HURLOCK, Md. – Delaware Governor John Carney and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced a new grant program to help contract poultry growers in their states impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two governors laid out a plan where the program will offer financial aid of $1,000 per poultry house and up to $5,000 per farm. Additionally, poultry growers can apply for $1,500 more per poultry house that were forced to depopulate birds during the spring.

“Far too often our farmers don’t get the respect or the appreciation they deserve, but I want our entire ag community to know that your commitment to our state and to our ag industry does not go unnoticed,” Hogan said.

In the announcement, Delaware explained that poultry growers raise the chickens on contract for various poultry companies. Due to that technicality they were not eligible for the US Department of Agriculture’s Coronavirus Food Assistant Program (CFAP) funds. 

“Because of the disruption of markets, labor availability for the companies to run at full capacity in the processing plants, and other COVID-19 related impacts, Delaware growers were faced with longer than normal layout times and saw a decrease in the number of birds placed,” said Michael Scuse, Delaware’s secretary of agriculture.

Delmarva Poultry Inc. released information stating chicken companies in Delaware and Maryland placed 45% fewer chicks in houses during the month of May. Six million chicks were placed in houses during May compared to 10.7 million in the first week of March.

“This announcement recognizes how crucial the chicken community is to Delmarva’s economy, and it acknowledges chicken growers faced sudden business disruptions none of them could have foreseen or prevented,” said Holly Porter, executive director of Delmarva Poultry. “The chicken industry never called time out during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the food web held together under real stress. Chicken growers saw significant income interruptions, and while federal aid has helped repair balance sheets for other US farmers, contract chicken growers have been left on the sidelines.”

Applications for grants are open in both Maryland and Delaware through Dec. 1.