Virginia Shore officials highlight poultry's huge impact in meeting with Luria

Elaine Luria, the Congresswoman-elect from Virginia's 2nd District, met with Eastern Shore officials on Monday at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Wachapreague.

"Poultry is Accomack County's anchor tenant," said Robert Crockett, Accomack Board of Supervisors chairman, likening the economy to a mall. Some 15 percent of employed residents work at one of the two poultry processing plants, he said, calling the industry "vital."

Other types of agriculture and aquaculture also loom large in the Shore's economy, Meil said.

Accomack ranks first in Virginia counties in corn and soybean production, while Northampton ranks first in wheat production, with the majority of grains grown on the Shore going to fill the regional demand of the poultry industry.

Accomack and Northampton also rank first and second in the state, respectively, in vegetables harvested.

The region ranks first in the nation in hard clam production, and aquaculture, mainly in Northampton, has a nearly $37 million direct economic impact.

It was VIMS researchers who pioneered the way to grow hard clams, and Cherrystone Aquaculture now ships clams all over the country, said Steve Johnson, who was a VIMS foundation board member, adding, "So water quality is really critical."

Wallops also plays a large role in the economy — a 2011 study put the direct impact at $63 million and 305 jobs for Accomack, and another $87 million and 456 jobs for neighboring counties, including Northampton, and Somerset, Worcester and Wicomico in Maryland.

In the tourism sector, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge gets 1.4 million visitors a year, and brings nearly $29 million in food and lodging expenditures to Chincoteague, and another $13.6 million in other retail spending.

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