Commissioners Approve Chicken Farm

Southwestern Lancaster County will soon have a CAFO. The “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation”, as it’s known in agricultural circles, is expected to produce nearly 200,000 chicken per year, which will be sold to COSTCO. Farmer Randy Essink and his wife plan to move to the 20 acre farm and operate it as a family business.

The special permit to allow the operation had a long and difficult path through Lancaster County’s regulatory process. Two lengthy hearings were held earlier this summer before the City-County Planning Commission. Another, lasting over four hours, was held Tuesday before the County Board. After learning about pollution regulations, the science of handling manure and the operation of “mortality sheds”, they voted 3-2 to grant the permit.

Commissioner Bill Avery began the discussion among Commissioners by suggesting a week be taken to study and digest the testimony. Commissioner Deb Schorr moved to deny the permit, citing State Law that requires Commissioners to do all they can to create a clean and wholesome environment.

County Board Chairman Todd Wiltgen countered by saying that he would support the project because it met all existing regulations, and because the County already has other similar poultry operations in existence.

Commissioner Roma Amundson said she was impressed by Essink’s willingness to go above and beyond existing environmental regulations. Her fellow commissioner, Jennifer Brinkman said the project reminded her of the campaign ten years ago to build the Pinnacle Bank Arena. Brinkman recalled dire predictions about heavier traffic, pollution, and financial ruin that would be caused by the Arena, but added that Commissioners need to support the establishment of businesses in the County.

After nearly five hours of testimony and discussion, the permit was approved, with Avery and Schorr voting no, Wiltgen, Amundson and Brinkman voting yes.

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