Petition aims to bring awareness about farming concerns

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN)- As Costco and its contracted company Lincoln Premium Poultry builds more than 500 chicken farms in Nebraska, a coalition wants all concentrated animal feeding operations in the state to stop.

The group that started the petition with hope that it brings more awareness to their concerns about recent farming projects, in particular the Lincoln Premium Poultry barns across eastern Nebraska that are aimed at supplying Costco chicken processing plants.

The petition officially started on Monday, and it's aimed at being a conversation starter for others who might oppose Lincoln Premium Poultry and Costco's facilities across the state.

Melissa Baker is with the Grassroot Community Development, Mobilization and Education, one of the groups behind the petition.

"This project has, just layers and layers of concerns from public health issues, to environmental issues, to infrastructure with our roads," said Baker. "...we're calling for and asking for is a moratorium to be put in place until our counties and Lancaster county is working on this of updating their regulations on zoning and CFOs."

Groups who have voiced concerns about the chicken farm project today met on Monday to discuss their concerns.

One of the largest, Raymond Central Public Schools.

"(We're) opposed to these chicken barns because of location and many of the concerns that came along with that water issues, safety on the roads, air quality, the list goes on," said Dr. Harriet Gould, president of the Raymond Central Board of Education.

The district sits a few miles down the road from Lancaster County's most recently proposed chicken farm at Northwest 27th and Ashland Road. Many parents are worried about truck traffic to and from school.

"Its scary its very concerning when you have young drivers, a 16 year old and a 14 year old next year driving those same roads and making those turns with oncoming trucks and its frightening to think about," said Lori Heiss, a Raymond Central parent.

10/11 spoke with Jessica Kolterman of Lincoln Premium Poultry in July about the proposed chicken barns on the Saunders-Lancaster County line, which could hold up to 380,000 birds.

"Once we are fully operational and all the Nebraska farmers in the area are up and running and have their birds going through our processing facility," Kolterman said. "Our company will support about 40 percent of Costco's chicken that's sold in the United States."

Kolterman said that Lincoln Premium Poultry is opposed to a moratorium saying in part: "Nebraska is an agriculture-focused state that has amazing families interested in growing and diversifying through livestock stop that diversification and growth would be to stop one of the most regular forms of growth for rural counties."

The State Department of Agriculture called the petition and Moratorium disheartening, adding that he and the Governor support Nebraska Farmers.

After two delays a public hearing in front of the Lincoln Lancaster County Planning Commision on the proposed chicken farm is set for Oct. 2.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau says it would be a disservice to farmers, rural communities and the state.

“Livestock farming is part of the heritage and fabric of Nebraska and a critical part of Nebraska agriculture," said the Bureau in a press release. "Enacting a statewide moratorium to stop 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.”