Monday, October 2, 2023

Viewpoint: Poultry farmers will grow and benefit from more competition

By Mike Savage Special to Poultry Times

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GAINESVILLE, Ga. — For the last 33 years, my family has been proudly raising broiler chickens and cattle in Northeast Georgia on the farm I grew up on … the same farm as my father and his father before him.

I’ve been with my growing partner, Wayne Farms, for that entire time. While running a family farm is a full-time job and then some, I try to stay current on the bigger issues affecting our industry. Last summer, when Wayne announced its intention to merge with Sanderson Farms, I was excited to see these two companies combine.

Recently I’ve heard some critics of the deal suggesting that it shouldn’t happen because chicken farmers get the short end of the stick and that growth in our industry would come at the farmer’s expense.

I feel it’s important that I speak out and correct this narrative — not only because it isn’t true, but because I strongly believe that these myths turn young folks away from pursuing a rewarding career in farming.

Here’s my story:

My family’s partnership with Wayne Farms mirrors that of thousands of other farm families here in Georgia. Many of us have been in this business for years, and the growth and economic prosperity (both on and off the farm) that comes from it can be seen across our region and across our family dinner tables.

On our farm, we regularly invest to upgrade and construct new poultry houses with the financial support provided by our contract partnership.  State-of-the-art heating, cooling and watering systems help our flocks stay healthy and comfortable no matter the weather outside.

These kinds of investments allowed our farm to grow, which allowed me to carry on the family business.

When my father passed this farm along to me, he was thinking of the next generation.  Today, I am so grateful to be able to share this experience and opportunity with my own children.

As we know all too well, the farming business is not easy, particularly given how key feed commodities change in price quickly. The markets are so volatile; money made in the morning can be lost by suppertime.

But for me and a lot of farmers I know, a key feature of being a chicken farmer is that the partner company takes on most of the financial brunt, shielding me from market risks like fluctuating feed and grain prices.

They provide chicks, feed, medicine, and veterinary care, letting me focus on raising my flocks with the highest level of care. Most importantly, I’m making a financially secure living for my family. I work hard (as all farmers do), but I’m compensated fairly.

The good news is that critics in big cities don’t get to decide what’s right for America’s poultry farmers.

As you would expect, the possibility for a new chicken company is getting a thorough review from the government before it is approved. My hope is that critics of this deal will stop using myths about how farmers like me are compensated as a cover for their opposition.

From my perspective, and I hope you’ll agree, this merger means growth and competition in the poultry industry, and that means an increase in the supply of chicken.

That’s a good thing for Americans’ dinner tables, our local community here in Gainesville, Ga. — and farming families like mine.


Mike Savage is a Hall County, Ga., farmer who raises broiler chickens for Wayne Farms.

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