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Delaware Chicken Association, partners announce $2M conservation program

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DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, Delmarva Chicken Association, conservation

Delmarva Chicken Association is accepting applications from farmers and qualified landscapers for a cost-share program to implement conversation-based practices. | COURTESY OF DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

A $2 million investment will soon help some small business owners sustain their operations while enhancing conservation efforts in Delaware for local waterways.

The Delmarva Chicken Association announced a new partnership alongside the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance, creating a cost-share program for poultry growers in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia seeking to implement conversation-based best management practices. 

The three-year cost-share conservation effort began accepting applications this spring. It is backed by a $997,327 grant from a partnership between the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Another $1 million was contributed by the DCA, the state of Maryland, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance. Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control also provided a $192,000 grant, matched with $203,000 in funds from the DCA, to enhance the multi-agency partnership.

“Farmers are small-businessmen and women. It just happens to also be a great lifestyle but in order to be a successful farmer, you also have to be a great business person. Unfortunately, higher inflation rates and production costs, just as an example, make it very challenging for farmers. What this cost-sharing program does is help them go above and beyond and not have as much in the way of out of pocket cost expenses to them for these conservation efforts,” DCA Executive Director Holly Porter told the Delaware Business Times.

Good-standing DCA members at the $150 membership level or higher who have farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the Delaware Inland Bays and certain areas of the St. Jones River watershed in the Delaware Bay are invited to apply for support through this partnership which could help fund up to 90% of costs associated with applicable projects.

Projects that can be funded up to 90% through the program in the First State include “hedgerows of warm-season grasses near tunnel fans and sidewall fans and pollinator-friendly plantings,” according to the DCA website. This support includes, but is not limited to, technical assistance, planning, implementation, irrigation and follow-up needs. 

Porter said farmers are the first conservationists in a lot of ways, but they often need the financial support from programs like these to make it happen.

“Conservation efforts don’t usually change contract [poultry] grower’s pay, so these efforts are often missed altogether because the farmer doesn’t have the funds available to make it happen,” Porter told DBT. “In a lot of cases, these efforts are things that the farmer doesn’t mind adding to the property, or might even have been something they’ve wanted to do for a while. Having these funds available will really make a difference to a lot of business owners in the area.”

Conservation practices like adding taller grassy areas around the farm can also directly benefit the individual businesses by creating windbreaks near the poultry houses, providing shade and reducing electricity costs.

“The taller grassy areas also help protect the buildings and poultry against storms. Reserving some land for pollinators can also benefit the farmer because they will take less time to mow the acreage. You’re getting more time back in your day and occupying less manpower which, of course, helps the bottom line, too,” Porter told DBT. “The focus of our partners is conservation and we don’t disagree with that, but our focus is maintaining sustainable farms. In order to keep that farm running, what does the farmer need? This program does a great job at addressing both of those needs.”

Conservation practices available for funding through this program in Delaware could also help provide visual buffers from farming activities, ammonia absorption, flood mitigation, noise reduction, nutrient absorption in the soil and dust and odor reduction while improving local waterways.

“Through direct collaborative work with the farmers, we strive to have the industry thrive while protecting one of the last wild rivers, the Nanticoke. On-the-farm initiatives that keep our waterways clean on our environmentally sensitive peninsula are good for all inhabitants of the region and beyond. NWA is privileged to be a part of this and to facilitate these impactful efforts,” Lisa Wool, executive director of Nanticoke Watershed Alliance, said in a press statement.

DCA is currently accepting applications from farmers and qualified landscapers for this program. For more information, visit www.dcachicken.com/green.

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