Advocates from northeastern Oklahoma say nearby poultry facilities are destroying county roads and causing strong odors outside their homes. A representative of the organization Green Country Guardians, Grant Hall, spoke to Oklahoma lawmakers Wednesday during an interim study focusing on the impact of the industry.
“Some cannot open their window a number of times during the day,” Hall said. “Especially right now when we’re in the cleanout period. Trucks come in and they’re cleaning out all the litter and there’s a great deal of debris.”
The group has been advocating for years to create greater distance between homes in northeast Oklahoma and chicken houses. They argue state laws aren’t keeping pace with an industry that is rapidly changing.
Teena Gunter, general counsel at the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and Forestry agreed with Hall “to a certain extent” and said the Oklahoma Poultry Waste Applicators Certification Act has not evolved since 1998.
“The reason for that is that in 1998, people were not concerned about the siting of these facilities and where they were located and those kinds of things,” Gunter said. “People were concerned about the land application of the litter from these sites. So virtually everything in that law is aimed toward the litter application.”
The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry passed a new rule last year mandating farms with more than 150,000 birds be a certain distance away from places like schools, houses and streams. Rep. Meloyde Blancett, (D-Tulsa) proposed a bill that would put even tighter restrictions on the industry last year, but it did not pass.
No poultry producers spoke at the meeting. Trey Lam, executive director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, said they are working on a program that would work with producers and people living nearby to work on a solution.
Rep. Dell Kerbs (R-Shawnee) is the chairperson of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Kerbs said the purpose of the meeting was to get experts and advocates together to review information.
“I mean we are talking about our environment as a whole and so we want to make sure we’re doing everything we need to be doing and know really what we have in place or what’s going forward,” Kerbs said.
Kerbs said there needs to be more time to see if the new 2019 rules passed by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry and programs by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission work before taking more legislative action.