Thursday, January 10, 2019

Local Officials Meet To Discuss Poultry Moratorium Concerns

Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur

Members of the Sallisaw Improvement Corporation hosted a luncheon Wednesday with the newly appointed Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur.

Arthur, along with State Sen. Mark Allen, Cherokee Nation’s Secretary of Natural Resources Sara Hill and Sallisaw Mayor Ernie Martens shared lunch at Roma’s with others in the business community, including Ward 4 City Commissioner Shannon Vann, Aviagen complex manager Justin Kelly and representatives from all four banks in Sallisaw.

The main topic of discussion was the moratorium placed on new poultry feeding operations in the state since October.

Hill explained that Gov. Mary Fallin enacted the moratorium in response to concerns by residents in southern Delaware and western Adair counties as to the large number of broiler operations in that area. The moratorium is set to expire in May, if nothing is done to change or halt the moratorium before then.

Kelly voiced concerns that Aviagen, a local poultry breeding operation and hatchery that ships broiler breeding stock to companies all over the world, has been adversely affected by the moratorium by being unable to build new houses that typically only grow 20,000 birds, much smaller operations than larger poultry companies.

“Our broiler houses, what we do … is different from your average broiler farm,” Kelly told Arthur. “We’re small farms; we have contained farming. I would ask that you take that into consideration when you talk about these things.”

Arthur, who serves as the executive director of the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation and was the former deputy commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry, said she would have to familiarize herself with the moratorium once she settles into her new position as Agriculture Secretary after confirmation next week.

“Regulatory functions of agencies are challenging ones. We want to make sure we’re meeting with folks,” Arthur said. “I’m definitely looking forward to learning more; it’s good for everyone involved in the discussions.”

Martens commended Aviagen as a community partner.

“You’re leading the industry; you’re doing everything right,” Martens said during the discussion about Aviagen. “I’m impressed with what you’ve been doing in this county.”

Buddy Spencer, chairman of the SIC, also said Aviagen has been a great asset for the community, and encouraged Arthur to take information from the discussion into consideration when discussing a possible end to the moratorium.

Kelly was pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Arthur about the plight of his company.

“It was an opportunity for us to explain how we felt,” Kelly said after the luncheon. “I thought there was fabulous community support here today. It was a unified front for us.”

Sen. Allen, who is assigned to the agriculture committee this session, will be working closely with Arthur on topics such as this.

“We go into session Feb. 5, and we’ll start working on bills then,” Allen said.

Pam Cloud, Managing News Director

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