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Eastern Shore senator laments loss of chicken jobs

State Sen. Richard Colburn is sounding the alarm on the recent bankruptcy filing of a Delaware poultry company with operations on Maryland's Eastern Shore -- calling it "devastating" news for his district.

Allen Family Food's Cordova plant is Talbot County's second-largest employer, Colburn said, behind only the Memorial Hospital at Easton. The bad news comes as the Delmarva Poultry Industry prepares for its annual Chicken Festival this weekend in Georgetown, Del.

Seaford, Del.-based Allen filed for bankruptcy last week and announced plans to close its facilities in Maryland, Delaware and North Carolina, according to delmarvanow.com. The 92-year-old company is seeking to sell assets to Mountaire, another Delaware poultry company.

The state Department of Business and Economic Development reports that about 500-600 employees work at the Cordova plant, not including farmers with Allen-contracted chicken houses.

Colburn, an Eastern Shore Republican, said in a statement that he does not believe Maryland's two other major poultry producers, Perdue and Mountaire, will take over any of Allen's chicken houses north of Route 301. 

"The Delmarva poultry industry has already been adversely affected by the economic recession, and the bankruptcy of Allen Foods will only hurt the industry even more," Colburn said in a statement. "Since Allen has long been a major employer on the Eastern Shore, the company’s bankruptcy will cause many Shore residents to lose their jobs."

Last year, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation imposed a record $1 million fine on Allen after finding 51 violations at its Hurlock production plant. Allen sold that property to South Carolina-based Amick Farms.

A DBED spokeswoman said the agency is aware of Allen's bankruptcy and is tracking the situation.

Colburn said he has contacted DBED and the Maryland Department of Agriculture to "address the situation."

"I intend to continue to work closely with both departments to help lessen the devastating economic blow that the closure of Allen Foods will have on our area," Colburn said. 

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