Neighbors ready to step up opposition to proposed chicken farm
Man files tort claim seeking $30K
— After hearing from elected officials and a non-profit group targeting factory farms, opponents of a proposed chicken farm on England Creamery Road are gearing up for a fight.
People packed into the banquet hall at the Rising Sun American Legion on Thursday night to
hear from Maria Payan, a consultant with Socially Responsible Agricultural Project. Cecil County Councilman Dan Schneckenburger and Del. Andrew Cassilly (R-35B-Harford/ Cecil) were also in attendance and encouraged the group to get involved in the permitting process.
This is the group’s second meeting in its fight to prevent Galen and Crystal Horst from converting their existing 220-acre dairy farm into an organic poultry farm that would raise chickens for Perdue. Each of the four 63-by-600- foot buildings would house 220,000 chickens for seven weeks. From there, the birds would be transported to Milford, Del., for processing.
The Horsts have already scaled back their cattle production and only grow custom heifers for other farmers. The two have said that if there was any danger to the plan, they would never consider putting them and their five children at risk.
But opponents of the plan fear environmental
damage, lost property values and a loss of enjoyment of their property. Brian Frymiare, who has lives near England Creamery Road and has been organizing the community opposition, recently filed a tort claim in Cecil County District Court seeking $30,000 in damages from the Horsts.
Frymiare said the $30,000 is the maximum amount he can seek, since it represents 10 percent of the value of his house. And even though the Horst farm is still in the permitting phase, Frymiare said the effects of their plan have already been felt since, if he wanted to sell his Steeple Chase Lane home, he’d have to disclose the Horsts’s plans to any potential buyers.
“Because of what he is planning to do I took a hit,” he said. “It’s not something I took lightly.”
Payan, of Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, also urged the crowd not to take the chicken farm proposal lightly. She told the audience about her former Delta, Pa. neighborhood where her small business was forced to close after a poultry farm moved nearby. According to Payan, the dust and odors permeated the oriental rugs in her inventory. Since then she has been working with other communities against what she considers factory farms.
While acknowledging that farmers are “the most under appreciated people with hardest job in the world,” Payan maintained that the proposed chicken farm is an industrial operation that’s about to move into a residential area.
“A farmer is independent and has rights to make decisions about how they feed the farm animals and that independence is now being taken away by the contract,” Payan said. “These are industrial.”
But Charles Hayes, district manager of the Cecil Soil Conservation District, said last week that what the Horsts’s have proposed is not a factory farm.
“These are growing houses,” Hayes said. “It’s very apparent this is a family farm.”
Payan further warned the crowd that these poultry growers go into enormous debt to build the houses, but have no guarantee they will get birds.
“A lot of the contracts are signed flock to flock,” she said, adding that often there is a competition among poultry farmers to win the contract based on prior production success.
Payan also doubts that the regulations chicken farmers have to abide by offer any protection. During her presentation she showed photographs of a one-year-old poultry farm that had yet to construct the required composting facility for manure or a processing site for dead birds. She also questioned why there is no requirement for a discharge permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment.
There were also concerns stated about the amount of water the farm would draw, claiming 750,000 gallons of water would be needed over the growing cycle.
Payan also detailed the environmental impacts from ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, which she said would emanate from the manure. Both are heavy, which means they would stay close to the ground where children would be most at risk.
“We’re talking quality of life, odors, flies, truck traffic, dust. You can’t open your windows and you can’t enjoy outdoor activities,” she said.
But a report from the Cecil County Health Department praised the Horst’s plans for providing more setback than required and add that regulations should assuage any health or environmental concerns.
“In summary, the Horst chicken house proposal exceeds regulatory and recommended standards for placement of the chicken houses and will have a comprehensive review of its handling of manure and livestock before placement of birds can occur,” the report reads. “It has been designed to minimize health and aesthetic impacts on neighboring communities.”
Payan said she would like to offer the Horsts a way to raise chickens outside corporate influence. Another person in the audience suggested that everyone in the room pool their funds and offer to buy the Horst farm.
Schneckenburger and Cassilly, meanwhile, tried to convince the group to get involved in the process.
“The (permitting) process will take at least 90 days and there will also be public hearings,” Schneckenburger said. “There’s many, many hoops this family has to jump through.”
Noting that he grew up on a dairy cattle farm, Cassilly said he understood the odor concerns but added that cattle carries a worse odor than would an organic poultry farm.
“You give them lots of sunlight and clean water and they grow better,” Cassilly said.
Neighbors of a proposed chicken farm on England Creamery Road in Zion take a sign to post in their yard to show their opposition.
Maria Payan, a consultant with Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, speaks with a community member who is concerned about a proposed chicken farm in Zion.