Local residents gather to send Tyson Foods a message: “Don’t Tread on Tennessee”

Sydney Jones

Press Secretary

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Carole Mitchell

Sr. Director Communications

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Around 80 residents of Haywood County and several neighboring West Tennessee communities gathered at a town hall meeting this month to send a clear message to Tyson Foods: “Don’t Tread on Tennessee.”

Attendees expressed concern about water and air pollution associated with Tyson’s expanding poultry operations in the region, and many shared their frustrations over the complete deregulation of the poultry industry in TN over the past several years. Others called for “big state government” to get off the backs of local governments seeking to enforce more stringent zoning regulations for industrial poultry operations than what the state compels.

Tyson’s Tennessee expansion comes after citizens of Tonganoxie, Kansas protested and rejected the company’s $320 million proposal to build a new chicken processing plant in their region. Citizens of Tonganoxie, Kansas cited concerns about the social and environmental impacts of the company’s proposal, including water pollution risks, as grounds for the rejection.

In May, Tyson broke ground on an industrial poultry processing plant in Gibson County, TN without complete permits from the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation. Tyson also plans to increase capacity at its Union City processing plant in nearby Obion County. According to Tyson, these two plants will process an estimated 120 million chickens each year and will require an additional 587 industrial chicken houses that will generate significant quantities of manure and other air, water, and public health pollutants. This expansion is set to occur along significant tributaries of the Mississippi River that are already classified as impaired by the EPA due to runoff pollution from industrial agriculture operations.

Natalie Pinner, a sixth-generation farm owner from Haywood County, discussed how Tyson growers from Arkansas recently tried to buy two neighboring properties on both sides of her family farm. “I don’t think when they came to Haywood County they realized we were going to put up this kind of fight,” said Pinner. “We do everything as a community and I just want them to realize we’re not standing for it.”

Other attendees included state Rep. Johnny Shaw, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, President and CEO of the Brownsville/Haywood County Chamber of Commerce Steve Hilton, and a number of candidates for county mayor, county commission, and state representative. In the week following the town hall, two major opponents to Tyson’s expansion were elected to local office: David Livingston was elected Mayor of Haywood County, and Sharon Hayes was elected to the Haywood County Commission, which oversees local zoning.

“Tyson has a long track record of ignoring concerns from local communities about water and public health risks from its operations and pushing clean-up costs for its pollution onto taxpayers,” said Lucia von Reusner, Campaign Director for Mighty Earth. “Given the company’s poor reputation on the environment and community health, it’s no surprise that local residents in Tennessee don’t want Tyson as a neighbor.”

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