By DEBORAH GATES
The Daily Times of Salisbury
SALISBURY, Md. (AP) — Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, winding his way through the Eastern Shore toward Annapolis, stopped at a fast-food restaurant to lunch on a broiled chicken sandwich.
It was a fitting meal to cap off a day on the Lower Shore bolstering one of the region’s most powerful economic engines — the poultry industry.
Call it putting his money where his mouth is. And Franchot promises he’s just getting started.
At the region’s first Delmarva Poultry Summit at Salisbury University on Wednesday, Franchot reminded a diverse audience that two years ago, growers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore produced $640 million worth of poultry, with Wicomico County’s share alone totaling $250 million.
Up next is a similar presentation in Annapolis by Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. and support industries with a mission to educate state legislators about the industry’s value.
Franchot was instrumental in putting on the summit with DPI and the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce that underscored the economic impact of the multimillion-dollar poultry industry across Delmarva. The forum attracted an estimated 150 people in business, education, politics and of course, poultry, from both Maryland and Delaware. Among those attending were Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance and his Delaware counterpart, Ed Kee.
“I appreciate the billions and billions of dollars of economic activity by the industry; some people think food falls from the sky,” Franchot said in an interview after the forum. “The industry affects the economic health of the state. That’s how large the presence of the chicken industry is in Maryland, and it is not appreciated by all Annapolis leaders.”
Bill Satterfield, executive director of DPI, called Franchot “a welcomed cheerleader” and a needed voice in getting attention for the Eastern Shore’s poultry industry in the state capital.
“Our forum today was three-and-a-half hours — we would welcome 15 minutes with the legislature,” Satterfield said. “We would hope that they would better understand the industry’s importance economically and environmentally, and by the charitable contributions that come to hundreds of groups.”
Maryland Delegate Norman Conway, a Democrat who represents Wicomico and Worcester counties, said a lack of knowledge of the impact of the poultry industry on other key industries in the state exists not only among some state elected officials, but also consumers.
“People do not have an appreciation of the integration of poultry and our entire economy,” said Conway, who attended the summit. “Agriculture is No. 1 in the state and poultry plays a tremendous part in agriculture being No. 1.”
Andrew McLean of PNC Bank, Doug Green of Atlantic Tractor and Eric Calloway of the Maryland and Delaware Railroad were among seven business leaders who spoke about the importance of the poultry industry on their businesses.
“The chicken industry needs the railroad and the railroad needs the chicken industry,” Satterfield said. “The railroad brings in corn from the midwest, feed ingredients, and we need these things. If they were brought in by truck, it would be more expensive and we would be less competitive.”
Franchot, likening poultry on the Eastern Shore to oranges in Florida, urged the audience to be a promoter of the poultry industry, not a critic. He said he hoped a presentation in Annapolis by DPI and support industries would happen before the end of February.
“The state needs to reach out and help the industry,” Franchot said. “The state needs to stop attacking the industry.”
Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., http://www.delmarvanow.com/
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)