took effect around the country, than those companies had placed two months earlier, DPI noted. Only 6 million chicks were placed in family farmers’ chicken houses in Delaware and Maryland the first week of May, a significant decline compared to the 10.7 million chicks placed on those farms in the first week of March. That drop in chicks placed represents lost income for Delmarva’s more than 1,300 farmers raising chicken in contractual agreements with chicken processing companies. Contract chicken growers are ineligible to receive aid from the USFA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

For more information about the Delaware plan, visit https://agriculture.delaware.gov/grants-loans/.

For more information about the Maryland plan, visit https://mda.maryland.gov/Pages/farmer-relief.aspx.

DPI statistics about the Delmarva chicken industry for 2019 — the most recent year data are available — can be found at https://www.dpichicken.org/facts/facts-figures.cfm.

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