ELMWOOD – Not everyone is excited about a proposed chicken breeder operation near Elmwood.

That includes a group called Elmwood First that has 162 Facebook members, according to a spokeswoman.

“We feel it’s not the best use of that land in its proximity to Elmwood,” said Karey Koehn.

Increased water usage for that operation, odor, health concerns and lower property values are issues the group has, she said.

The group also believes the facility could discourage the area’s population growth.

“We think there is more economic development in people moving here,” Koehn said.

It was recently announced that a chicken breeder operation involving up to 65,000 chickens has been proposed on rural, private land about two miles east of Elmwood on U.S. Highway 34.

The request for a conditional use permit for building this facility will go before the Cass County Planning Commission this upcoming Monday evening during a public hearing in the county courthouse. The hearing begins at 7 p.m.

The purpose of the operation would be to collect eggs laid by the hens and send them to a Fremont-area hatchery run by Lincoln Premium Poultry.

The operation would be inside four barns situated on eight to 10 acres.

The Fremont-based poultry company has provided the required information on the operation to the county’s zoning department, according to the department’s director, Michael Jensen.

The facility would be on land zoned for agricultural use, he said.

“This is proper use of that land in that zoning district,” Jensen said. “As far as zoning, it is completely appropriate, completely legal. It falls within zoning regulations as far as livestock feeding operations.”

That may be, but it’s still too close for comfort, according to Koehn.

“There are 15 homes in a one-mile radius of that site,” she said.

To be that close could decrease property values in that vicinity and elsewhere now and for future growth, she said.

Koehn provided a study done by the Center for Disease Control on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations that concluded, “The most certain fact regarding CAFOs and property values are that the closer a property is to a CAFO, the more likely it will be that the value of the property will drop.”

On other issues, this study said, “In addition to polluting ground and surface water, CAFOs also contribute to the reduction of air quality in areas surrounding industrial farms.”

“There is a chance of soil and ground water contamination,” Koehn said.

She and the group are also concerned about potentially harmful pathogens spreading in the air from this operation.

“There are 150 pathogens in chicken manure alone,” Koehn said.

Jessica Kolterman, spokeswoman for Lincoln Premium Poultry, provided a study from Mississippi State University with a different conclusion.

It said, “In the poultry industry today, poultry houses are built with tunnel ventilation systems, which place cool cells at one end of the house and tunnel exhaust fans at the other, concentrating the discharged air all at one end. Some people have the false perception that this causes issues for people living near the poultry houses. However, exhausted air from tunnel fans only results in measurable air movement within about 100 feet from the poultry house.”

Koehn said, “Pathogens can be carried by flies.”

Jensen also said that this is not a chicken processing plant.

“This is raising birds and harvesting the eggs,” said Jensen, stressing that he is not a company spokesman, but just stating information his office has received from the company.

Among the company’s operational plans submitted to his office was an “odor footprint,” developed by the University of Nebraska, Jensen said.

This footprint, according to Jensen, represents just a quarter mile radius of the facility, though slightly more to the north.

Koehn said she was concerned there would be no added odor mitigation measures.

Jensen said the chickens would only be there for just 40 weeks and estimated the barns would be 500 feet from Hwy. 34.

“It’s a good distance away from the highway,” he said.

Manure would be stored inside and taken out just once a year, Jensen said. And, any dead chickens would be composted on site under a roof.

“The birds are grown to an average weight of five pounds, which is considered to be a healthy weight for a chicken.”

Traffic would be no more than any typical farm operation, he added.

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