Pittman: Perdue Farms grain elevator closure unnecessary assault on AAC farmers

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman released a statement Tuesday night, January 19, criticizing the apparent decision of Perdue Farms to close its Anne Arundel County grain elevator as of March 31. The elevator is scheduled to stop accepting grain February 26, the statement read. Pittman said he was alerted to the news by local farmers. "I have attempted to schedule a call with CEO Jim Perdue, but so far have not heard back," he wrote in the statement. Pittman argued the Lothian grain elevator, located at 6272 Southernmost Road, serves farmers in all five southern Maryland counties, and small operators who do not have their own storage silos are dependent on the facility to get their product to market--with the closest alternative being in Curtis Bay, and that elevator accepts only soybeans. "Trucking grain to elevators on the eastern shore would be the next alternative, but trucking that far during harvest would require a fleet of reliable trucks and drivers that don’t exist," Pittman wrote. The county executive stated that Anne Arundel County has a longstanding policy of promoting agriculture "as an effective way to maintain open space and to preserve our natural environment." The statement indicated that according to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture, Anne Arundel County grows grain on 32% (8,682 acres) of its farmland. Pittman blames Perdue Farms, Inc in the statement, writing the company is well aware of the role that grain elevators play in Anne Arundel County's agriculture industry, and that grain farmers plan crops a year in advance. "Their seed and fertilizer are purchased, and they need to know that their crops will have a buyer in the fall," Pittman wrote. He also said the company is aware that potential buyers for the Lothian elevator exist, and there’s even been talk of a southern Maryland co-op being formed. He called the January 15 closure announcement as "an unnecessary assault" on farmers who have made Perdue Farm's growth possible. "With over $6 billion in annual sales, Perdue can afford to give local stakeholders adequate time to come up with a plan," Pittman wrote. Pittman ended the statement by saying he looked forward to working with the company and other stake holders on a plan that would protect the grain elevator from the impending closure.