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Groups Seek Moratorium on N.E. Arkansas Chicken Farms

Poultry processing is a $4 billion a year industry in Arkansas, employing more than 40,000 people. (nd3000/iStockphoto)
Poultry processing is a $4 billion a year industry in Arkansas, employing more than 40,000 people. (nd3000/iStockphoto)
January 23, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A coalition of environmental and animal rights groups is asking for a moratorium on constructing new chicken processing farms in northeast Arkansas.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Arkansas Rights Koalition and the Center for Biological Diversity are among the groups asking that federal agencies review the environmental, animal welfare and public health impacts of expanding factory farm operations in the region.

Hannah Connor, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said they're asking for a hold on any new federal loans to build farms until the study is completed.

"It's a commonsense, comprehensive review of bringing all of these poultry operations into one small region, and what impacts that will have on the environment,” Connor said.

Their petition asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Small Business Administration to delay new loan approvals, saying studies are required by the National Environmental Policy Act. State poultry officials and PECO, the company involved, have not commented on the petition.

Connor said the requirement for environmental studies has been ignored in the past. She said the groups are concerned that adding up to 1,000 facilities to a region that currently has very few industrial poultry operations could produce as much as 16 billion cubic feet of chicken waste per year.

"It is a huge, beautiful area for species diversity and biodiversity,” she said. "In Arkansas, there are a variety of different species that could be very adversely affected by this build-out."

The Animal Legal Defense Fund says chicken processing plants in Arkansas have a documented history of animal cruelty and abuse, and the coalition believes the industry is in need of more federal oversight.

"These confinement facilities are industrial facilities. They have practices that are very difficult for the animals that live inside of them,” she said, "so I think that is also a concern of our collaborators."

The Poultry Federation reported that processed chicken is the largest agricultural product in Arkansas, generating $4 billion a year and employing 42,000 people.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR