Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: February 29, 2024
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Christian Martinez, |Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Contact: Michael Wallace Email: |Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Contact: Pam Wiley Email: |Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission Contact: Jordan Butler Email: |Commonwealth Regional Council Contact: Melody Foster Email: |Central Virginia Poultry Cooperative, Inc Contact: John Bapties Email:

Governor Youngkin Announces State Support for New Poultry Cooperative

Central Virgina poultry farmers form new cooperative and transition from broilers to egg production with Dutch Country Organics agreement

RICHMOND, VA – Governor Glenn Youngkin announced the formation of the Central Virginia Poultry Cooperative, Inc., by a group of poultry farmers who were affected by the closure of the Tyson Foods broiler facility in Glen Allen. The farmer-owned cooperative will produce and sell wholesale cage-free, premium table eggs to Dutch Country Organics, LLC of Indiana. Cooperative profits will be reinvested in people, products, processes, and member dividends. Establishment of the cooperative restores and revitalizes poultry production in Central Virginia for the benefit of poultry-dependent farms and communities through the production of eggs.

“When we learned last March that poultry farmers in Central Virginia needed our help, I directed our Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry to bring a team together and find a way forward for the family-owned farms of the region,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “I am thrilled to share that less than a year later; the Commonwealth is supporting many of these growers in making a bold step forward to a brighter future in the fast-growing market for cage-free eggs.”

“I commend the team of public and private entities that rolled up their sleeves, went to work and played a role in the formation of the Central Virginia Poultry Cooperative and getting the poultry producers in this region farming again,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr. “Virginia poultry farmers produced nearly 62 million eggs in 2022 and I look forward to seeing that number eclipsed in the future, thanks to the family farms in Central Virginia and Dutch Country Organics.”

Dutch Country recently executed a multi-year agreement with the Central Virginia Poultry Cooperative. Details of the agreement have not yet been released. The cooperative expects to place the first laying hens in members’ converted broiler houses in April 2024.

“Central Virginia Poultry Cooperative, Inc. was formed with the hope of returning the poultry growers of Central Virginia back to farming. We have been able to achieve this with help from many individuals and organizations,” said Central Virginia Poultry Cooperative President John Bapties. “The Co-op and its members would like to express our gratitude to all the state and local agencies who have helped us during the last year. We would also like to thank Dutch Country Organics for giving us this new farming opportunity.”

Founded by Lamar Bontrager, Dutch Country Organics, LLC is an Amish-owned specialty egg business based in Middlebury, Indiana. Operating under the highest standards of animal welfare practices, the company contracts with over 50 local Amish farm families to produce a variety of high-quality, fresh, cage-free, and other specialty table eggs. Through established contracts, Dutch Country eggs are sold to national retailers such as Costco, Albertsons, Target, Aldi, Walmart, and Kroger, the largest and second largest retail buyers of U.S. eggs respectively.

“We look forward to our new relationship with the Central Virginia Poultry Cooperative and its family farm members. The family farm is our story. It’s what we support. It’s what we encourage. The family farm, where fresh, natural eggs come from fresh, clean environments,” said Bontrager, Dutch Country Organics CEO. “At Dutch Country Organics, we promote the family farm, where families work together to provide a place that hens can live and roam, doing what comes naturally to them. Healthy and happy hens produce eggs that are healthier, too. And that’s good for all of us.”

“I am pleased the Commission was an early and strategic partner in helping to stand-up this important new farmer-owned cooperative and that through the coordinated support of the state and key partners like the Virginia Farm Bureau we are enabling these farmers to have control over this business and their livelihoods. This cooperative will also have a positive impact on agriculture in our region beyond the cooperative itself and I am particularly interested in working with the cooperative to see if we can prioritize the use of locally farmed grain. A win for farmers is a win for the Commonwealth and our ability to work together to support our family farms is going to have a lasting impact,” said Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission member Richard Hite.

“Virginia Farm Bureau is proud to be a partner in this effort to restore poultry production in Central Virginia. Everyone involved has contributed a tremendous effort in a short amount of time,” said Virginia Farm Bureau Federation President Wayne F. Pryor. “The Cooperative not only promises to return economic and employment opportunities to poultry and grain producers and their communities, but also represents a significant locally driven economic impact in the region.”

"The Commonwealth Regional Council has been pleased to have assisted the Central Virginia Poultry Cooperative in applying for multiple funding sources to assist them in setting up the Cooperative,” said Commonwealth Regional Council Executive Director Melody Foster. “The Cooperative is to be applauded for staying the course and not giving up on farming in south central Virginia.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) worked with the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, and the Commonwealth Regional Council to secure this project for the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Regional Council serves Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway, and Prince Edward counties.

Governor Youngkin approved a $50,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, with the counties providing matching funds. The project is also receiving a $1.4 million award from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission. The cooperative also is expected to receive an award of $341,750 from the Rural Rehabilitation Trust Fund, which is administered by VDACS.

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