Satterfield reflects on industry changes
GEORGETOWN, Del. — After 32 years working for Delmarva Poultry Industry, Bill Satterfield has retired as the trade group’s executive director but not before reflecting on the changes he and the industry have seen in that time.
Satterfield started work at DPI in 1986, with no experience in the chicken industry, as executive assistant to the newly hired J executive director erry Truitt.
Six years later, Satterfield was named executive director, continuing at that post until his retirement at the end of 2018 as the group’s longest serving executive director.
“In these more than three decades with DPI, our ways of working for our members and our industry have changed significantly,” Satterfield wrote in his final column in the DPI newsletter. “Some changes were forced upon us, and some were made voluntarily. Whatever the reason, the work DPI has done has adjusted to the times.”
As chicken companies grew and expanded their internal expertise in production, many of DPI’s committees such as its Breeder and Hatchery, Transportation and Nutrition and Feed Manufacturing committees became less necessary and many discontinued, Sattefield said, as the group pivoted to serve members in other ways.
Perhaps the most pivotal change came in the late 1990s when an outbreak of toxic Pfiesteria led to sweeping changes in government regulation for farmers.
“Actually, Pfiesteria was not the culprit,” Satterfield wrote. “It was the politicians and activist industry that needed a cause to further their missions. Absent sound science, seemingly endless attacks began against our farm-family growers, our chicken companies, and our entire industry. Irresponsible allegations were made claiming that chicken manure, through improper handling, was killing fish and sickening human beings.
“Strict new environmental laws regulating the use of chicken manure were enacted in the absence of credible science. Much of our work today continues because of what started in 1998.”
In a recent telephone interview, Satterfield said there was so much going on at that time, but after bills went through the 1998 legislative session that mandated nutrient management planning for farmers, “we knew that things had changed.”
Satterfield said prior to the legislation, the chicken industry had a “rather benign” relationship with the legislature.
“We didn’t ask for much and they didn’t ask us to do much,” he said.
But since 1998, government relations has taken on a heavy focus at DPI. It established an Environmental Committee, enlisted lobbyist Nick Manis and got more active in engaging with legislators.
“We moved away from helping our members grow, feed, process, and transport chickens to dealing with external forces that continue their attacks and criticisms,” Satterfield wrote in his column.
“We’ve made progress,” Satterfield added, but with 60 new state legislators taking office this month in Maryland, “the education process needs to start anew.”
Along with defending the industry at the state level, Satterfield said that county government interaction has increased in recent years as well.
The main issue is regarding zoning changes to restrict where chicken houses can be built and Satterfield said that DPI’s proactive effort in creating recommendations for good neighbor practices and 12 years of helping growers design and plant environmental buffers on their farms have helped, “but our vigilance must continue.”
Work outside the state houses continues and Satterfield pointed to DPI’s electric buying group that has saved qualifying members money on their farm’s energy costs.
Since 2007, the electric buying groups have saved hundreds of members more than $2 million.
The DPI-sponsored National Meeting on Poultry Health, Processing, and Live Production, continues to draw industry experts from across the nation to share information on improving production and the industry.
In his last months at DPI, Satterfield said he sorted through a lot of paper that accumulated in the office since the organization began in 1948 and has been amazed in reviewing the many things DPI has done over the years.
“I am dumbfounded by how much work we have done just since 1986 when I came on board; much of it I had forgotten,” he wrote. “I continually ask myself: we did this? I was at that meeting? I wrote that letter or position paper? We’ve kept busy.”
He said while the career he had may not have been one he pegged for himself, he’s grateful for the people he’s known and work he’s done along the way.
“I never could not have imagined this as a career path upon graduation as a history major from college,” he wrote. “Knowing little about chickens when hired and being with this outstanding organization for 32 years has been amazing.”
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