Leavenworth Cty. Residents Outraged over Secret Tyson Deal

Leavenworth Cty. Residents Outraged over Secret Tyson Deal
By Craig Volland

On September 5, state officials and Tyson Foods, Inc. announced plans to build a huge chicken slaughterhouse just south of Tonganoxie, Kan. The plant would kill some 65 million chickens per year and, according to the Topeka Capitol Journal, would require 300 to 400 new barns in full production. A chicken barn typically holds 25,000 to 30,000 chickens. To my knowledge this would be the only such major slaughterhouse sited so close to a major American metropolitan area.


The residents of Tonganoxie were taken completely by surprise because city and county official signed non-disclosure agreements while plans were proceeding behind closed doors in the state capitol. These plants generate an enormous amount of waste, as well as constant truck traffic bringing in chickens daily and shipping out chicks & feed to the production barns. The growth cycle of these grotesquely manipulated birds is only about six weeks and they can barely walk.

Tyson plans to enlist local farmers as independent contractors to build and operate the barns. From my assessment of the minimal state regulations that apply to confined broiler chickens, we can expect to see from 75 to 100 sites of 3 to 4 barns each, but somewhat fewer and bigger sites are possible. Based on shipping limitations these operations will likely be located within about 40 miles of Tonganoxie.

Thus this plant and its network of production sites would radically change northeast Kansas, which until now has suffered few concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) of any type. Citizens of northeast Kansas will begin to find themselves frequently behind massive trucks carrying 10,000 chickens crammed into small cages, all the while trailing behind feathers and manure particles coated with bacteria.

The people of Tonganoxie and the surrounding areas in Leavenworth County are furiously organizing an opposition movement. A rally on Sept. 9 drew more than 1,000 people. Kansas Chapter lobbyist Zack Pistora graduated from Tonganoxie High School and still lives in the area. He will be our main liaison to the group. The Kansas Chapter is also involved in a technical advisory role and facilitated the entry of the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP) into the fight.

SRAP is a national, grant-funded, non-profit and has a professional engineer and regional organizers on-staff, some of whom I’ve known for many years from the hog wars. They help citizens fight CAFOs and slaughterhouses all over the US. The SRAP organizer for our region is Laura Krebsbach, who lives near Lincoln, Neb. They also have staff members who formerly produced chickens on contract and can advise farmers of the pitfalls of working for Big Chicken.

We know how these relentless and remorseless Big Ag corporations behave. What’s especially disturbing in this case is the attitude of the Kansas governor, his agency staff, and local officials, who secretly talked with Tyson behind the backs of their constituents.

That they would think the citizens of southern Leavenworth County would welcome this project is indicative of just how out-of-touch they are with Kansans. For most people, slaughterhouses rank down there with garbage landfills and trash incinerators as economic development opportunities. Did it occur to them that the site lies just south of Tonganoxie, and upwind, so that any odors and particles from the plant will drift over this bucolic town? Kansans deserve better than this from our elected representatives.

If you would like to join the fight and receive email updates on the Tonganoxie chicken slaughterhouse, go to this form and enter your contact information.  https://goo.gl/yMp95D.

Kansas Chapter lobbyist has provided the following contact information. If you live in one of the counties listed below please call your county commissioners and tell them you don’t want any industrial chicken operations and all the obnoxious traffic they would entail.

Leavenworth County Commission:
Email preferred:  bocc_feedback@leavenworthcounty.org
Robert W. Holland (1st District),
Clyde Graeber (2nd District)
Chairman Doug Smith (3rd District)

Douglas County Commission:
No outreach necessary at this point. Douglas County commissioners are aware and very much concerned about the Tyson slaughterhouse and chicken facilities’ impacts on Douglas County. However, if you feel you need to contact your county commissioners, here is their information:
Mike Gaughan (1st District), 785-856-1662, email:  mgaughan@douglascountyks.org
Nancy Thellman (2nd District) 785-550-7754, email: nthellman@douglascountyks.org
Michelle Derusseau (3rd District) 785-764-3619, email: mderusseau@douglascountyks.org

Jefferson County Commission:
Hard-copy letters preferred: Jefferson County Commission, P.O. Box 321, Oskaloosa, KS 66066
Chairwoman Lynn Luck (1st District), 785-863-2594
Wayne Ledbetter (2nd District), 785-220-1774
Richard Malm (3rd District), 785-945-6827Johnson County Commission:

Call the County Manager’s office is preferred: (913)-715-0725  (talk with Lana Stites or Rene Murphy).  Or email: Lana.Stites@jocogov.org or Rene.Murphy@jocogov.org.
Or contact Commissioner Chairman Ed Eilert: ed.eilert@jocogov.org

Wyandotte County Commission:
Board of Commissioners phone (main line):  913-573-5040
Email: commissioner@wycokck.org

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