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The Contract Poultry System

By Kay Doby, Operator, Hot Shot Goat Farm, Cameron, North Carolina & Craig Watts, Contract Poultry Grower, Fairmont, North Carolina

Kay Doby, a former contract poultry grower, and Craig Watts, a current contract poultry grower, talk about the damaging system that accounts for 97% of the chicken raised in the U.S.

Kay Doby is the operator of Hot Shot Goat Farm in Cameron, North Carolina. A former contract poultry grower for Pilgrim's Pride Corporation and past president of the North Carolina Contract Poultry Growers Association, Kay spent 15 years fighting unfair conditions of poultry contracts, speaking up in Congress and at the USDA. When Pilgrim's Pride terminated her contract, Kay continued to speak out on behalf of poultry growers.

Luckily, Kay was close to paying off her chicken houses when her contract was terminated. She was able to pay off her farm loans and hold on to the farmland she grew up on by transitioning to raising meat goats. With a little work, Kay repurposed her chicken houses as goat barns. 

Craig Watts grew up his family’s farm in Fairmont, NC. Following his college graduation with a business degree, he returned to Fairmont in 1991, around the time that large corporate poultry processors ramped up their recruiting of local farmers. He signed a contract with a processor in 1992, thinking it was the perfect lifeline to come back to the farm. Like many other contract farmers, Craig soon learned it was anything but a lifeline. Less than two years after Craig paid off the loans on his chicken houses, his processor forced him to borrow more to upgrade the houses, putting him back in debt.

In 2008, Craig decided to speak out and connected with farmer organizations like the Rural Advancement Foundation International in Pittsboro, NC, to learn the ropes of farm advocacy. Today he is an eloquent and outspoken critic of the contract poultry industry.

Since 1985, the annual Farm Aid concert has moved around the country, raising awareness about the value of family farmers and showcasing the agriculture of different regions of the U.S. and the unique challenges and opportunities family farmers face there. Farm Aid 2014 took place on September 13 in Raleigh, North Carolina, giving us a chance to take a look at serious issues affecting family farmers across the South and how farmers are growing a better tomorrow.

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published this page in Learn 2014-10-16 09:07:19 -0400