After a federal lending program threatened their land, farmers in Cedar Grove, Tennessee, reportedly stood up against industrial chicken farming operations, filing a lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture.
As the Tennessee Lookout detailed, Tyson Foods utilized $20 million in taxpayer incentives from the state government to open a $425 million meat processing plant in Humboldt, a town roughly 20 miles from Cedar Grove.
This raised concerns that the large-scale operations, including runoff from chicken manure, would pollute the water in Cedar Grove, leading to the filing of the suit by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of multiple families last December.
“I really want to stress the fact that this was a predominantly Black community growing up; it’s legacy land we want our kids to grow up on and enjoy the freedoms and experiences we had growing up,” Brenda Scott, a second-generation African American farmer, told the Lookout.
The suit also claims that the Farm Service Agency violated its own standards by illegally granting money intended for “family farms” to a major company, as well as not keeping the local community up to date on new developments or fully researching the environmental impact of the loan-approved farming operations.
“It’s a very problematic situation,” environmental law firm attorney George Nolan told the Lookout, referencing in part the Tennessee government’s decision to remove certain protections surrounding water quality and animal waste.
“My fear now is that there’s no regulations for these chicken operators. What’s going to happen to my grandchildren drinking our well water? What about the air quality? I have asthma. So do members of my family. And nobody is telling us anything,” added Scott, who was denied the same loan granted to Tyson contractors in 2018.
According to a study published by ScienceDirect, the poultry industry can have a significant negative impact on the environment, with the amount of waste generated in high-volume farms also contributing to decreased soil quality for agriculture.
“If you just keep putting the people at risk you’re trying to feed, what’s the point?” one person wrote in support of the farmers on X, formerly known as Twitter. “We need regulations. They exist to protect the people.”
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