Judging by Tuesday night’s Fremont City Council followed Wednesday by the Dodge County Board meeting, one might interpret a shift in the tide of support for Costco Wholesale and Lincoln Premium Poultry’s proposed poultry operation, widely known as Project Rawhide.
In the last few days, silence appeared to govern the opposition strategy.
The Dodge County Board of Supervisors allotted several minutes for public comment during Wednesday’s regular meeting. Members of the community, agricultural organizations, businesses and one member of the board voiced continued support for the project. Themes regarding advantages and benefits to Fremont, Dodge County and Nebraska dictated the tone of the Wednesday’s dialog.
Katherine Rhea rose first to address the supervisors. Rhea of Rhea Cattle Company is involved in a farming operation in portions of Dodge, Washington, Douglas and Burt counties. She pointed out that many of the facts raised in opposition to the poultry plant derived from information, documents and research published 10 or 15 years ago. Information, she said is outdated and not accurate in terms of present-day technology.
“Anyone who know anything about agriculture knows that (agriculture) is changing almost like technology: daily, if not weekly or yearly,” Rhea said.
She also explicated the fact that the state department of economic development, the state department of agriculture and the University of Nebraska have all determined that Nebraska is good at production agriculture. She expressed her hope that the community and the county board would continue to look at how the project could add value and strength to Nebraska’s economy.
Dodge County District 4 Supervisor Terry Synovec also stated that he has received many calls about the project.
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“I agree with (Rhea) I think that a lot of (the dispute) was just miscommunication, misperception and misinformation, so I appreciate (groups like Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska) getting the information out there, in the public. I think that has quelled some of the rumors,” Synovec said.
Despite the apparent silence from the opposition, Randy Ruppert, spokesman for Nebraska Communities United, assured his group continues to garner support.
“We have been growing our community-based organization,” he said, further asserting that they continue to gather national support from organizations in southern and Mid-Atlantic states.
Communities United continues to stand against the idea of vertical integration in livestock production and other types of farming.
“Change is not necessarily bad or good. But the process of removing free market from the farm is what we are concerned about,” Ruppert said.
The group also continues to be concerned about the possibility of pollution, pathogens and other environmental impacts.
“Even though (Costco) claims they use modern technology, they can’t eliminate everything,” Ruppert said.