WICHITA, KAS. — In September, Tyson Foods, Inc. and city officials in Tonganoxie, Kas., announced plans for the processor to construct a $320 million chicken complex just outside the city limits in Leavenworth County. Citizens of the area protested and ultimately convinced city officials to roll up the welcome mat. Tyson is now working with the Greater Wichita Partnership and considering Sedgwick County for the project. But concerned residents are looking at what happened in Tonganoxie and asking questions.
In response, the “No Tyson Wichita and Sedgwick County Group” is hosting experts to speak on the impact of chicken operation during an Oct. 28 forum. Don Stull, Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas, researcher and farm owner will join Chris Peterson, an Iowa pig farmer, former president of the Iowa Farmers Union and regional representative for Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, to discuss their views on what concentrated animal feeding operations mean to the areas in which they operate. Mr. Stull also co-authored "Slaughterhouse Blues: The Meat and Poultry Industry in North America,” which was published in 2003 and was critical of the meat processing industry. The public forum will take place at Wichita’s Linwood Park Recreation Center. The forum, called “Getting Our Chicken in a Row,” will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
Once Tyson’s plans for the Leavenworth County site were cancelled, at least 14 other communities across Kansas welcomed Tyson to build and create jobs, and according to the Kansas State Department of Agriculture, Tyson had narrowed its choice to Cloud and Montgomery Counties and the greater Wichita area.
The opposition from Tonganoxie residents and the presumed opposition from Wichita area residents stems from a perception of high risks to their public health, water resources, air quality, environment and the potential negative economic impact. In addition, Mr. Stull commented in media reports that poultry farmers take on high debt to enter the business and often live near the poverty level once established.
Mr. Stull told the Morning Ag, “Tyson is moving into new territory. These people don't really know the issues surrounding commercial poultry production. This is the fourth year in a row where commodity prices are down. Grain farmers are hurting. So some of them will be attracted by promises of a guaranteed income.”
|Worth Sparkman, spokesman for Tyson Foods|