Broiler sales in Virginia, Delaware enjoy bump
Broiler sales in Delaware and Virginia grew significantly between 2012 and 2017 while sales in Maryland stagnated, recent USDA show.
In Delaware, the number of broilers sold rose by nearly a quarter to 262.8 million in 2017, according to the recently released Ag Census, which compared 2017 broiler sales to the 2012 census. Sales in Virginia grew by about 10 percent to 261.7 million broilers.
But in Maryland, broiler sales grew by just 1 percent to 307.7 million due to the growing regulatory burden placed on producers, said Jonathan Moyle, a University of Maryland Extension poultry specialist.
“Because of the regulations in Maryland, it’s getting harder to grow birds, and it’s cheaper in other states,” he said.
The poultry industry’s shift toward larger, more efficient operations is also evident in the data. Sales growth in Maryland and Delaware was achieved with fewer farms, though the number of them selling more than 500,000 broilers in a year has increased.
The number of farms selling broilers in Maryland fell by more than 30 to 823, and in Delaware by 70 to 602 — despite a poultry house construction boom across the Eastern Shore over the last several years. Industry officials have said much of that construction was replacement housing for old houses.
In Virginia, the number of farms selling broilers rose by more than 200 to 1,080, although more than half of them are relatively small operations, selling less than 2,000 broilers in 2017. Again, Moyle credited tightening regulatory and consumer demands for the shift.
“We’re seeing the regulatory environment is pushing the size of the farm up,” he said.
Farmers in Maryland have been juggling the demands of the state’s Phosphorous Management Tool, which seeks to reduce the amount of phosphorus that ends up in local waters by limiting how much manure can be applied to crop fields. Local governments have also passed a raft of new poultry house regulations on the Shore.
Broilers, in general, are bigger, however, Moyle said, and data from the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. indicates farmers on the Eastern Shore are being paid more for their product. They earned nearly $270 million in contract income in 2018, a 251-percent increase, inflation-adjusted, from a decade before, the trade organization said.
The wholesale value of chicken grown on the Shore in 2018 was $3.4 billion, a 31-percent increase from a decade before.
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