Sanderson Farms, opponents argue over waste

Geoffrey Cooper

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A group of landowners fighting a proposed Sanderson Farms plant said the amount of dry chicken litter that could be produced from area chicken houses would be improperly handled.

Leaders of the Nash County Landowners Association said they believe the processing plant would produce hundreds of millions of pounds of dry chicken litter per year within a proposed seven county region — Edgecombe, Nash, Halifax, Greene, Lenoir, Wilson, and Wayne counties.

Assertions that the dry chicken litter will generate foul odors also have been circulating.

Sanderson Farms Director of Development Bob Billingsley said the dry litter poultry operations use are deemed permitted. While these operations do not have to apply for permits, there’s a list of general requirements chicken growers must follow.

Billingsley said the company adheres to all state environmental regulations and its contract farmers are required by law to craft a waste management plan. The waste management plan must contain a list of fields that will be used for land application, the crops that will be grown, and the maximum application rate at each field.

“We won’t put chickens on a farm if (growers) don’t have a permit. The bank won’t loan money to farmers if they don’t have a permit,” Billingsley said.

Dry chicken litter can be spread on farm crops as a fertilizer. Once a year, the chicken farmer collects all of the dry litter from the house to spread on the fields as a substitution for fertilizer.

Waste in the North Carolina poultry industry is regulated differently than the swine industry. Pig farmers must have permits for their waste lagoons. Since chicken waste is not wet, a permit is not required.

Nash County Cooperative Extension Director Charlie Tyson said without the benefit of poultry litter, Nash County farmers would be faced with annual soil applications of an estimated 16,000 tons of manufactured fertilizer products on their crop and pasture land.

Tyson also said that in some ways, the fertilizer nutrients contained in poultry litter are superior to and pose less environmental risk than do some manufactured fertilizer products. He said poultry litter is a natural organic source of fertilizer nutrients, and when applied to the soil, poultry litter deteriorates more slowly, with its fertilizer nutrients being not as vulnerable for movement into surface or groundwater when compared to many manufactured fertilizer products.

Poultry litter often is used as a partial substitute for the manufactured fertilizer materials needed for local production of corn, cotton, soybean, wheat and pastures.

“Recent increases in energy costs have caused Nash farmers to experience steep increases in the cost of manufactured fertilizer products,” Tyson said. “Eastern North Carolina agricultural soils are naturally infertile. Profitable crop production will not occur in most of Eastern North Carolina without soil applications of fertilizer nutrients using manufactured fertilizer products and or poultry litter.”

State regulations require poultry waste to be applied at agronomic rates on crop fields or pastures. An agronomic rate is an application rate per acre that does not exceed a growing crop’s ability to capture the fertilizer value of the poultry waste, thus protecting surface waters.

Prior to field application, farmers are required to determine the fertilizer value of their poultry waste with laboratory analysis. When applied to crop fields and pastures, the dry chicken litter usually consists of waste and wood shavings.

Farmers only can apply animal waste or chicken litter on fields or pastures where a growing crop exists or where a growing crop will be planted in 30 days. Chicken farmers also can sell their dry litter to third parties to use as fertilizer.

A majority of the chicken growers in Nash County already contract with Perdue and Braswell Milling Co. out of Nashville. Billingsley said he doesn’t know how many chicken houses will come to Nash County as a result of the proposed plant.

A Sanderson Farms poultry facility would need 24 pullet houses, 48 hen houses and close to 500 broiler houses to stay supplied, Billingsley said. The Kinston poultry plant uses about 360 broiler houses, and 30 percent to 40 percent of the houses come out of Jones, Duplin, Pitt, Sampson and Lenoir counties.

There haven’t been any grower recruitment meetings yet for the proposed plant, but Billingsley said Nash County would be the last place Sanderson Farms would look because of the distance from the feed mill in Kinston and transportation costs.



I am sooooo tired of hearing and reading about this dead horse. It is gonna come to fruition just like the annexation. Please people, if you have to worry about something, worry about all the teachers that are getting ready to lose their jobs in june. Losing your job sounds a whole lot more important than where the chicken comes from that I gets my grub on at Smithfield Chicken and BBQ at. Geez.

Antibiotics and Growth hormones

In everything that has been published about the Sanderson Farms’ operations or the operations of the broiler house to support the processing plant there has been no mention of the antibiotics and growth hormones used in the growing process. Yes, they are used. Antibiotics and hormones are put in the feed by Sanderson Farms. Then Sanderson Farms supplies this laced feed to the grower and it must be used in the growing process. Part of the feed with its antibiotics and growth hormones become part of the chicken litter that is later use for fertilizer. This fertilizer laced with antibiotic and growth hormones is spread over the farm land of the community becoming part of the food that is grown on this farm land. Also with the rains and snows the antibiotics and growth hormones will eventually end up in our drinking water. What will the future be for our children and grandchildren who have drank the water laced with antibiotics and hormones? I would ask,………. “What are the medical problems of the people in the surrounding area of Sanderson Farms plants and growing houses for those plants that have been in place for twenty or more years?”……… I would also ask,………. “What are the birth rates, miscarriage rates, and birth defect rates for those same areas?”……… I doubt that a study has been done because no one is willing to face up to the fact that the water has been polluted by these elements. Water polluted by antibiotics and growth hormones can cause problems for centuries to come! Is this what our county needs or wants?????

Like I said

PROTEST PROTEST PROTEST THIS THING! Then when our kids can't find a job, we just blame Obama! Come on people, wake up and realize what to do! This is Obamas fault!


What a fine choice of words. But, you have to be joking, right? Name me one, any one type of animal, including a human like ourselves that emits waste that does NOT smell foul. Yeah, that's an ass-sertion all right. I tell you though it's no joke or coincidence that just after Mr. Joe Sanderson makes a "cameo" appearance to the region and meets with local Nash Co. government officials, then shortly thereafter the Nash Co. Planning Board meets and makes a lop sided vote for new UDO wording that basically removes any need for special use permit by Sanderson Farms. If anyone was to make an ass-sertion, I'd say that was no coincidence of events and smells worse than any chicken litter.

just exactly what does...

"required by law to craft a waste management plan" mean and what good is it? Not one regulatory agency reviews it, approves it, can enforce it or even has a record of it. "Sanderson Farms Director of Development Bob Billingsley said the dry litter poultry operations use are deemed permitted." "While these operations do not have to apply for permits" "We won’t put chickens on a farm if (growers) don’t have a permit." OK. Let me get this straight. No chickens without a permit, but dry litter poultry operations are DEEMED permitted. Probably shouldn't say they are automatically permitted, they don't have to apply for a permit and you require a permit all in the same article. Folks might get the wrong idea. "Chicken farmers also can sell their dry litter to third parties to use as fertilizer." And of course these locations will be listed on the "waste management plan" that no one will ever see because the regulations say so. Sure. "Assertions that the dry chicken litter will generate foul odors also have been circulating." I used to live 1/2 mile from chicken houses and at times they stunk to high heaven. Yes I would "assert" they generate fowl odors. No surprises here. Doublespeak has become the norm here in Sanderson County.

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