By State Rep. Lundy Kiger
After months of public outcry on locations of 56 new large industrial poultry farm complexes being constructed near Cameron, Oklahoma, with land being bought by out-of-state investors, it just makes sense for OK Foods, with the support of the state of Oklahoma and LeFlore County, to consider getting away from building the new larger farms on individual sites and consider a different alternative that would be a win-win for everyone.
The familiar small family farms are vital to eastern Oklahoma’s economy, but today very few of our local people are investing the millions it takes to construct the new larger industrial-sized barns, which are approximately 54 feet wide and 550 feet long with up to eight barns being erected on each site. What we’re seeing today are larger farm complexes that equal to what many refer to as industrial-size complexes. That is causing division and concerns among our communities and citizens.
Today, we have a limited number of land investors. Most are from out of state and are finding other people to come into the area to put their name on the land title to then develop and run these new farm operations. But no matter how you slice it, this isn’t the small family farms that have been used as the model for the past 30 years. One thing is for sure: if this is the new process that will be used going forward, the fights and disagreements will continue and will only get worse in the county because of multiple locations that will be developed.
Community leaders want the poultry industry in LeFlore County and the farming industry to thrive. It’s a large part of our county economy, and we want them here under the right circumstances. But, divisions on how these new large industrialized-sized farm complexes are being developed will remain a serious issue. If common ground isn’t found soon, this will create more people from the county in opposition of the larger farms, and no doubt legal fights will occur that can be avoided. OK Foods, the farmers and our county people should agree to find solutions to avoid court battles.
With the background that I have related with large industry and economic development, I’m asking OK Foods to consider a possible new option that could provide not only stronger county support but also lower operating costs for both the integrator and farm owners.
I’m proposing the state of Oklahoma through the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce and county government, consider a new economic development option with possible financial incentives to all new future farm owners that could actually lower land costs and easement as well as costs for infrastructure needed such as water, electric, natural gas, roadways and transportation to and from the proposed farm site.
Instead of building dozens of single farms with up to eight large barns spread all over LeFlore County and creating fight after fight, I propose we all work together in finding and developing, for example, approximately 2,000 acres or more with a location advantageous to the integrator in helping to reduce expenses.
Here is an example of a recent land purchase that could have been avoided. One new farm land buyer who was land-locked recently purchased 80 acres for his farm site just to have access in and out to a county road. He paid over half a million dollars for the 80-acre property. This is great for the lucky landowner, but this is just one example of a new investor paying way more than the land is currently valued.
This new type of Poultry Industrial Complex (PIC) I’m proposing could be large enough to handle the expected growth of OK Foods for up to 5- or 10-year intervals. with the ability of planning ahead and permitting for the next 5 to 10 years for the next site needed for the future.
By using the PIC site idea there are also many benefits for other non-farm stakeholders that helps ensure the industry thrives. By utilizing a PIC site for new poultry farm projects, this could help ensure that;
- No towns, housing additions or property values would be reduced because of a poultry farm locating close by with possible odor and truck traffic.
- No local bank loans on existing homes would be devalued for the same reasons.
- No pollutants would escape the permitted site because of the property size, constructed barriers and best practices used in helping to keep the farms environmentally compliant.
- Large scale complaints of individual health issues would be reduced for the same reasons.
- County road traffic would be reduced to one road with the possibility of a dedicated road being built to the new PIC site.
- Reduced cost for electric, gas and water needed with the ability of building a large holding pond, and all infrastructure being developed and built for one large site capable of taking care of the site’s needs, and reducing construction issues on our county roads and benefitting county commissioner budgets.
- And current legal battles related to the 24 and 16 barns being developed would be totally avoided.
For the 24 and 16 barns being proposed south of Cameron near Castle Estates. I’m proposing that they abandon these two building sites and consider being the first to build on a new PIC site. To help make this more of an incentive, we will work to find buyers for the two properties purchased if these two farms would relocate to a PIC site.
By developing an industrial site for these new large farms, the future for the poultry industry in LeFlore County could be the example and solution needed. I feel confident that we can work with state and county officials in developing a new industrial site as well as making state and federal incentives available to help make it even more economical.
I’m calling on OK Food to sit down with me and others in the state and county to discuss this idea and how we can make it become a reality.