By Jemie Lee
DELMAR, Del - Local politicians sat down with chicken farmers today for a summit to discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by the poultry industry on the eastern shore. Local poultry farmers like Hilmar Helgason are furious about the state of the industry and the regulations imposed by the government. Regulations like the amount of nutrient run-off allowed into the Chesapeake Bay have plagued the farmers with loads of paperwork. "The government needs to put a stop to this. Its getting out of hand. There's absolutely no sense in this," said Helgason.
Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Delaware and Maryland congressional leaders and state and industry leaders heard arguments Monday at the Delmar Volunteer Fire Hall. Topics of discussion included export sales, labor needs, operating costs, and environmental issues.
Carper compiled a to-do list prioritizing some of the initiatives discussed. Number one on the list was to improve access to foreign markets. Carper stressed the importance of tapping into big markets such as India, and Africa. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) advocated for exports to ensure that we get access to foreign markets that have found ways to block out exports of our poultry products. Carper and Senator John Carney (D-Del.) talked about the use of responsible science to come up with a better bio-fuel as an alternative to corn ethanol. Third on the list was to nurture a productive and dependable workforce to create and preserve jobs on the peninsula.
Leaders continued to discuss the use of chicken manure in more environmentally-friendly ways. They also wanted to ensure that farmers get appropriate credit for any future regulations of pollution in the bay.
Legislators made a point to assure local farmers that they will provide certainty and predictability for the poultry industry in Delmarva. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) joined the discussion via phone and stated that she will keep fighting for the farmers of the eastern shore and make sure that their voices will be heard in Washington.