There’s a big stink brewing in northwest Tennessee.
Whether that stink is an unpleasant odor or whether the stink is a figure of speech depends upon whom you ask.
Residents of Haywood County recently assembled to discuss how chicken farms could pose health hazards to their community.
These chicken farms are not in Haywood. They are, however, likely coming to the adjacent Gibson County.
Haywood residents say chicken farmers in Gibson will sign contracts with Tyson Foods. Tyson already has plans to open a processing plant in Gibson.
People in Haywood County told The Tennessee Star they suspect either Tyson or the chicken farmers eventually will want to set up shop on their home turf. If allowed, they say that will degrade their quality of life.
“Gibson County gets the jobs and we get the manure,” said Haywood County Mayor-elect David Livingston, adding the indecent smell will waft its way down into his territory.
“It’s true that these concentrated feed lots are not Tyson-owned. This is where the liability is. Every one of these (chicken) houses produces a tremendous tonnage of manure.”
Haywood County residents, he went on, have protested and made it clear they want neither Tyson nor the chicken houses.
Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman, meanwhile, said the company has no farmers in Haywood County to contract with.
Haywood County resident Sue McElrath said she once lived a close shave away from a chicken farm in Arkansas.
The smell, she said, overpowered her.
“We don’t want this happening to our Haywood County,” McElrath said of chicken houses that might hold thousands upon thousands of these animals.
“We have concerns that land has already been bought in Haywood County for this purpose. They (Tyson) said they don’t want to come here because they say we’re not friendly. That’s OK. We don’t want them here.”
She said she suspects Tyson officials bought land for chicken houses in Haywood County. She did not say why she believes that. That land, she went on to say, is within walking distance of 20 houses, as opposed to a secluded area.
No one, McElrath said, cares to live nearby because of feathers, ammonia levels and even runoff from chicken feces that she said “stinks to high heaven.”
“Tyson came to it and put up a big fuss, and they put the land back up for sale. They sold half of it, but they haven’t sold the other half,” McElrath said.
Livingston, meanwhile, said the conditions of these chicken houses would depreciate nearby homes.
Even though Haywood is one of Tennessee’s poorest counties, Livingston said chicken houses offer no economic benefit to his county.
“They offer very few jobs,” Livingston said.
“Most of the time they have a complex of 10 houses with maybe one or two jobs at the most. There’s also very little increase to our tax base. The buildings would add to the tax base, but they would decrease the tax base of the residents in close proximity.”
Sparkman, meanwhile, said he has no words for Haywood County residents convinced Tyson is coming.
“I don’t have a response,” Sparkman said, adding no one at the company bought land for chicken houses.
“As it pertains to Haywood, there is no one there planning to build any farms as of right now, today.”
Chicken farms, Sparkman went on to say, typically do not have a lot of runoff from chicken waste.
Sparkman told The Tennessee Star that his company does good in Tennessee. Union City — in Obion County — he added, is one such example.
Obion County Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Lindsay Frilling said Tyson started in the area in 1997 and has created at least 1,100 jobs.
“We haven’t had issues with chicken farmers and smells on the farms,” Frilling said.
“There have been families that didn’t have much financially. Then they become growers and farmers with the chickens around here and are living really nice lives now. It has increased quality of life for people.”
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