ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Board of Public Works (BPW) accepted a contract of nearly $585,000 with Eastern Shore Forest Products Inc. for its emergency response to limit the spread of avian influenza at infected poultry houses in Cecil and Queen Anne’s counties.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) engaged the company for “carbon services” to include the transport and delivery of mulch and wood grindings for composting where there were incidents of high pathogen avian influenza (HPAI).
So far this year there has been an outbreak of HPAI in Maryland and 28 other states including Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia which resulted in the depopulation of 31 million birds from 155 commercial and 80 backyard flocks.
Delaware confirmed a positive case of HPAI on Feb. 22. Nine days later Maryland officials detected a presumptive positive case at two layer farms in Cecil County, totaling 1.16 million birds.
The next day on March 4 MDA conducted a conference call with state partners to come up with a coordinated response, and the Delaware Department of Agriculture was also engaged to further mitigate the threat to Delmarva’s commercial poultry industry.
On March 7, an emergency contract with Eastern Shore Forest Products was executed.
Three days later a broiler farm in Queen Anne’s County totaling 150,000 birds was infected with HPAI, and the following week on March 17 a third location in Cecil County, a pullet farm with 315,000 birds, was confirmed to be infected as well. On March 30 MDA began disposal of some 19 million eggs from the layer farms in Cecil County.
According to MDA, “It is critical to control the spread of this disease from infected farms using cleaning and decontamination services, as the disease can devastate the poultry industry in Maryland and potentially mutate to a human infection with increased viral spread.”
The initial contract for services rendered of $597,000 was paid on April 21, entirely from federal USDA emergency funds. The payment of $584,278 approved June 8 reflects “the additional locations and expanded scope of work,” according to MDA.
Eastern Shore Forest Products is a USDA-recommended vendor that was able to “immediately respond.”
MDA acknowledged it did not formally report the emergency contract within the time constraints required by the Department of General Services and the BPW, but if procurement had been delayed, it “would likely have resulted in imminent harm” to the poultry industry.
The BPW consists of Gov. Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Dereck Davis.