Poultry processing plant Pilgrim’s Pride in Carrollton sustained extensive damage and a local farmer lost as many as 10,000 chickens in his as a result of this month’s snowstorm that dumped 10 inches of snow in Carroll County, leaving thousands of people without electricity for days.
Initial reports of damages to poultry farms were that they were light. But more farmers have subsequently contacted local agencies with some claiming significant losses.
Representatives from the Carroll County Extension Service have been collecting data from local farmers.
Carroll is one of the top poultry-producing counties in the state, and when all reports are filed they will likely reflect a negative impact on the industry that will take some time to recover from.
Teams from Carroll County Fire Rescue have been overseeing depopulation of flocks to ensure they are in accordance with state agri-security guidelines which help prevent contamination. Deputy Chief Bud Benefield said one farm in Tyus reportedly lost an entire flock when the roof collapsed and the remaining birds were lost due to being exposed to the elements.
“In the poultry industry, they did sustain a good bit of damage because the snowfall was wet and heavy and the pitch of the roof on the poultry houses likely slowed it from coming off, so that added to the weight and that contributed to the collapse of the structures,” Benefield said. “In Carroll County, I’ve seen about five or six farms that have been damaged. In addition to that, there were some other agricultural operations, like barns, that had things in them that collapsed as well. There was one barn that had cattle feed stored in it as well as farm equipment and that person now has to deal with that.”
Benefield said that when the power was out, some animals had to wait for food and water. Some farmers did have a backup power supply but they were unable to put that into action with the facilities they were in being damaged.
“We got more reports come in from the west side of the county,” said Benefield. “Typically, that’s where the majority of the farms are. Then there were some older farm structures throughout the county that had snow damage as well. We got reports from Mount Zion, Bowdon, Tyus and that general area. There was some south of Carrollton. I’m sure it will impact all of them that had a loss. You talk about the loss of an entire flock, that’s pretty substantial. Another hay barn lost food stock for the cattle so you have not only poultry affected, but farms as well.”
Cameron Bruett, head of Corporate Affairs for JBS USA/Pilgrim’s said it suffered a “substantial” loss to its Carrollton plant.
“As a result of winter storm Benji, Pilgrim’s Carrollton, like many businesses in the surrounding area, halted operations on Friday, Dec. 8,” he said. “The facility is now fully operational.”
Six pullet/boiler houses at the Carrollton plant suffered considerable structural damage, three of them deemed complete losses.
Bruett said it is too early to determine just how much of an economic hit the company will suffer as a result of the damage, but he did thank local agencies for their assistance as they continued their evaluations.
“We absolutely appreciate the assistance of the local authorities and they’ve demonstrated great partnership throughout this,” he said.
Carroll County Board of Commissioners Chairman Marty Smith had initially seen some of the damage firsthand when was out with emergency agents during the storm the weekend of Dec. 9.
“It’s very unfortunate that it happened,” Smith said. “Carroll County is one of the top poultry producers in the state of Georgia so it is very unfortunate. Obviously, I was proud of our staff for being there to help and assist them through whatever the state department makes us do in a crisis such as this. I’m proud of our fire department and our ag center for working with our farmers. While a few thousand chickens may not seem like a whole lot in a county with 200 or 300 poultry farmers, for one farmer, that is going to definitely affect that farmer. It’ll be a loss for him.”