DOVER, Del. — Sen. Tom Carper urged Delaware Farm Bureau members attending a Monday morning breakfast in Dover to be thankful for positive things such as reduced unemployment and lower national deficits.
“Just one or two more things, and then we’ll talk about the important thing: farming,” he quipped.
“I’ve been hosting the Farm Bureau breakfast for years now as a way to bridge what I’m doing in Washington to Delaware,” Carper said. “The agriculture industry is vitally important to Delaware, and I will continue to do everything I can to make sure we’re supporting this industry and listening to their concerns.”
Delaware Farm Bureau President Gary Warren introduced Carper as “a friend of agriculture.”
When Carper spoke about farming, he touched on a very familiar subject: the often contentious clash between farmers and environmentalists. With numerous lawsuits making headlines, the two groups often seem to be unable to find common ground.
Carper said farmers and environmentalists need to “communicate and compromise.” When asked a question about a “potful” of possible Environmental Protection Agency regulations impacting farmers, he repeated the comments. The speaker then asked if there was any way to bring the EPA to the table and make them more reasonable.
Carper said it’s incorrect to assume that a choice must be made between “a clean environment and a better economy.” He called that a “false” choice because he thinks it’s possible to have both.
Both Carper and Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee urged members to attend a Dec. 17 hearing on remediation of an existing industrial site proposed for a poultry plant by Allen Harim, a South Korean company.
The plan by Allen Harim has proven controversial, in part because soil testing has shown contamination at the site of the former Vlasic Pickle plant in Millsboro.
Carper said it is important that more than just the “naysayers” attend the hearing.
Earlier this week, an appeal of a Sussex County Board of Adjustment decision approving the Harim plant was filed. That appeal was filed Tuesday morning by a group called Protecting Our Indian River, setting the stage for yet another legal showdown between agriculture and environmentalists.
“Sussex County erroneously approved a permit to the detriment of the public health and safety of this community and the environment,” said Cindy Wilton, a founding member of Protecting our Indian River.
“This is beyond shortsighted — it’s irresponsible and dangerous,” said Maria Payan of Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, or SRAP. “This community is already suffering the long-term effects of contamination from the Vlasic plant, including the cumulative impact of an unsolved cancer cluster and two nearby superfund sites. The social and environmental consequences of allowing this pollution-intensive Harim operation into this sensitive setting are nothing less than disastrous.”
Kee strongly disagreed, calling the opening of the Harim plant “a referendum on agriculture.”
“The Department of Agriculture strongly supports the Allen Harim processing plant proposed for the former Vlasic pickling plant near Millsboro,” according to a statement from Delaware’s Department of Agriculture. “It will create a huge benefit for Delaware, with 700 new direct jobs, all paying above minimum wage with benefits; about 100 of those will be higher-paid managerial or engineering jobs. Allen Harim will be investing more than $100 million into the plant to overhaul it, improve the roads, upgrade the wastewater treatment process and make it a state-of-the-art, virtually odor- and noise-free facility.
“This project will also directly benefit farmers by leading to expansion in poultry growing. Allen Harim has estimated that when the plant is at peak capacity, it will need about 100 new poultry houses on the Delmarva Peninsula to supply its expanded operations ... The poultry industry is crucial to our agricultural economy on the Delmarva Peninsula, responsible for thousands of jobs, and growth in this sector is very positive.”
No date has been set for the appeal to be heard by Sussex County Superior Court.
The hearing on remediation of the site will be heard at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 17 at Millsboro Town Hall.