Don Rush

The emergence of the large chicken house operations has caused a stir in Wicomico County. Residents near a proposed 10 house operation near Naylor Mill Road have protested the project and led to the County Council to draw up new regulations for these types of operations. In part three of our series Delmarva Public Radio's Don Rush looks at the residents, the local officials and the fight over the new regulations.

Harim Allen Chicken Website

HARBESON, Del. (AP) - Poultry producer Allen Harim is celebrating upgrades at the company's processing plant in Harbeson.

The company says it has invested about $30 million to date in expansions and renovations and expects to invest a total of about $40 million by the end of next year.

Renovations at the Harbeson site include upgrades to its wastewater system and production lines that will allow production to double to almost 2 million birds a week.

State officials approved some $11 million in low-interest loans for the wastewater system improvements and expansions.

Don Rush

Some residents in Somerset County could get 12-house mega-chicken operation moving into the neighborhood.

It would be located on Anderson Road where neighbors at the dead end street say they worry about the operation’s impact on the area.

WBOC reports that Gary Pusey, the planning and zoning director, says that there is no need for comment from the public if the operation meets requirements of the proposed county poultry house rules.

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SALISBURY, Md. (AP) - Perdue Foods is says it's renewing its focus on care for its chickens.

The Salisbury-based firm announced a plan Monday that focuses on animals' wants and needs, including a commitment to install windows in chicken houses to compare birds' health and activity to enclosed housing.

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PRINCESS ANNE, Md. (AP) - Changes may be on the horizon for poultry growers in Somerset County.

County commissioners are considering several zoning changes related to poultry operations, including increasing the required distance between chicken houses and neighboring properties.

At a meeting Tuesday, officials also will consider several other recommendations, including landscaping requirements and a proposal that ventilation fans be kept 1,000 feet away from adjacent properties.

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There was another public forum on the debate over the arrival of mega chicken houses in Wicomico County.

It was held at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center last night by local government leaders.

But WBOC reports that when it was over many critics walked away unsatisfied.

There were representatives from the state departments of health, agriculture and the environment to answer questions from the public.

Don Rush

An environmental consultant says that it would be okay for Wicomico County to allow the large chicken house operation slated for Naylor Mill Road.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that John D. Hynes and Associates found that the Maryland groundwater protection rules would be strong enough to protect such areas as the Paleo Channel and nearby waterways.

The paper says that Monica Brooks, a local resident and critic of the project, called the report “passing the buck” to justify going forward.

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The proposed mega-poultry operation for Naylor Mill road riles up local residents as political leaders struggle with the new phenomenon in the chicken industry. Delmarva Public Radio's Patrick Lieb prepared this report.

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There will be no moratorium on large chicken houses in Wicomico County.

Council president John Cannon told a meeting last night, that the council does not have enough information to impose one. 

Don Rush

Maryland officials told Wicomico County residents that when it came to pollution from the planned mega chicken house operation along Naylor Mill Road there would be zero tolerance.

There were around 400 people who showed up at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center for last night’s meeting put together by County Executive Bob Culver.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that among the signs at the meeting – one read: “Save our water for our future.”

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There could up to 8 chicken houses near the town of Hebron.

They would be located at the southeast corner of Levin Dashield Road and Rockawalkin Ridge Road.

The Salisbury Daily Times is reporting that Ali Murtaza from New York is listed with the Maryland Department of the Environment for the permits.

The paper reports that when contacted by phone they were told, “I don’t want to say anything about it.”

The proposed chicken operation come on the heels of the uproar over another major poultry house slated for the Naylor Mill Road area in Wicomico County.


Local residents showed up at the Wicomico County Council meeting last night to express their dismay at the prospect of a poultry farm that is expected to have at least 10 chicken houses located just north of Salisbury along Naylor Mill Road.

Not only did the scale of the poultry house concern residents but they also worried about the impact on the Paleo Channel aquifer.

Council President John Cannon told residents that the research presented to them would be fully reviewed.

Don Rush

Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver has issued a statement to reassure local residents about the large poultry operation planned for the Naylor Mill Road area.

Culver said that many of the statements at public meetings and in the media have been “less than accurate”.

But he added that he did have concerns about the issue and would reach out to experts who are charged with the responsibility of protecting public health and the environment.

Don Rush

The Accomack County Board of Supervisors has decided to impose tighter regulations on poultry houses.

They are believed to be the toughest rules for the poultry industry on Delmarva.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that under the ordinance approved on Wednesday the new regulations range from requiring a landscape plan and a maximum of five chicken houses per acre to increased setbacks from existing homes, mobile home parks and other structures.

There would also be a new 400-feeot setback from undeveloped property.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A measure in Maryland would make poultry companies responsible for chicken manure, which environmentalists cite as a major pollutant in the Chesapeake Bay.

Supporters have scheduled a news conference for Tuesday in Annapolis to talk about the bill.

The measure is being called the Poultry Litter Management Act.

The bill will seek to protect Maryland farmers and taxpayers from the costs that advocates say should be paid by large poultry companies.

Virginia Association for Biological Farming Website

HUDDLESTON, Va. (AP) - Smith Mountain Lake is set to host this month's annual Virginia Association for Biological Farming conference.

The News & Advance reports the event will take place at the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Center in Franklin County on Jan. 29 and 30.

VABF Executive Director Sue Ellen Johnson says this is the first time in years that the event has been held in the immediate Roanoke area.

The 17th annual event has been held near Richmond for the past four years.

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Wicomico County could see the largest chicken operation to be built in the area just outside of Salisbury.

It would contain 13 poultry houses and would be located near Naylor Mill and North West roads to the northwest of the town.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that the proposal has environmentalists rallying for a fight against the project.

They say it’s just part of a major move toward large poultry operations that began in Accomack and Somerset counties.

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Last night a Somerset County Planning and Zoning hearing got an earful about concerns over the increasing number of chicken houses in the region.

WBOC reports that residents from Princess Anne called on the county commissioners to deal with issues ranging from noise and pollution to traffic and smells among other things.

A number of residents complained that they have been overrun by the chicken houses endangering their property values.

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia agriculture officials report that organic farming is increasing in the state.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says Virginia had 167 organic farms in 2014, up from 156 in 2008. Those farms generated $41.3 million in sales, more than double the $19.2 million in 2008.

Eighty-one percent of the organic sales came from crop production. Fourteen percent came from livestock and poultry products such as milk and eggs, and five percent from livestock and poultry animals.

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The increasing number of factory chicken houses brought out around fifty people to a town hall meeting in Somerset County this week.

It was aimed at drumming up support for local regulations that would ensure neighbors and agricultural workers are not negatively impacted by these large operations.

Organizers said there have been some 70 new poultry houses that have been given permits in the county.

Kathy Phillips with the Assateague Coastkeeper told the gathering that poultry production has moved away from mom-and-pop operations.

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DOVER, Del. (AP) - Delaware officials have approved a request by poultry producer Allen Harim Foods for some $11 million in state loans.

Members of the Water Infrastructure Advisory Council gave their final approval for the loans at a meeting Wednesday, after giving conditional approval at the panel's previous meeting.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control says a letter was sent to the company after the approval and the next step is loan closing.

Allen Harim Foods Website

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Delaware officials are close to signing off on a request by poultry producer Allen Harim Foods for some $11 million in state loans.

Members of the Water Infrastructure Advisory Council were expected to give their final approval for the loans at a meeting Wednesday, after giving conditional approval at the panel's previous meeting. Environmental secretary David Small is responsible for the final decision.

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WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - Delaware cats are a new protected class under animal control legislation being signed into law by Gov. Jack Markell.

Markell was to sign two bills Tuesday, one relating to cruelty to animals, and the other involving dangerous dogs.

One measure allows first responders to use reasonable force to remove an animal confined in a motor vehicle under conditions likely to cause suffering, injury, or death.

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Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder says he expects the Avian flu to hit the state sometime in the fall.

So far, there have been no cases of the disease on Delmarva.

But with the migration of waterfowl from Canada agriculture officials say it’s only a matter of time.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that agriculture secretary said the state was doing everything it could to protect a $1 billion industry.

This includes a ban to take effect August 25th on displaying poultry at all fairs and shows.

Mercy for Animals

Mercy for Animals says it has video of mistreatment of chickens at the McGinnis Farms in a Dagsboro.

The poultry farm is under contract with Tyson Foods.

The Wilmington News Journal reports that so far there has been no response form officials for McGinnis.

Meanwhile, Tyson responded by saying that they valued the well-being of the animals and would not tolerate any abuse.  

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The avian flu has hit the poultry industry with a vengeance leaving 48 million chickens and turkey dead since last December.

The U.S. Agriculture Department has been moving quickly to round of the birds as quickly as possible and killing them before it spreads.

In the Mid-West the pandemic appears to have slowed.

But during a senate committee hearing yesterday on Capitol Hill Delaware Democrat Tom Carper warned of becoming too complacent.

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BALTIMORE (AP) - Agriculture officials and poultry farmers in Maryland are taking extra precautions against bird flu after outbreaks devastated flocks in other states.
The Baltimore Sun reports the Maryland Department of Agriculture has banned the entry of waterfowl in fairs and shows in the state, stepped up testing requirements for poultry and met with emergency-management officials to prepare in case of an outbreak.

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The Somerset County Planning and Zoning Commission indicated yesterday it may be included to toughening up the regulations on chicken houses.

Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald said that this was not just a Somerset County problem but an industry problem.

Supporters of tighter regulations wore stickers at the public hearing that said “Factory Farms make me sick,” while opponents had their own which read, ”If you eat food, thank a farmer.”

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that the commissioners indicated they would consider making large projects get their approval.

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GUMBORO, Del. (AP) - Fire investigators say a fire in a Gumboro poultry house has killed 21,000 6-week-old chickens.

The Delaware State Fire Marshal's office says the fire broke out Wednesday evening in the poultry house on Jones Church Road.

Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael Chionchio says investigators determined that the blaze in the 500-foot-long building was accidental. He says the fire started with an electrical malfunction at an outlet at one end of the building and spread, killing 21,000 chickens and destroying the building.

Don Rush

Maryland state leaders could be close to a compromise on Governor Larry Hogan’s proposal to reduce the runoff of phosphorus from farms into the Chesapeake Bay.

WBOC reports that the regulations would divide farms into three tiers based on the amount of phosphorus in the soil.

There would be a 20 member advisory board that could weigh in on whether the farmers are making enough progress or need more time.

The panel would include environmentalists like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation as well as agricultural advocates such as the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc.