After being notified by Tyson Foods that their contracts would not be renewed, poultry growers in Alabama’s Limestone County are hoping to enter new contracts with Pilgrim’s. However, in order to become growers for Pilgrim’s, upgrades need to be made to their water lines, and along with those upgrades come hefty fees.
Affected poultry grower Stan Usery and Aviagen global development director Randall Ennis have pleaded with the Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority Board of Directors for some relief from impact fees they will be expected to pay in order to upgrade the lines.
Larger water lines needed to secure contracts with Pilgrim’s
According to the News Courier, Pilgrim’s requires its contract growers to have 2-inch water pipes servicing their operations, which some producers do not have. The water and sewer authority’s policy requires that each grower be charged $62,010 in impact fees to go to the larger pipes.
Surrounding municipalities have much lower fees, Usery told the board. However, board chairman Jim Moffatt said because of population growth in the county, the fees are necessary to pay for the expansion. He also said waiving or reducing the fees for some water users could be viewed as unfair by other water customers.
Aviagen makes case for lower water fees
Ennis told the authority board that Aviagen is also being adversely affected by high water usage fees in Limestone County. The company has an international poultry research facility in the county, which is proceeding with an expansion. “[Aviagen is] considering Northeast Mississippi and utilities are a big part of it,” said Ennis.
Since Pilgrim’s has demand for chickens that are larger than the ones grown for Tyson, more water would be needed to raise the larger birds, said Ennis, also the president of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association.
“It looks like [large fees] would stifle the growth of the poultry industry in Limestone County,” Ennis told the board. “If Pilgrim’s Pride doesn’t pick up these contracts, there’s going to be some real expensive hay barns out there.”
Water authority may wait on increasing fees
Usery told the board that he would not be using any more water with the larger pipes, so it would not be more taxing to the county’s water system. Moffatt responded by asking Byron Cook, the authority’s general manager, to not increase poultry producers' fees now, but to wait to see if the growers do get picked up by Pilgrim’s and if their water demands go up.