Oklahoma Ag Dept. Temporarily Suspends Poultry Application Process to Ensure Future SuccessTue, 09 Oct 2018 12:29:41 CDT
The Arkansas-based poultry integrator Simmons Foods is in the process of expanding its processing operation located in Decatur, Ark. In order to fulfill the increased demand this expansion will create, the company has in recent months been actively recruiting new chicken grower contractors in the area, which spreads across the state line into northeastern Oklahoma. This growth in the area’s poultry industry has lead to the rapid construction of poultry houses in nearby communities. In turn this has sparked some debate among neighbors that have brought forward concerns of how these new facilities might impact the area’s environmental quality or add to localized production related nuisances. In response to these questions, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture has taken an opportunity to temporarily pause the department’s acceptance of registration applications for new or expanding poultry feeding facilities. A recent lull in the flow of applications made this an opportune time to enact the pause while considerations can be made on how to improve the expansion of the poultry industry with minimal impact to surrounding communities. Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese sat down with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays to talk about the necessity of this temporary suspension and how it will mutually benefit affected farmers and residents. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below.
A statement from the Secretary’s office announcing the application suspension was released Monday, October 8, 2018 in which Reese stated that the Oklahoma Board of Agriculture has made it its intention to work with the Coordinating Council on poultry growth to determine if a more structured plan can accommodate neighbors, communities, and the poultry industry.
“ODAFF is supportive of the poultry industry and its expansion,” the statement reads, “we hope this pause allows for discussions…”
In his conversation with Hays, Reese explained the mission that the Coordinating Council has been tasked with, explaining that once its investigation is complete, the hold on the registration process will be lifted.
“We’re going to try to do a fact finding with this Coordinating Council on poultry industry growth. There’s a lot of things said that aren’t necessarily true,” Reese said. “So, we’ll look into them.”
According to Reese, many of the concerns are in regard to the area’s water resources. However, only one complaint has been officially lodged about a well going dry- though Reese says the water table has remained relatively unchanged since the chicken houses were constructed. Reese ensures though that this will be something the council looks into and will consult with outside authorities to determine if this issue or any others are in fact in direct correlation to the new poultry facilities.
“Rather than saying all of this is a concern, we want to make sure it is,” Reese said. “So, we just want to do additional fact finding, do a temporary suspension and comeback to it a little bit later. We still support poultry growth in Oklahoma, we just want it to be in structured manner.”
Reese also described those who will sit on this Coordinating Council that will ultimately make these determinations.
“The Coordinating Council includes the Poultry Federation, the integrators, a couple of producers, the general farm organizations which are AFR and Farm Bureau, the state agencies affected which is ODAFF, the Cherokee Nation. Sarah Hill is a co-chair of the Coordinating Council, Secretary of Energy and Environment, OWRB, GRDA, Conservation Commission and any other state agency that we might want to invite in for a specific item,” he said. “We have nine community representatives. We have legislative representatives from Congress and Cherokee Nation and then OSU and the University of Arkansas to do research or to answer questions on research that has already been done in this area.”
Essentially, Reese says the Council will function to keep the lines of communication between the various stakeholders open and to ensure that a “good neighbor” policy can be developed with the intention of fostering a mutually beneficial existence among poultry farmers and their neighbors.
“It’s been a long-standing understanding of ours that if you’re a good neighbor, we don’t even know you’re operating and in most cases we don’t come out and investigate unless there’s a complaint,” Reese remarked. “So, if you’re making your neighbors happy- you probably won’t see us.”
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