Fitzhugh seeks AG opinion on regulation of chicken farms (with almost 600 more needed to supply Tyson Foods in West TN)

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, who is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, has asked for a state attorney general’s opinion on legal issues surrounding a planned Tyson Foods chicken processing plant at Humboldt and 590 new commercial chicken farm operations that will be needed to supply poultry for the plant and an expanding Tyson operation at Union City.

Groundbreaking for the new facility was held Wednesday, though Tennessee Star reports the state Department of Environment and Conservation has so far denied two water pollution runoff permits needed for construction of the processing plant. In a follow-up article today, the online arch-conservative conservative website notes that Karl Dean, also running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, was on hand for the groundbreaking event — or, in the Star’s words, “cheering ‘big meats’ newest location.” It references a Dean Facebook post saying Tyson will be “a great partner in making sure we continue to have the workforce for good jobs.”

At the ceremony, Tyson officials announced a $500,000 grant to Gibson County, reports the Jackson Sun.

In his request for an attorney general’s opinion, Fitzhugh cites a recent law approved by the legislature that exempts poultry farms from state regulation and asks whether cities and counties can continue to regulate them. Fitzhugh says many residents of the area are concerned about negative impacts in a region that already has “a number or waterways” listed as having “impaired or threatened” water quality.

Press release from House Democratic Caucus

NASHVILLE- House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh has asked the State Attorney General to straighten out confusion surrounding local and state zoning regulations that could complicate the construction of a new Tyson Chicken Processing facility in Gibson County.

The proposed $300 million facility is expected to process more than one-million chickens a week, which will be grown by contract farmers within a 50-mile radius.

According to local zoning laws, those farms would have to meet both setback requirements from residences and schools and sit on at least a 200-acre tract of land.  But according to the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, state law may prohibit local governments from creating and enforcing such regulations.  That has many local residents concerned. They worry that if the farms are created on smaller tracts of land, they will face potential odors and pollution, including possible runoff into the scenic Hatchie River.

Fitzhugh says, “The prospect of nearly 600 new chicken houses in a small geographic area has many of my constituents in nearby Crocket, Haywood and Lauderdale counties concerned about the impact on their rural quality of life.”

Leader Fitzhugh has sent a letter to the Tennessee Attorney General asking for an opinion on whether the local zoning ordinances would take precedence over any state laws enacted before the new plant was proposed… There is no word on when the A.G. opinion would be issued.

Note: Tennessee Star has been engaged in a crusade against the Humbolt Tyson plant for some time. Another recent post along those lines, carries the headline, Tyson Foods Tied to Same Big-Business-Cheap-Labor Lobby Favored by Boyd, Dean, and Bredesen.

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