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Agricultural News

Poultry Industry's Rapid Expansion in Northeast Oklahoma Ruffling Feathers Among Angry Neighbors

Wed, 26 Sep 2018 18:50:47 CDT

Poultry Industry's Rapid Expansion in Northeast Oklahoma Ruffling Feathers Among Angry Neighbors Over the past 20 years, the number of poultry houses in Oklahoma has actually declined, until recently. Arkansas based company Simmons Foods is currently in the process of expanding its poultry processing infrastructure and is actively recruiting new farmer partners to supply its increased capacity, many of whom reside in primarily in northeast Oklahoma. However, since Oklahoma has seen this resurgence of chicken houses, residents in the concentrated area have started to file complaints about related odors and have voiced concerns about possible water quality impacts that might result from the presence of the barns. Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays sat down with Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese to visit about this growing concern and what’s being done to resolve the issue. Listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.

“In some cases, probably, neighbors weren’t appropriately notified and considered in building these poultry farms,” Reese said, explaining the issue at hand. “So, we’re looking at that with the Cherokee Nation and we’re just going to get people together and try to talk through some of the concerns.”

Chief among those concerns, Reese says, is the impact the chicken houses will have on ground water in the area. Residents worry that runoff from chicken litter might contaminate surrounding bodies of water. Reese has conveyed those concerns to the Oklahoma Water Board and invited the authority to conduct its own investigation into any possible risks that may be posed by the poultry industry’s rapid expansion in the area.

“Historically in northeast Oklahoma, water has not been something we’ve had real problems with,” Reese said. “There is a lot of water in northeast Oklahoma, more so than most of the state. So, we want to make sure that continues to be the case. There are solutions to some of those concerns, so we want to make sure we take care of them. We just need to figure out which concerns are legitimate and which ones aren’t.”

Reese does say that the issue of chicken litter is something that may need to be looked at. He says that while the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture does know everywhere in Oklahoma that chicken litter is applied since it is required to report, he admits the system is not completely traceable- as some producers contract directly with brokers that export the litter out of the area. Reese says there is no record of where that litter goes. But, despite the complaints being lodged, Reese asserts that there are many positives to this expansion.

“There is economic benefit,” he interjected. “We just need to be certain that personal lives are not affected in an egregious way and there are some examples where there just wasn’t a lot of consideration to neighbors. Just being a good neighbor goes a long way.”

Since Simmons began recruiting new contractors, approximately a dozen or so new poultry houses have been constructed in the area with another dozen or more expected to come online this year. New practices are also being implemented to cut down on the mucking of barns. Rather than removing chicken litter after each set of birds, the process can now be done once in a rotation of every five to six sets of birds.



Hear Ron Hays speak to Ag Secretary Jim Reese about this growing concern and what's being done.
right-click to download mp3


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