Recently an opinion article was published in the Burlington NC Times News attacking Alamance County poultry operations. Our response is posted here, and was submitted to the Burlington Times News, to correct the misinformation and get the facts straight.
“The March 3, 2019 column, “NC needs to clean up poultry industry” was littered with incorrect statements and figures related to the poultry industry. These statements are put forward by the Environmental Working Group and the Waterkeeper Alliance, two groups with a long history of working against animal agriculture. Far from the 4 million birds that are claimed in the March 3 article, Alamance County produced only 690,000 broilers (chickens for meat) in 2017. At any given time, this means that the entire county only has about 140,000 broilers present. When you add in the other types of chickens such as egg-laying chickens, the number increases to only 300,000 chickens. The number cited in the March 3 article was incorrect by more than a factor of 10. The correct numbers for the poultry industry in Alamance County and statewide are easily accessible from the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service (NCDA&CS).
The article mentions that there is no way of knowing where these farms or flocks of birds are located. Currently all flocks of poultry either on family farms or backyard flocks must be registered with the NCDA. This is so they are easily notified and accessed in case of an outbreak of any type of disease such as Avian flu.
In stark contrast to the misinformation from the Waterkeeper Alliance, the data from NCDA&CS shows that the poultry industry in Alamance County has actually contracted significantly over time. In the mid-1990s, Alamance County had about 800,000 broilers and another 500,000 laying chickens. Even then, Alamance County did not have anywhere near the numbers alleged by the Waterkeepers.
Many of the poultry farms in Alamance County house laying chickens, which are much smaller operations than the ones described by the Waterkeeper Alliance. A typical layer operation generally has fewer than 20,000 chickens spread among two or more houses. These houses do have large ventilation fans, but these are to maintain the correct temperature in the houses and maintain healthy chickens.
Starting up a new poultry operation is not as easy as mentioned in the article. Much more than a building permit is required. The amount of capital is well over $500,000 for infrastructure alone. If you add in the cost of land, houses, and equipment it could approach $1,000,000.00. A site analysis of the land and other environmental inspections must also be performed.
These farms are regulated by the State, and are required to maintain a waste utilization plan. This plan governs where and when litter can be land applied, and how much can go on each field. Many local farmers who raise other crops use litter from our farms as a source of fertilizer, and to add much-needed organic matter to our clay soils.
Alamance County poultry farmers care deeply about the land and water resources that we depend on to grow safe, affordable food for our county, state, and nation.”