Delaware still easing access to mortality freezers
DOVER, Del. — Delaware’s state government made about $1 million available last month to help beginning farmers in Kent County address poultry mortality issues, a move that could boost the adoption of poultry freezers in the state.
The money, released to encourage Kent farmers to purchase poultry composters or freezers to address routine bird morality, is focused on new farmers who haven’t been in operation long enough to show the federal government a demonstrated need for poultry morality assistance, said Timothy Riley, a coordinator with the Kent Conservation District.
The conservation district and the state departments of agriculture and natural resources are paying for Delaware’s new program, which seeks to improve water quality and biosecurity in the state. Kent’s program arrives two years after the Sussex Conservation District released $1 million for a similar program.
Though most farmers still use poultry composters to deal with bird mortality, more are trying poultry freezers, which allow farmers to simply deposit carcasses into freezers that are emptied and disposed of at regional rendering plants for a fee, Riley said.
“They’re getting to be used more now, but they’re still the minority,” he said.
To be eligible for money, farmers must meet the National Resources Conservation Service’s eligibility requirements for its Environmental Quality Incentives Program, known popularly as EQIP.
Greener Solutions, a Delaware company founded in 2012, has been working to make poultry freezers — widely used across the South — more popular in the Delmarva region. The company has brought on seven new farms on as customers this year and plans to add two dozen by year’s end, said Victor Clark, company co-founder — fueled, in part, by the expansion of the region’s poultry industry in recent years.
The Kent program should help speed up the adoption of poultry freezers, he said.
The Deleware Nutrient Management Commission announced last year a pilot cost-share program that allowed farmers to recoup 75 percent of the cost of hauling deadstock from poultry freezers, which also boosted demand, Clark said.
“But we’ve also seen increased interest in Maryland and Virginia, so on some level it’s simply about getting the word out,” he said. “We plan on boosting our ad expenditure, but honestly, it’s our current customers that really sell this practice.”
Clark’s companies are also offering a $100 rebate per freezer unit purchased through the Kent program and a collection fee rebate of $100 per flock for one year after installation.
The next application deadline to the Kent Conservation District is June 15. All applications are batched monthly and expedited through the contract process.
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