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June 15, 2011

Eastern Shore senator laments loss of chicken jobs

State Sen. Richard Colburn is sounding the alarm on the recent bankruptcy filing of a Delaware poultry company with operations on Maryland's Eastern Shore -- calling it "devastating" news for his district.

Allen Family Food's Cordova plant is Talbot County's second-largest employer, Colburn said, behind only the Memorial Hospital at Easton. The bad news comes as the Delmarva Poultry Industry prepares for its annual Chicken Festival this weekend in Georgetown, Del.

Seaford, Del.-based Allen filed for bankruptcy last week and announced plans to close its facilities in Maryland, Delaware and North Carolina, according to delmarvanow.com. The 92-year-old company is seeking to sell assets to Mountaire, another Delaware poultry company.

The state Department of Business and Economic Development reports that about 500-600 employees work at the Cordova plant, not including farmers with Allen-contracted chicken houses.

Colburn, an Eastern Shore Republican, said in a statement that he does not believe Maryland's two other major poultry producers, Perdue and Mountaire, will take over any of Allen's chicken houses north of Route 301. 

"The Delmarva poultry industry has already been adversely affected by the economic recession, and the bankruptcy of Allen Foods will only hurt the industry even more," Colburn said in a statement. "Since Allen has long been a major employer on the Eastern Shore, the company’s bankruptcy will cause many Shore residents to lose their jobs."

Last year, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation imposed a record $1 million fine on Allen after finding 51 violations at its Hurlock production plant. Allen sold that property to South Carolina-based Amick Farms.

A DBED spokeswoman said the agency is aware of Allen's bankruptcy and is tracking the situation.

Colburn said he has contacted DBED and the Maryland Department of Agriculture to "address the situation."

"I intend to continue to work closely with both departments to help lessen the devastating economic blow that the closure of Allen Foods will have on our area," Colburn said. 

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:20 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: jobs, jobs, jobs
        

Comments

I'm sure this makes O'Malley and Brown and Mikulski very happy. They hate rural Marylanders which is also why they want to stop development with the proposed septic tank law and with the increased tolls on the Bay Bridge, which will probably be used to help pay for illegal immigrants getting their in-state tuition among other benefits.

LOOKS LIKE THAT "HOPE & CHANGE" IS WORKING

What the heck is North of Rt 301 on the Eastern Shore mean? 301 only runs east-west for five or six miles tops so it can connect with the Bay Bridge which would be the only piece there could be any north of. To my knowledge there are no chickenhouses in that small stretch of land so what do you mean when you say north of 301? Do you mean north of Rt 50? That's a huge difference that you should know if you write for this paper.

From Julie: That information -- and, yes, RT 301 is correct -- is from Sen. Colburn.

The poultry industry is one of the lifebloods of the Eastern Shore economy. Allen's was a major player. In addition to the employees at the Cordova plant, there are probably 150-200 families that grow birds under contract with Allen. These individuals are heavily leveraged for these operations, often tying their land and personal home into these operations. The Allen contracts sustain the mortgage payments and other family expenses. If a satisfactory resolution is not fashioned (and the government can play a role in proving incentives for Perdue, Mountaire, Amick, and others to step in), we could have hundreds of Eastern Shore residents lose their homes on top of their jobs. If this was a UAW plant in Baltimore, you can bet the Governor and his staff would be all over the issue. Wake up Annapolis. This is a crisis in the making. You have time to stem the damage, but you need to get moving now!

Julie Rt 301 and rt 50 are the same road from rt 50 in bowie to the rt 50 rt 301 split in queenstown on the eastern shore after that rt 301 goes all the way to wilminton Del at the very least and may go farther than that I am not sure after that point. the distance from queenstown to the Del, state line is at least 30 miles and there has to be enough land to make up about 10 or 20 baltimores so stop being a baltimoron and learn a little local geography

From Julie: I hope you saw that the Route 301 information came from your local representative, Sen. Colburn.

To all those complainers...please read the article. It appears the company is also closing farms/plants in Delaware and North Carolina; not just Maryland so how does the blames go only to O'Malley? If the company was actually financially viable,they would then be closing only their Maryland plants while retaining their plants in other states. What you have is an obviously poorly managed company that was not able to adapt in hard economic times and is forced to go out of business. I thought that is the capitalism that conservative Republicans worship.

I feel for the families that lost their jobs, but Allen Family Foods has had an awful track record of poor worker safety standards. And is operating poultry houses really such a great gig? As I understand it, contractors often have little or no autonomy over how animals are raised, and are frequently saddled with debt - not to mention the public health and environmental risks associated with the industry. I'm not from the Eastern Shore, but I wonder - are there other industries that could take the place of poultry production? Is that something that the residents would want?

Let's see:

A Delaware-based company is going out of business and closing its operations in Maryland and North Carolina as well.

That's the fault of O'Malley, apparently. Hmm.

And a company in the industry most responsible for the degradation of the Chesapeake Bay's health-- a development that has caused the loss of many other blue collar jobs on the Eastern Shore, mind you-- is losing viability (perhaps because people are increasingly interested in where their food is from, and would rather not eat chickens grown in factory-farm conditions, by companies that impose financial hostage scenarios on their contracted employees) and that's the fault of Obama.

This is all very interesting. So if O'Malley had managed to arrange more attractive business conditions in Delaware-- the business-friendly haven that all of our employers are surely fleeing to because of Maryland's onerous conditions-- so that this company could continue operating in Maryland, thereby continuing to pollute the bay and kill off seafood populations, limiting the opportunities for Eastern Shore watermen as well as Eastern Shore pickers and canning and shipping companies as well as western shore restaurant and retail dealers-- all of which provide a primary identity of the state-- who gets the credit then?

AK: Today's Baltimore Sun reports, "Overall, Maryland had about 20,000 fewer jobs in May than it did a year earlier, the federal agency estimated. That almost 1 percent drop in employment was worst in the nation, followed by New Mexico, Georgia and Nevada." Wait until the growers and others businesses affected by the Allen bankruptcy are added to the count. What will it take to get the attention of this Governor?!

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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