Grain elevator deemed ‘critical part of Southern Maryland’s ag community’
SALISBURY, Md. — The state is working with Perdue Agribusiness to prevent the closure of Southern Maryland’s largest grain elevator, Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder said last week.
After the Delmarva Farmer published a story about Perdue’s plan to close the Anne Arundel County facility March 31, the company and Bartenfelder released a statement Jan. 20 saying both parties were looking for solutions to avert the closure.
“The Lothian grain elevator is a critical part of Southern Maryland’s agriculture community and our department is committed to working with all parties to find a solution for our farmers,” Bartenfelder said.
Spokespeople for the agriculture department and Perdue said it was too soon to provide more detail.
Some Southern Maryland farmers expressed surprise in early January when they learned of Perdue’s intention to close the elevator, which has been in operation for roughly four decades. Perdue will stop receiving grain at the elevator Feb. 26, and several farmers said the change will force them to truck the grain elsewhere or stop raising those crops.
Anne Arundel County farmers have already discussed forming a cooperative to take over the facility, according to a Jan. 20 report in Annapolis’s Capital Gazette newspaper.
“This January 15 closure announcement is an unnecessary assault on the very people who have made this company’s extraordinary growth possible,” County Executive Steuart Pittman said in a statement. “With over $6 billion in annual sales, Perdue can afford to give local stakeholders adequate time to come up with a plan.”
Several growers said they had already purchased seed and fertilizer under the expectation that they would sell their harvest at the elevator. A Perdue spokesperson told the Farmer that growers who use the facility were informed about the company’s plans, and the announcement left “all affected associates and partners with ample time to facilitate a seamless transition.”
Perdue is selling the facility due to a decline in business there, Scott Fredericksen, Perdue Agribusiness president, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, over the last 20 years, we have seen a significant reduction in Anne Arundel County farmland, including a 30-percent reduction in total harvested grain acres — a trend that no longer aligns with our long-term business strategy,” he said.
The company wants to minimize the closure’s impact on growers, he said.
“Taking care of our farmers is very important to us, and we are working to assist those farmers that are inconvenienced by this closure with logistical costs,” he said. “We always put our farmers first.”