In Delaware, agriculture accounts for more than $8 billion in economic activity each year. We’ve got 500,000 acres of farmland, 2,500 family farms, and more than 240 million chickens raised per year. Our proximity to population centers along the East Coast helps our agriculture industry thrive. In order to continue to grow our economy, John believes we need to support our farmers and look for new opportunities to expand the agricultural sector in our state.
Improving nutrient management regulations: As Governor, John will work to harmonize our state’s efforts to protect the environment with the need to support our long tradition of being an agricultural engine for the country. Delaware’s farmers are the backbone of our state, particularly in southern Delaware. They are stewards of the land, and they more than anyone understand the importance of robust environmental protections. However, the cost of complying with certain regulations can impose a difficult burden for Delaware’s farmers to meet. That’s why John thinks we need to work with farmers to develop policies that are both practical, and effective. We also need to give farmers the resources they need to be environmentally responsible.
Reducing permitting barriers: In Delaware, poultry is king, with almost all of the grain grown in our state supporting our chicken industry. Yet, the poultry industry has its challenges. We have more than 60 pending farm construction loans totaling $60 million on hold due to permitting and regulatory issues. While we have seen growth in poultry houses, these delays can cause family farmers great hardship when their livelihood depends on being able to grow chickens. John believes we need to work to ensure that regulations and permitting don’t delay families from supporting their small businesses.
Preserving farmland: Delaware first began the farmland preservation program in 1996 and in the ensuing 20 years has seen more than 120,000 acres permanently preserved. As we see decreasing farmland due to development, we need to continue to support the preservation of our farms. Almost our entire grain crop goes toward feeding our chicken industry and, with fewer farms, we will be forced to truck in grain while transportation costs are soaring, leading to increased chicken prices. With the average age of a farm owner in Delaware at 55, John believes we need to ensure that future generations who want to join their family farm are able to continue running these small businesses without huge tax burdens.
Promoting agribusiness: In the past decade, Delaware has seen huge growth in farmers’ markets providing fresh products directly to consumers and has become an economic engine providing more than $3 million in sales in 2015. We have farmers shipping apples to be used at McDonald’s and watermelons for sale in grocery stores across the region, value-added products such as lavender soap, wine, and an assortment of jams and jelly, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. We have growing agribusiness opportunities in Delaware where farms are realizing new funding sources, like value added products. These new ventures promote Delaware products while sustaining farms through the dull months of the winter. Farms in Delaware are even contributing to our tourism economy, like at Lavender Fields in Milton. John believes we need to continue to foster agribusiness in this ever-changing economy to realize the full potential of our agriculture markets.