Ag Policy Blog

Poultry Expansion Sparks Livestock Debate in Nebraska

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Nebraska's governor, the agriculture director and state Farm Bureau each pushed back after some rural residents and environmental groups called Monday for a moratorium on large livestock operations in the state, specifically poultry operations tied to Costco.

As the Lincoln Journal Star reported, residents in rural Lancaster County near Lincoln want a moratorium to stop a poultry operation that would have eight barns that could house 47,500 chickens each, for a total of 380,000 birds. The operation is tentatively set for a public hearing in early October.…

The chicken operation is part an expansion of poultry operations in Nebraska to supply a Costco processing plant near Fremont, Neb., about 50 miles away. The processing plant, Lincoln Premium Poultry, just began processing chickens and will hold a grand opening ceremony in October. The $180 million facility at peak production is expected to process 1.6 million birds a week that would all go for rotisserie chicken sales at Costco stores. When the processing plant was announced, the company stated it would need more than 400 barns in the surrounding area to keep the facility going.

Nebraska Farm Bureau issued a statement Monday arguing that a statewide ban on new livestock farms "would be the equivalent of halting the growth of rural Nebraska. Livestock farms support our rural communities, strengthen our state’s economy, and keep Nebraska strong."

Craig Head, a Farm Bureau spokesman, added, “The notion that a moratorium is needed ignores the realities of what farmers must do to build and operate a new livestock farm. Nebraska farmers go through an extensive process and must adhere to numerous local, state, and federal regulations, governing everything from where barns can be located, to how they operate for the protection of natural resources and the environment. A moratorium on Nebraska livestock farms, as has been proposed by some environmental and activist groups, would be nothing short of a disservice to Nebraska farmers, our rural communities, and our state."

Gov. Pete Rickets called opponents of the poultry operations, "radical anti-agriculture groups" in a statement issued Tuesday.

“Let’s be clear: The out-of-state environmental lobbying groups rallying opposition against our family farmers in Nebraska are anti-agriculture,” Ricketts said. “Left unchecked, they would destroy our way of life. This attempt to stop livestock development in Nebraska is a part of the ‘meat is murder’ movement led by radical groups who want to end livestock production around the globe. I urge Nebraskans in our local communities to rise up and protect family farms and stand with our livestock producers across our state.”

Steve Wellman, Nebraska's agriculture director, added, "Agriculture is the backbone of Nebraska’s economy, and it is extremely disheartening to learn that there are groups of citizens in our own state that are working to essentially eliminate the livestock industry. As the director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, I strongly support all aspects of Nebraska agriculture and the farmers and ranchers that work tirelessly contributing to Nebraska’s economic well-being through livestock production. CAFO’s are well thought out and planned operations across Nebraska with plans that work to address environmental impacts, nutrient management and animal health to efficiently deliver a high quality, safe food supply."

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